I decided to take a day off today and hit the relatively empty Easter roads to roam around Rotterdam. It's the sort of footloose day that I really enjoy: I packed a bit of hummus and pita, a couple of guidebooks (I like the Frommer's for the big things, and the "52 Mooie Dorpen" recommended by Dutched Pinay for the small), and raced the midday sun towards the towering storm fronts blowing in from the west.
The windmills at Kinderdijk are one of the iconic areas that I always wanted to notch, and today was a good day for it. The 19 windmills, built in the 1700's and now a UNESCO Heritage Site, are located at the edge of town, on a windy, cold marsh that reminded me of the Norfolk Broads. In winter weather, they are silhouetted sentinals, silent and ancient, ranked along the slot waterways. Partly because of the setting and partly because of their weathered age, these really carry much more gravity than the other windmills I've seen scattered around the country.
I spun through Rotterdam, but decided that I wanted to get out to the mouth of the Rotterdam Harbour at Hoek van Holland, about 20 km further west. The city ends surprisingly quickly, opening to flat pastureland, then followed by acres and acres of greenhouses at the coast. I didn't really understand the Dutch flower-growing industry on this scale, and it's impressive to see how large it really is. It must be spectacular at night when they are lit.
The beaches at Hoek van Holland ("the corner of Holland") were windswept and shuttered. The Dutch were, nonetheless, pretending it was summer, strolling the beach and flying kites. The vast shipyards of Rotterdam Harbour filled the horizon, cranes and windmills, radar and power lines. Most of the restaurants were still preparing for spring, with sand drifted over the outdoor chairs and sheets over the sunroom tables and chairs. It's the way I imagine the world will become here if the Gulf Stream ever reverses.
Indeed, I hit a blizzard on the way home along the A12: maybe it really is the coldest Easter weekend in 40 years. I do like the three day weekend, though, and coming home to a warm apartment after a cold strand.