Those who have read our March 9th (see http://argonautnewspaper.com/articles/2006/ 03/09/columns/travel/gm.txt) have discovered the small Dutch city Leiden, which, with under 120,000 residents, has a great deal to offer the tourist. It’s only 15 minutes by train from the Amsterdam airport (AMS) Schiphol, and 35 minutes from Amsterdam itself.
Whether one spends a few hours or a few days, there’s a variety of things to suit most any taste.
Those walking from Leiden Central Station (Leiden CS) might start their visit along Stationsweg (Station Way) which leads from the station, curving a bit to the right.
On the right, look for a big sign that says “VVV” — the sign of tourist information offices all over the Netherlands. Here one can find a number of different free walking tour brochures, including one that “follows in the footsteps” of Rembrandt, born here in 1606, when Leiden was still a medieval town.
Leiden had grown from 10,000 to 22,000 between 1574 and 1600 and it had become the second largest city in the Republic of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.
On the left one catches sight of De Valk (The Falcon), a windmill that is now the Molenmuseum (Windmill Museum). Those interested in the technology of earlier times, or indeed perhaps the precursor to a source of energy rapidly gaining new importance in the light of global energy concerns, might want to detour here, or come back later, as we will.
After crossing the first bridge just after the tourist office, the street has changed its name to Steenstraat. On the right, set back from the street a bit, is the vast Museum voor Volkenkunde, the Ethnology Museum.
A bit further is an open space on the left, the Beestenmarkt, the former Animal Market, and Oude Singel (Old Canal). Turning left here takes one to the Lakenhals (Cloth Hall) that houses the Municipal Museum discussed in the earlier article.
A bit further on Steenstraat is a bridge (Blauwpoortsbrug) on one’s left that can serve as a main reference point for the tourist.
A little beyond the bridge on the right is the Kort Galgewater (The Gallows Water), where there are some houses dating from 1611, when the city was extended to this area, and the City Carpenters Yard, where those in the building trade were centered. It is said that prefab parts of the houses built for the expansion of the city were built here.
This is the area where Rembrandt van Rijn was born in 1606 and where he lived most of the time until he moved to Amsterdam at the age of 26.
Also in this area is the Molen de Put (Put Windmill), reconstructed in 1987 based on a 1669 picture. This is an old “post windmill,” and the entire mill could be revolved to catch the wind. If you want to visit the interior you’ll have to climb two steep ladders.
After exploring this area, one might go back and cross the Blauwpoortsbrug, and either enter the very commercial Haarlemerstraat or continue, across a branch of the Rhine River (Oude Rijn), along The Rapenburg, with many stately 17th century houses on both sides of the canal. Several of the museums are on the left bank.
One could turn left into Breestraat, another commercial street, or further along into almost any street on the left and be in the old center of the city with its narrow streets and historic buildings. Here one finds many of the historical sites on the walking tours, including the Pieterskerk (St. Peter Church).
Leiden University, the country’s oldest, founded in 1575, is on both sides of the Rapenburg.
We’ll let the walking tour pamphlets guide the tourist from here on, as we go back to the Windmill Museum De Valk.
WINDMILL MUSEUM — Man has been grinding grain (continued from previous page)
since prehistoric times, using manpower or animal power but not until historical times has wind or waterpower been used, perhaps first in the Middle East, where it is believed the first windmills were built over 1200 years ago.
Windmills make their appearance in what is now The Netherlands in the 12th century. These early examples were made of wood and were “post” windmills like De Put mentioned above, where the entire structure could rotate around a center post.
By the 16th century a variety of windmill types had evolved, used for pumping water to drain the wetlands, sawing wood, and grinding grain, paint pigments, dyes, condiments, etc.
Among these are the “tower” windmills, such as De Valk, which are often sturdy brick structures topped with a “cap” that supports the windmill’s blades or “sail arms.” The entire cap rests on rollers and can be revolved to catch the shifting winds.
As the technology advanced, the mills became higher and higher to catch more wind and be more powerful. The highest early ones were built on top of the fortified town walls, but eventually there were tall free-standing ones such as De Valk, which is 95 feet high. Each of the four arms is about 40 feet long.
The original mill on the site of De Valk was torn down in 1573 to prevent the Spaniards from getting it when Leiden was under siege by the Spanish.
The current mill on this site dates “only” from 1743, and it was used for grinding grain well into the 20th century.
It has seven floors, all of which are open to the public as part of the Windmill Museum.
The first floor contains the old mill office and rooms that served as the home of the miller’s family, preserved just as they were in the last miller’s days.
On the second and third floors are various displays and artifacts, as well as a video presentation that is available in various languages.
Going above the first level is only for the able-bodied, as access is by way of ladder-like steps at a very steep angle. These are so steep that one must descend backwards to get a toe-hold on the steps.
The most logical way to visit the mill is to go all the way to the top, stopping about halfway up, where there is a platform that runs completely around the mill. From here one can get a good view of Leiden.
This platform provides access to the individual sail arms so their angle or pitch can be regulated as need be, and the sail cloth retracted when not in use.
On this level there is also a wheel about eight feet in diameter that can be turned by hand to pull cables that stretch to the cap 35 feet above, to rotate the wooden cap on its wooden rollers to face the ever shifting North Sea wind.
Proceeding up to the highest accessible level, just below the revolvable wooden cap, one can see the giant gear mechanism that transfers the power from the turning horizontal axle of the windmill sail arms to a vertical shaft that carries the power to the floors below.
On the next floor down the power is transferred to a pulley system used to hoist the unmilled grain to this level through trapdoors in each level. From here the grain is poured through chutes to the millstones on the next level down.
On the milling level, the power from the central shaft is geared to two separate grinders, where the upper millstones turn against fixed millstones and the grain, which has been poured from the level above, is ground into flour between the two stones.
From this level the flour goes down a chute, to be bagged on the platform level below.
Demonstrations are held occasionally, and grain is actually ground. The resultant flour can be bought in the museum gift shop.
At one time there were said to be 10,000 windmills in Holland, but there are now only about 950, the rest having been replaced by steam engines and various other types of motors.
Though windmills like De Valk are obsolete, the importance and role of wind power in the world economy is increasing.