Kinderdijk, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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.
Getting to Kinderdijk
From Rotterdam, it can be a little tricky to get to Kinderdijk. There’s no simple public transport and it takes longer than expected to travel by bus. But there is a water bus which will get you fairly close and there is also a daily boat tour that leaves from near the Erasmus Bridge.
However you get there, this is worth the effort and you can see why it’s one of the most popular attractions in The Netherlands.
The windmills may be a cliché these days but they were critical to the success of the country when they were first introduced.
Kinderdijk is a testament to almost a millennium of human ingenuity… and one cat’s heroism.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN ROTTERDAM
As you would expect in Rotterdam, there are some very cool and interesting accommodation options in the city.
For one of the best backpacker options in the whole country, check out King Kong Hostel.
Hotel Bazar has some really funky rooms and with the huge breakfast, it’s great value.
For a bit of history, you can stay in the beautifully-designed Hotel New York.
And I think the best modern luxury in the city is the stunning Mainport Design Hotel on the water.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here. You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Rotterdam Marketing but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS?
To help you plan your trip to the Netherlands:
- What to expect in the historic centre of Amsterdam
- The best art museums in Amsterdam
- Explore the countryside of Van Gogh
- The incredible factory that’s now a World Heritage Site
- See the engineering genius of the Dutch firsthand
- How the Dutch protected their capital by controlling water
- For architecture fans, this house will blow your mind!
- How a simple rabbit took over the world
- Visit the best windmills in the Netherlands
- How you can stay the night on a boat in Rotterdam’s port.
Let someone else do the work for you:
You may also want to consider taking a tour of the Netherlands, rather than organising everything on your own. It’s also a nice way to have company if you are travelling solo.
I am a ‘Wanderer’ with G Adventures and they have great tours of the Netherlands.
You could consider:
When I travel internationally, I always get insurance. It’s not worth the risk, in case there’s a medical emergency or another serious incident. I recommend you should use World Nomads for your trip.