30 Nov,2018 By jagabond
It’s not rare to meet a Dutch person who has never toured a windmill. For many locals all over the world your own backyard is the easiest thing to overlook. The typical outsider sees windmills on all things Dutch, particularly the blue and white ceramics popular from the Delft region. See examples at twelve, three and seven o’clock.
The windmill acts as a metaphor for power and strength in famous literary works. In Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ it represents Soviet industry. Don Quixote sees the windmill as a giant that needs slaying. This latter reference led to the phrase ’tilting at windmills’ which means fighting against unimportant enemies or issues.
For those less interested in metaphors, you can see a real windmill on a day trip from Amsterdam.
Before the 18th century, Haarlem was the trading capital of Holland. Thanks to tulips, textiles and beer, the city grew in wealth while infrastructure and cultural life expanded. Today the city is a welcome respite from the much busier Amsterdam. Similar to other cities in the country, canals are a major thing here. In fact, the De Adriaan Windmill sits beautifully on one of them.
The owner led a brief yet informative tour of this fully functional windmill. Pictured below he discusses the milling process and the stones used. The aforementioned Don Quixote described milling succinctly – “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.” During its prime years of use the mill produced mostly cement and tobacco snuff.
I never realized the positions of the sails meant something. The miller can stop the sail just before or after the apex to indicate cause for mourning or celebration, respectively. Reflected in the following photo is the St. George’s Cross meaning the miller is taking a brief rest from work.
If you are considering this tour be advised there are multiple ladders. Climbing to the top rewards you with amazing views of the city. The mill was active for the tour, allowing you to time your picture right and get close to one of the sails.
Haarlem is only a twenty minute train ride from Amsterdam, and the windmill is another ten minutes by foot. The train station sits on the first railway line in the Netherlands, and has a unique Art Nouveau design. Tickets are inexpensive and there’s also a convenient direct bus connecting Haarlem station to the airport in Amsterdam.