Last year a bunch of us Army wives got together and rented a houseboat on the canal in Amsterdam (Girls Weekend, Fall in Amsterdam).  This should be on everyone’s bucket list! In fact, it was so awesome, we did it again this year. While I’d love to babble about how awesome renting a houseboat is (and afforable!), I am just sharing the website we used (that blue-trimmed boat was ours!): Amsterdam Book Now, and babble about a totally new-to-me experience!

My cousin Heidi met us at the boat a couple of hours after our arrival.  She hopped the train, right after work, from her  house to Amsterdam.  But we had so much fun, and she had so many treats at her house for me, that I promised to drive her home… on the condition that we could fulfill a dream of mine to actually stand amongst the windmills at Kinderdijk.  Turns out, Heidi, who has lived in Holland all her life, an hour from Kinderdijk, had never been either!  We both got to cross this off our bucket list.

I’d never heard the tale of how Kinderdijk came to be Kinderdijk, obviously it was not built by children (Kinderen).  Thankfully, on the quiet, windy, desolate day we went we ran into a local, Koos, who told us the story. I, being a little on the lazy side, googled & found a wonderful journalist, Michael Turtle, who retells the tale beautifully on his blog.

You may have read it as a child, or had it read to you as you lay under the covers in  bed. The story was called ‘The Cat and the Cradle’ and the title sums it up nicely. In the tale, a cradle is seen floating down a river with cat on top, jumping around to keep it balanced as it rocks from side to side. When a man pulls in the cradle to rescue the cat, he looks inside and sees a baby sleeping peacefully. He realises then that it’s the cat that is the true rescuer.

A lovely story – and one that I had not given any thought to for more than twenty years. Not until, that is, I visited Kinderdijk in The Netherlands. It’s here, in the complex of waterways, reservoirs and windmills, that the story is set – according to legend – in the great flood of 1421.

These days Kinderdijk, just 15 kilometres from the country’s second-largest city Rotterdam, has been declared a World Heritage Site. Sadly, not because of the fearless feline, but because of what it shows about human ingenuity. In the same way the cat handled the water to save the baby’s life, farmers have been handling the water here to produce food to feed the locals.

It’s the windmills in particular which are so special. There are 19 that are heritage-listed these days but at the height of the region’s productivity in the eighteenth century, there were about 150 of them. They use an extremely-advanced (for the time) technique which moves water from the fields into a reservoir. For a part of the country which is constantly flooded, it’s the only way the land can be used for farming.

In about 1950, modernity caught up with Kinderdijk and a different system of controlling the water was installed in the area… but the windmills have stayed operational, just in case. Many of them are still lived in and on a windy day the sails are let loose to cut through the air like they used to.

Michael has some wonderful photo’s, taken on sunny days too, up on his blog: Time Travel Turtle.  These are mine, my friends & my cousin Heidi: