Kongo takes a day trip into the nether regions of the Dutch countryside to chase windmills. These wonderful machines used to cover the landscape across Holland, perched atop dikes, endlessly churning away grinding meal or pumping water. Today there are only a few dozen left but they are wonderfully charming.
Windmills are fascinating machines and the modern day landscape of the Netherlands would not be possible without thousands of windmills in use over the centuries to drain the water. Even today, after the industrial revolution when steam and eventually electrical power gradually replaced wind power, windmills are used as backup power sources to protect the dikes and help control the water levels in northern Holland.
The blades of the windmill can be adjusted to add or remove panels to hang the sails, depending on how hard the wind was blowing. They were also used as communication devices where the tilt of the different colored sails meant different things like announcing celebrations or tragedies.
Windmills in Holland typically have four sails. The advantage to having an even number of sails lies in the fact that if one becomes damaged, the opposite sail can be disabled and the windmill will still function. Otherwise the windmill becomes unstable and an out of balance windmill could cause the interior machinery to become damaged.
Windmills operate by transferring the shaft movement of the windmill axle through a series of gears to operate a grist stone where grain can be ground or in the case of pumping, the gearing mechanism drives a scoop pump or a screw pump. (Think Archimedes).
The modern day has seen a resurgence of wind power through the use of the wind turbines. Most of modern day wind technology comes from Europe and the Dutch countryside is filled with giant wind turbines generating enormous amounts of pollution free electricity. On approach to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, you can see hundreds of wind turbines mounted in the sea.
While in the countryside Kongo also had time to visit a wooden shoe factory at Zaandam.
Clogs have been around in the Netherlands for more than a thousand years and they are particularly well suited for outdoor work in the boggy soil. There were clogs for winter and summer and various specialty trades. In the winter clogs were fitted with cleats to provide better grip on the ice. Some clogs even had blades attached to them and were probably the first ice skates.
Clogs are made on a lathe using a pattern that cuts the shape similar to the process in making a key. After the shape is made and the interior of the shoe drilled out, the shoes are painted and preserved. Back when everyone in the Netherlands wore this footwear you could tell where someone was from by looking at their feet. Every region had its own distinctive clog style.
Mrs. Kongo is what some might call shoe obsessive. Like other women with this affliction, she cannot help herself in a shoe store and Kongo had to almost physically restrain her from buying a whole shelf of pretty clogs “for the kids.” Kongo had to insist that they were NOT going to buy another new trip case. (That’s a suitcase you don’t really need but must have to lug all the stuff you buy on trips to places like clog factories and get them home.) Mrs. Kongo is really into shoes. Literally. You can see this from the photo below!
Travel safe. Have fun.