We toured out of the city today to find some of the mainstays of Dutch tourism – windmills, dikes and clogs. It only takes a brief ride to leave the city behind for vast fields of reclaimed land (polders) surrounded by low lying dikes. Not the storybook vision of breaking walls holding back the raging sea, but low berms with gentle pastures of grass, sheep and cows.
Most of the iconic Dutch windmills are gone, destroyed in the war or replaced by more modern methods of pumping and grinding. The ones we saw were still functioning, partly for the benefit of tourists, but still fulfilling their original purpose of harnessing the almost constant breeze. Inside the thatched mills we saw giant stones grinding flax seeds into a powder that is then pounded to squeeze out the oil – the same source for the paintings of Rembrandt we will see tomorrow.
It was then on to a cheese factory, a wooden shoe factory (yes they still really make them here) and another canal boat ride. Touristy yes, but surprisingly quaint. The locals are refreshingly pleasant and clearly proud to tell you about their heritage. There will be no cheese or clogs in our luggage but good memories and an appreciation for Dutch culture.