Molen De Adriaan Haarlem Reviews
A fascinating insight into Dutch windmills Sep 27, 2009
We really enjoyed visiting the Molen de Adriaan in Haarlem. The beautiful windmill sits on the Spaarne River surrounded by gorgeous Dutch Renaissance-style houses.
Unlike many other windmills in the Netherlands, the De Adriaan windmill was not built for water control, rather it was built for milling in 1778, being used for a variety of purposes until it burnt down in 1932.
The windmill today was rebuilt only in 2002, but with extraordinary loving attention to detail. Local volunteers keep the windmill operational in the traditional style and run guided tours. The tour we had was one of the best I have done anyway, an old gentleman who worked on the reconstruction and still runs a hobby mill just taking the four of us around.
As we found out, there is a lot more to windmills than meets the eye. They originated in Afghanisatan more than a thousand years ago, reaching the Netherlands via southern Europe. What the Netherlands added to windmills was the ability to turn the rotational movement into vertical movement (allowing, for example, the development of saw mills) and the capacity to change direction with the winds. These were no mean feats - the technological advantage this gave the Netherlands lead directly to Dutch naval supremacy and colonisation in the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, to be eclipsed only when the industrial revolution began. The workmanship and design features to run an entire industrial powerplant / factory with just the power of the mill and a single miller are stunning - and the museum has detailed models which demonstrate these features.
Another aspect of windmills that I had not been aware of is how the position of the blades can be used to communicate signals over long distances. In the pre-communications era, this semaphore signalling could be used to tell farmers the mill was closed for milling (korte rust) or open for milling (lange rust). It could also indicate a happy event (vreugde) or a sad event (rouw). Plus the millers could use it when they needed a grinder to come and groove the millstone (hakscheef). Interestingly, the Dutch Resistance in WWII used these signals to coordinate military activities, right under the noses of the occupying forces.
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