Flower Power - Springtime in Europe travel blog

2019-04-16.Windmills and Cheese

We boarded the Viking Skinir yesterday afternoon. This is our first Viking river cruise. We went on AMA waterways last year in France and expected that our experience with that cruise line would be hard to beat. Our stateroom with a french veranda, Room 332, is smaller than the one on AMA but nicely appointed all the same. There is plenty of storage for the excess baggage I no doubt brought. There are about 180 passengers aboard and a very helpful, willing to please staff.

Today, we went on our first excursion to the Kinderdjik windmills combined with a trip to a cheesemaking business. Though the windmills are no longer used to control the water levels of the inhabited areas, they are maintained and operated by millers and their families who have to go through a 2 year educational program first. Our guide was amazing and was able to describe the operation of these complicated engineering marvels in great detail. It was fascinating to learn how the paddles are turned incrementally in the correct direction to catch the wind and fitted sometimes with canvas coverings fo maximum efficiency. The size of the interior is quite small and it was difficult to imagine a miller with 13 kids living there but that was the story related to us. We could see the tiny beds tucked into each crevasse and because the Dutch are very "green" in philosophy, the millers are not permitted to park their cars near the windmills. Instead, unless you are in the windmill closest to the parking lot, you have to lug your groceries and everything else you need very long distances. Getting appliances out there is even more of a trial. We had some free time to roam after the tour so, we walked out to the "Bridal Bridge" so named because folks get their wedding photos taken there. On the way back, we could see a miller, in his very practical, modern wooden shoes, stepping on the wheel to turn the paddles to catch the wind. The shoes protect the feet and give strength to the pushing down on the rungs of the wheel. It was very fascinating to watch.

Next, we went to the Booij cheese shop where they make Gouda from cow and goat milk supplied by local farmers. It is amazing how many wheels of cheese are made each week by a small number of workers using time tested methods of pressing and brining the cheese. No mechanization here; the cheesemakers were elbow deep in curds and whey. (Apparently, the whey is donated to the local pig farmer for his hogs.) We tasted both old and "new" Gouda and the new was creamy and delicious. We will never taste cheese again without thinking of the time and expertise that goes into this craft.

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