Let me tell you about that time I ended up with a fractured elbow in The Netherlands. It all started with a windmill….
I’d decided that no trip to the Netherlands is complete without 1) sitting in a clog and 2) stopping by one the nation’s iconic windmills. And did you know it still has over 1,000, some of them still lived in?
We decided the best place to visit a windmill (and with a conveniently placed clog at the entrance too!) was the Kinderdijk site. Home to 19 windmills built during the 18th century, the area is an Unesco World Heritage Site and can be accessed from main cities such as Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. The site really is magical, even more so from the fact there are still people who live in the windmills and preserve their heritage.
Getting to Kinderdijk
Without incident we made our way to Kinderdijk (other than we managed to buy the completely wrong ticket from the tablet on board and ended up paying about twice the price). We travelled from Rotterdam, and if you’re in Rotterdam or Dordrecht, Kinderdijk is easily accessible via the Waterbus (check waterbus.nl for the schedule). Line 202 runs from 1st May to 30th October with multiple passages a day. The journey takes about 30 minutes. In winter it’s harder to reach the site by water, but the Line 20 ferry does still run there after a transfer at Ridderkerk.
If you’re travelling from Amsterdam, then the journey is easiest by car, however you must purchase a car parking ticket to ensure you have a space at the entrance to the site. If you don’t have a car, you would have to get a train to Rotterdam Central (which takes about 40 minutes) and then follow the directions above from Rotterdam.
You can also book on a tour, but personally I think you get more freedom exploring independently.
Arriving at the site
I managed a glorious clog photo at the entrance, unaware of the impending doom looming over me. At this point, we made a bad choice. You have two choices to see the site – you can either walk round, or hire a bike from the shop at the entrance. Given the size of the site would mean roughly 3 hours of walking, we chose the bike option.
Now – whilst this decision led ultimately to a lot of pain and tears, I do still recommend the bike option but only if you’re a confident cyclist given the volume of crowds there can be at the site. There are bike and walking ‘lanes’ at the busiest points, but I’m not sure many people observe them.
So there I was, bike in hand, blissfully unaware of what was coming.
Exploring the site
Unsurprisingly the entrance to the site is pretty busy, and the main row of windmills isn’t far from the entrance. I hadn’t ridden a bike for a while – I was a little nervous but slowly built my confidence up by avoiding the children running in my path, dogs yapping and other cyclists everywhere. We stopped to snap a few lovely photos of the windmills, and even got off to tour inside a windmill which was really cool to see.
Then we left the crowds behind us. I was picking up pace and enjoying the wind in my hair as we hit some lovely some clear trails. Then it all went wrong. I saw a sharp turn ahead and slowed down, only to encounter a small slope round the bend. I wasn’t going fast enough and started to wobble. Unfortunately, my other half (who is much much bigger than me) didn’t slow down and sent me flying as he ran in to the back of me.
I went down hard on the concrete, the bike fell on top of me and I fractured my elbow. Needless to say I cried. A lot. We were miles from the entrance though, so I had to get back on my bike, and back to the entrance and then head to hospital. The injuries didn’t look bad, but I still have pain in that elbow to this day. And it ripped a hole in my favourite pair of jeans!
I handed the bike back covered in my blood and vowed never to cycle again. On the bright side, at least I managed to still 1) sit in a clog and 2) see the windmills!
Advice for visiting
- Get the first Waterbus of the day to avoid the descending crowds. They tend to arrive around lunch time, so get there early to avoid the masses!
- Head straight to the windmill tour. During working hours you can tour inside one of the windmills which is a great experience. The queues get really long so going there first may be a good idea.
- Alternatively, if you have a car, consider arriving at dusk for some beautiful sunset photos after the last Waterbus of the day has left the site
- If you want to eat at the site, be prepared to pay a bit over the odds. There are 2 small cafes on the site, and then a restaurant just down the road which did nice food. If you want value for money, bring a picnic.
- Charge your phone in advance as there aren’t any charging points so make sure you have full battery.
- Don’t bring your drones – they are prohibited by the locals as some of the windmills are still inhabited. Please be respectful!
- Don’t fall off your bike and fracture your elbow
Length of time needed to explore the site
We had planned a whole day at the site, although obviously that didn’t happen as planned. If you want to explore the site, experience the windmill tour and go at a leisurely pace, then I recommend 3 hours on the site. If you just want to snap some photos of the windmills and aren’t too fussed about the other things, you’ll only need 30 minutes. So it’s totally your preference and how much time you have available.
Thanks for reading! Have you been to Kinderdijk or are you planning to go now things are re-opening again? Let me know in the comments below.