Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The land of windmills

Originally there were over 11,000 windmills in this country but today only 1,000 remain and off those only 500 are working.  The bus to Sloten was right outside the hotel and in less than 45 minutes we standing inside a windmill (molen).

Harry, our guide, gave us a great history of the windmills and their importance in keeping a country that is sinking afloat.  The vast majority of Holland’s coastline in under sea level…the airport for Amsterdam is actually the lowest at more than 5 meters (16 feet).  Interestingly enough, the name of the airport Schiphol means “safe harbor” as it used to be a safe place for boats between the river in Amsterdam and North Sea.  The highest point in Amsterdam is Central Train Station at approximately 25 centimeters (10 inches)!

The windmills can move 60,000 liters (15,000 gallons) of water a minute!  Molen Stolen operates on the most modern method of moving the water…the giant screw.  Original windmills moved the water with the paddle wheels. 

Harry took us up all the way to the top of the windmill (inside of course) which was pretty cool.  While standing on the balcony level, the wind picked up and the paddles were really flying by…but as quickly as it picked up, it dropped off.   The paddles can move at over 65 mph when they are really going…usually this happens when they are coved with a canvas.

The direction of the wind can change quite often in Holland (something we definitely discovered!) so they can reposition the mill to maximize the wind.  This is done manually by this giant wheel.

The sides of the windmill are made of thatch which has to be replaced about every 30 years.  Apparently the crows really love to pick at it but since they are a protect species in the Netherlands, the only thing the mill can do to keep them away is play a certain type of music…I’m guessing it’s not Paul McCartney's “Blackbird”.

After a cup of coffee (that came with our ticket) and a little snack, we headed back to Amsterdam.

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