Day 8: A Well-Placed Windmill

Once John and I arrived in Heerenveen and met up with my family, we were on a mission. One of our (or at least my) top vacation desires in the Netherlands was to visit a windmill, and the one that’s right in the middle of Heerenveen is open Saturday mornings only, so for us it was then or never.

This is Heerenveen’s Molen Welgelegen, or “well-placed windmill.”

Evidently it’s location was excellent, being a little outside of the city limits (as it was when it was built in 1849) but very close to the canal so that the grain could easily be brought from the boats that carried it to the town, as one of the mill guides explained.

(We’d passed the canal just before parking; I was able to take a drive-by shot…

You can see that the city’s been built up around the windmill since it was built.  It’s not out of town any longer!)

I took about 150 photos of the mill; everywhere we turned there were picturesque scenes, and we went through five stories, plus out on the exterior platform.  Here are just a few….

When we first entered, we were greeted by the cheerful vista of flour for sale, along with mixes (cakes, pancakes) and flour blends.

Then we went UP, and up, and up…

passing grain ready to be ground …

millstones on display …

and necessary parts of a mill, like the flour-bagging chute …

a large scale …

and quite a lot of items that I can not identify.

But just because we were in a photogenic windmill didn’t mean the family members were off the hook.  Here is dad, giving me his version of the classic “Why are you taking my photo yet again?” look that has been perfected by my various male relatives in the last few months.

At least he looks happy.

I remember this look being followed by the comment that “a photograph is worth nothing” since I kept snapping and snapping them.  I’d argue that that’s only true (for me) with portraits; I am trying to figure out how to take good ones (and haven’t yet) so I take a lot, trying for but rarely capturing that perfect expression.  For most of my other photos, I take one (or maybe 2 or 3 from different angles) and that’s that.

The walls on almost every floor had memorabilia on display.  We saw a variety of certificates and photographs of previous millers, but my two favorite items were:

1) a series of photographs of the mill in olden times (the leftmost photo is from the 1890s, I think) …

and 2) a poem about milling.

The floor was covered with dust, which I noticed enough to photograph…

… but whose consequences I didn’t come to terms with until we re-emerged and were walking back to the car, and I realized my camera was absolutely covered with flour dust.  I had a moment of terror, but soon realized it wasn’t enough to do it in.  (At which I breathed a large sigh of relief.)

When we reached the stage floor (the 5th, where the outside platform was) we finally saw the grinding area …

… and met the windmill guides, who invited us outside onto the stage.

It was interesting to learn about how they trim the sails to catch the right amount of wind, and maintain the correct milling velocity, and how they raise and lower the millstones to adjust for small differences in grinding speed … but I personally am not sure I’d not rather have stayed inside.  The ground was far below – 36 feet – and the deck of the stage did not give off the most comfortable feeling.

OK – perhaps that photo doesn’t quite convey the feeling – but those gaps were wide, and 36 feet feels a lot farther than it sounds when it’s straight down to the pavement.

I clung to the roof, while John bravely ventured to the edge of the stage to help the second guide rotate the entire mechanism around the vertical axis, demonstrating how they adjust for different wind directions.

Once back inside, the first guide talked about the two sets of millstones and their operation, and told us how the entire mechanism is lubricated with “pork fat” which causes less wear on the stones than mineral grease would.

He also offered to let us climb to the very top of the building, where we could see the details of the wings’ rotation – but sadly, we were on another deadline, this one to arrive on time to Thialf for the afternoon’s skating, and had to decline.

I do wish we’d been able to spend a little more time there, but hopefully we’ll have another chance to visit it sometime.  Altogether it was a great excursion, despite being short – and thankfully for us it was indeed a “molen welgelegen” – since we would not have been able to visit if it had been further away.

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9 thoughts on “Day 8: A Well-Placed Windmill

  1. Hmmm, i dont think i said a picture is worth nothing. But upon reflection i would say that while a picture may be worth 1000 words, 1000 pictures are not worth much more than 999 pictures, i.e. 1000 pix of the same subject area are worth much less than 1M words. But of course, that 1000th may just be the award winner, worth, say 10,000 words — so its a tough call as long as memory isnt full.

    • Well, I’m willing to retract – I may not have understood correctly in the first place, or remembered it well (more than a month later).

      I think maybe I should be taking the 1000 photos when I try people, since I haven’t yet figured out how to capture the expressions I hope for … but then instead being given of weird looks, I’d probably actually be shunned.

      • Thanks Jonathan. I am glad you liked the photo – and now that you mention it, I thought it was ok-to-good, also. For one thing, he looks cheerful, but for another he looks like he really looked as we stood there. Those are the ones I like – when the person’s expression looks and feels the way it did in real life.

        • I think the windmill is exciting and very educational. Who would have thought that it ground grain into flour? That was a new discovery for me. Some in me needs to reply to a blog by 7 pm.

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