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. Many people who visit seem to come in organised tour groups.
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.
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.