Why is Music so Important? Walking the streets of Vienna at night will make anyone want to participate in some romantic gesture. The romantic ambiance of the city is likely what influenced many of these classical masters of music. Imagine attending their symphonies with the elite and royalty of Vienna dressed in their finery. Most listening to Mozart and his otherworldly music that would move their souls and transport them to a higher level of consciousness. Music has always held a special place in my heart, not that I am very good at playing any instrument. I played the piano when I was younger, and now might be able to plunk out the treble clef notes in a song…but beyond that I’m terrible. I use to sit with my Dad on the piano bench hating the 30 minutes of required practice time. There was one song that I would sit in the basement and fall asleep on the bench while playing it, just to say I practiced piano for the day.
[caption id="attachment_11299" align="aligncenter" width="501"] My Mom, Me, and Dad[/caption]
My Dad has a masters in music and wanted so badly for me to love playing the piano. Alas, I just didn’t like playing the piano. His motivation would consist of trying to paint a magical story to the music so that when I would play a song I would be playing a song for the story. He would tell me a hilarious story of how he would play a short song on the piano when he got home late. He would play all but the last note of the song and go to bed. His father would get out of bed and play the very last note of the song angrily acknowledging that he was home. His passion for music was infused into me with all the stories he had of being a band teacher, the above references, and many many more. It is with this history that I chose to explore the Music of Vienna and paint a picture for you of why music is so important for this city.
[caption id="attachment_11298" align="aligncenter" width="457"] Courtesy of The Imaginative Conservative[/caption]
My Dad introduced me to Amadeus one year to show me the passion with which dedicated musicians play & commit to their craft. Amadeus is the story of Mozart and how he came to be the man that is so revered in the musical history books.
As a twelve-year-old girl, I would listen to his music and paint those pictures of fairies, ogres, and shipwrecks in my head. It was as if my father was inside each classical music song that I listened to. Music is a powerful thing, a sound that drifts from the instrument or radio into the ear and settles itself into your heart like dandelion seeds gently into your soul and taking root.
The Rise of Mozart in Vienna
For those who do not have a musical background, let me give you a little more information on why Mozart and why the music of Vienna are so intertwined.
Mozart lived in Vienna from 1784 to 1787, directly behind St Stephen’s Cathedral in a large apartment in Vienna. Here is where Mozart and Beethoven met for the first time. This apartment has now turned into a museum that is quite noteworthy.
[caption id="attachment_11301" align="aligncenter" width="534"] Courtesy Vienna Now and Forever[/caption]
Mozart was married in Vienna to Constanze in 1791 in St Stephen’s Cathedral, so be sure to stop by and see this impressive building of worship.
Mozart not only lived but also died in December of 1791 in his apartment Rauhensteingasse. He was buried in Vienna in an anonymous grave. His grave is now marked with a monumental headstone with a crying angel, which is appropriate as he died at a young age of 35.
Single Girl….Romantic Dinner…Sigh
Now that we have a little history to give this night more meaning. Your musical night starts out with a dinner inside a fancy restaurant, that is bathed in a pink light. Fresh pink Daisies and crisp white table clothes and artfully folded napkins adorned the tables. The reddish pink light was not terrible, it made for a nice ambiance until the food started to arrive. It made is appear discolored and truly unappetizing, but as I had already paid for the meal with my package, I force fed the meal down.
There was a cold soup, a small salad, and a few other dishes that are really not memorable enough to even mention. On top of the less than palatable food, there were couples holding hands…..I felt like I was in a terrible Valentines Day movie…..sitting there…..alone….in Vienna. Needless to say, with the red lights, an ever-increasing temperature in the room, the smell of body odor, and terrible food I needed to get out. I finished quickly, paid the waiter and left the building.
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I stood outside in the cool evening air to try and cool down from the incredible temperatures inside. My irritation dissipated slowly after exiting the reddish lit room from hell. I prayed that my stomach would keep the expensive contents down until after the show.
Angst took over me, I had paid so much for this blasted ticket, and the night was not starting out very well. Why did I wear this confounded skirt and boots, I should have just attended the concert and had a meal elsewhere. If this was how the night started out, how terrible would the music be when I had built it up in my mind so much? Again, money as my motivating factor, I waited until 5 minutes before the performance was to begin and reentered.
I showed the attendant my ticket and was deftly shown to my velvet-lined chair in the front of the audience, ready to experience the music of Vienna. The chairs are quite hard, so those with hip and back issues be warned. The temperature here was much cooler than in the restaurant counterpart….for which I was incredibly grateful. After some time, the room filled to its maximum capacity and the excited audience members quieted down. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra entered the room and announced the program for the evening.
The musicians were professionally dressed in black and bowties adorned the men’s ensemble. The first number took my breath away, it was a piece from Mozart’s Symphony no 5 in B flat Major and reminded me of the time with my father. After the start of my evening, this was a redeeming song for the money I had paid for my classic evening in Vienna. I stared at those performing and thought to myself, ‘These people are not just musicians, they are artists’. Indeed the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is considered to be one of the finest in the world. You could see it in the way that when those bows touched the strings, the artists were painting a picture for the audience, they were transported into another realm of transcendence.
Passion for Playing
The music ebbed and flowed beautifully and took each member of the audience down the path of musical delight. The musical magicians played in perfect synchrony as if despite there being 6 violinists, they sounded like one chorus of strings. Playing off each other’s emotions, moved to the music, and this close you could see the love they had for their art. I paid particular attention to the first chair, who was also, in a way, the director of the group as there was no conductor present. He had blonde hair that on the more intensified moments of the songs would fall onto his forehead. On interludes, he would turn to his fellow artist and play a little jib for them to throw them off at just the right timing causing a cacophony of laughter in the crowd. Artists of this caliber, an enormous amount of respect bursts from my heart and makes me want to hug them. The music of Vienna is not just played, but played with the same passion it was written in. I do not recall ever being transported by music like this through a song with the artist that was playing it. To me, this was the redeeming factor of the night.
The Music of Vienna
The night was not just filled with other-earthly artistry, but also with opera and ballerinas. We were graced by the song ‘Oh mi bambino Caro’. Puccini is another of the composers I am quite fond of. This song has always had a special place in my heart, as I remember when my Grandmother and I attended a Puccini Opera together and held each other’s hands while listening to this song. My Mother would also play this song for us throughout the house speaker system on Sundays before attending church and so has a slight sacredness to.
The opera singer stepped onto the stage, and the nightingale like voice filled the auditorium with the perfectly pitched song. She sang with all the reverence this particular song deserves and did not disgrace it with too much vibrato. The sweetness and softness that ebbed and flowed throughout the song brought tears to my eyes. Along with the artists creating the music, I could not have asked for a better way to end my evening in Vienna.
[caption id="attachment_11303" align="alignnone" width="674"] Photo Courtesy of Viator[/caption]
Rating the Experience:
If you would like to experience the Music of Vienna, book your ticket here. This post is in no way a collaboration nor do I get paid to say any of this.
My personal recommendation if you are traveling alone or with your sweetheart, eat dinner elsewhere. Then make your way to the Kursalon Concert Hall and allow your soul to be enthralled in the Music of Vienna. The show certainly brought back many memories that are near and dear to my heart. The concert in the Kursalon Concert Hall allowed me to experience music as it should be played. With passion, commitment, and heart. So if you find yourself in Austria, make sure to stop by and experience the Music of Vienna.
Location and Booking:
I personally booked my experience through a Trip Advisor Search, which Trip Advisor now uses Viator to book many of its tours. There is also an option of getting the tickets directly from the venue that is hosting it. I found a more affordable option for this particular ticket through Vienna Concerts. To read more about the concert and what to expect visit Viator.
If you would like the same concert that I attended, see the Kursalon Vienna, a famed concert hall steeped in history. This was the venue in which the first concert held was by Johann Strauss.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See YOU on the Flip Side.
What is your favorite composition of Mozarts?
Have you been to a Symphony Concert in Vienna? If so which one, and how would you suggest booking it?
I was leaning forward in my seat, a large Czech man in the driver’s seat and all I could think was ‘faster, he needs to go faster’. It was three o’clock in the afternoon in September, and due to it being the off-season Karlstejn Castle was going to close earlier than usual. The last tour was set to be at four-thirty and it was going to take too long to get there.
Making the Choice:
It was a toss-up between Karlstejn Castle and the Sedlec Ossuary. I was feeling a little nervous already from my first European Train hopscotch I would be playing the next day, so I settled for Karlstejn. I didn’t want to take the chance of getting lost by getting on the wrong bus, in the wrong direction — so I did what any American would do– I called Uber. My Uber arrived, and I felt like I was climbing into a car with a Russian Bear. It was this tiny little car with this giant man with his knees about 3 inches from his chest. He spoke little English but smiled at me with his toothy smile. It was such an odd situation, I nearly laughed, but didn’t want to piss off the Russian Bear, so I choked the laughter down and climbed in.
Using Google Translate when I had service, I was able to find out he was actually Czech. He was a kind sort of fellow, the type of person you want to hug when you have a hard day. He is married with 2 children that when he spoke about them (via translation) his face would light up, and his squinty eyes would disappear into his smile.
Getting pulled over by the Police:
He sped along as fast as he could and even drove as far into the Castle’s entrance as possible. We ended up getting pulled over, which led to even further delay. When the cop started to talk to us, my stomach dropped and my conversational valley girl came out. It is always good to help your driver out by playing the ditzy American that didn’t know any better.
I helped to talk him out of a ticket and arranged to have him wait nearby while I toured the castle. In total, I thought this would cost me about $50 in total, but apparently, they charge by the hour if you make them wait. So make sure that you arrange something before you get into the car, because as I was in the middle of nowhere and on a time constraint…..I didn’t really have a choice….darn it.
[caption id="attachment_11170" align="aligncenter" width="459"] The Climb to Karlstejn Castle[/caption]
I hopped out the car, made my arrangements with him, and turned around to a massive mountain with what looked like 500 switchbacks. Yes, I am exaggerating, but I was determined to get up to the entrance before they closed.
When researching this online, you have to know they recommend giving yourself 45 minutes to walk from town, up the long hill to the actual entrance. I did not have that kind of time….so I ran up the hill. Now you have to realize something…..I am in terrible shape at the moment, three years ago this would not have been an issue.
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Three years ago I would tell you I could have done this uphill run in my sleep, but this day…..was not so easy. My calves and quadriceps started burning about 5 minutes into the run-up this hill. I felt like I was running but probably looked as if I was quickly waddling my way up this mountain. I started wheezing, gasping, cursing and then caught up with the family that was leisurely walking up the hill in front of me.
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I felt so embarrassed about my breathless state, I think I may have attempted to hold my gasps in until I was past them. I checked my watch, groaned and went faster. I swore if they closed the gates on me, I would climb the castle walls, or start screaming until they opened the gates to tell me to shut up & then would slip in.
Getting the Ticket:
I made the climb in 20 minutes….and walked through the gates just as the first cashier was closing her window. There was one left….I hurried over, told her I wanted one ticket & didn’t care at this point what the hell she thought of my current appearance, I just wanted the damn ticket as a consolatory prize for making it up the hill that quickly. I thanked her, took my ticket, and walked over to join the last tour that started just as I was approaching.
[caption id="attachment_11169" align="aligncenter" width="543"] Karlstejn Castle Ticket Office[/caption]
The tickets are around 300 Czk or $14 for the tour of the chapel (which is a must), or around 120 Czk around $6 for all the floors in the tower except the chapel. I was too late to do a tour of the chapel, but I hear it is inspiring. I was just grateful to be alive after coming up the hill.
The History of Karlštejn:
Our guide led us up the stairs that looked like you were climbing into heaven. I nearly crawled up the last few steps. We entered the castle and the history of the castle was intriguing and impressive.
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Built by Charles IV as a fortification for his royal treasury in the early 1300’s. Holding both the crown jewels, and the crown of St Wenceslaus it was a prime target for raiders. If the jewels were not reason enough to entice neighboring kingdoms to raid, he also built a cathedral of gold.
Chapel of Gold:
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The crown jewel of this castle is not something you wear on your head. It is a place you enter into gemstones, Venetian glassware, portraits depicting the whole host of the army of heaven, gold chains and any other extravagance you can imagine. If there was ever an effort to build heaven on earth, I think Charles IV may have almost succeeded when he built the Chapel of Holy Rood.
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Located in the tower behind three iron doors and nine locks, Charles IV held the Chapel of Holy Rood in his home with such revere that he would only enter barefoot. Although this is the most well-known chapel, there are two other chapels and one additional church located in this castle. (St Nicholas Chapel, St Catherine’s Chapel, St Mary’s Church).
An impregnable fortification:
The miners of Kutna Hora came to this area to dig for silver and gold ores. They dug nearly 200 feet down into the rock with hand tools and found only water. The Emperor of the time had them convert this into a water table so that once the castle was fortified, they would have an internal source of water during sieges. The Emperor left nothing to chance, guarding the parapets 24 hours a day 7 days per week, ensuring no surprises. Walls nearly 30 feet thick, the great tower 175 feet high. You can still be a witness to the former soldiers’ barracks within the castle itself. Each soldier would get a wooden box with his regalia painted on the front. The soldiers would remain within the castle walls and rotate their shifts. The soldiers would also get a portion of a closet to store their armor and their heavy chainmail.
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Despite the manpower the Emporer employed, there were still several attempts of siege. Different towers were completely sieged at different times, but the great tower has never been conquered.
The Hussite Sieges:
The siege of the Hussite armies, where the first biological warfare was used. The biological warfare used wasn’t what you typically think of in the modern sense of the word, but they used the next ‘best’ thing…..dead bodies. It was well known during that time period that dead bodies brought disease, although most may not have known the intricate details as to why it is a common reason for the spread of disease of that time period. The bodies were flung over the walls with catapults. It was not just dead bodies though, it was carriages full of feces of all kinds and variety….ew…..and I thought our methods of war were barbaric, but this is just cruel and disturbing.
The Crown Jewels:
The original crown jewels can be seen in Prague castle but were originally located here at Karlsteijn castle. The replicas do give quite the impression on just how extravagant the originals are. This is likely the only way you will be able to see what they look like beyond a google image search, as the originals are only shown every 5 years to the public.
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The Ending to my Fairytale:
It was the classic fairytale travel story for me. The angst and struggle of getting to the castle, the evil police pulling us over. The fairy godmother that whispered in the cops ear to let us go. I was rewarded with the crown jewels, a view of the sparkling river below, and a walk through one of the most stunning and intriguing castles of Prague.
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If you find yourself in this fascinating country, make sure you take a side trip to this Storybook Karlstejn Castle.
How to get there:
Uber with the driver waiting for you will cost around $72 USD with a tip (2 hours of driving, with 2 hours of waiting – at minimum).
For a more relaxed stay and time to wander this quaint city with shuttered windows and hobbit looking houses, take the train from Prague station to Karlstejn. This will cost you around $8 round trip on one of the Czech Railway Lines. If you have the time whilst there, make sure to book an overnight stay here. The town is the most adorable town, the people are warm, kind, and very friendly. It does not have the busy city feeling of Prague, and you can experience what it must have been like to live inside Karjlstein Castle’s shadow. I’m curious…..
What has been your favorite fortification or castle you have visited?
What is your favorite part of learning about medieval history?
If you were living during this time period, what would you guess would be your profession?
There are times in your life when you see things that shock you. Other times that take your breath away at their beauty. Prague has both of these elements in spades. These qualities are exhibited not by a singular artistic piece. Take a journey with me through Europe’s Hollywood, and explore the Art of Prague.
Starting off with Lennon:
A famously touristic spot, that on this rainy morning, only hosted four people there. You will find the rain always makes the colors around you stand out even more. The sunlight is filtered through rain clouds which softens the shadows and gives a perfect light.
[caption id="attachment_11071" align="aligncenter" width="552"] Lennon Wall[/caption]
The Lennon Wall started in 1980 after John Lennon’s murder. The People of Prague used his murder as a symbol of freedom from the repression of Communism. Why use John Lennon as this symbol of freedom? Western images were banned during Communism, as they did not want their citizens to know the freedoms available to others.
Secret police repeatedly tried to thwart the artistic rebellion. This was a place where they continued to fail in repressing the citizens of Prague. Liberation and freedom came on January 1, 1993. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were created and declared their freedom from Communism. The wall was painted over in white as a symbol for the country starting anew.
As is customary with Europeans (who love their graffiti), the wall was quickly repainted. The Lennon Wall continues to be an iconic spot and celebration of that freedom.
How to get to the Lennon Wall: GPS coordinates 50°5’10.423″N, 14°24’24.842″E – There are some stairs at the West end of Charles Bridge. Head down the stairs, follow the line of trees and turn right around the corner. You will run into a building and want to make another quick right. Follow the sidewalk until you see a small bridge on the left. Take the bridge and follow it through to the courtyard called Velkopřevorské Square. The wall will be on the right-hand side.
Charles Bridge &its Statues:
No matter what time of day it is, Charles Bridge is an art piece from beginning to end. The Bridge holds a history of the Christian vs Protestant and Ottoman Turks’ history through the statues that dot the sides. It also happens to be the oldest surviving bridge in Prague built in 1158–1172 and repaired after a terrible flood in 1342.
It holds the history not just in the architecture, but also in the stone figures along its sides, and what they represent.
The Statues of Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan:
The statue that moved me the most was Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan. It shows Christians being imprisoned by Ottoman Turks. These types of statues are typically shown within the confines of a Chapel.
Here you see the Saints on top of the statue. These are the saints that were responsible for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity that ransomed the freedom of the Christian. They seem to be in the position that is typically reserved for Christ. The artistic line leads you to the nonchalant Ottoman Turk that is keeping guard over the Christians imprisoned within. The prisoner’s faces are wretched, and appear to be crying in pain over their mortal chains, with a dog outside their dark prison who almost appears to be mocking their conditions.
During the busy Spring and Summer months, you will also be inundated with the artistic pleasures of local artisans exhibiting, showing, and trying to sell their work.
Statue of Saint John of Nepomuk:
Here we see the Saint John Of Nepomuk Statue, who was the Saint of Bohemia. The Queen would frequently confess to him. The Emporer orderd his assasination by being thrown from Charles Bridge into the depths of the Vltava.
Due to his commitment to not divulge confessions (called the Seal of the Confessional), he refused to tell the Queen’s confessions to the Emporer and was killed for it. There is a memorial Plaque along the bridge of where he was thrown from the bridge.
How to get there: Basically all roads lead to Charles Bridge, if you miss it, you must not be in Prague 😉 If you do have trouble finding it, just ask a local which way to the Vltava and follow the river towards St. Vitus Cathedral and you will see it on the horizon.
Valdštejnská Zahrada or The Wallenstein Gardens:
Once the home of the former general Albrecht of Valdštejn, serving under leader Ferdinand II, created this expansive space with 25 houses, 7 gardens, a brick-kiln and other land plots. Lavish parties would be held here for the entire court. You can see how he wanted to impress those who attended and he even built an artificial grotto complete with his own collection of exotic animals.
If you look closely at the Grotto exterior, you will find hidden animals. Look for the frog, snake and a goblin face hidden within the rocks themselves. If you make your way to the lounging area across from the grotto, you will find a mural depicting Jason and the Argonauts.
There is also a Baroque style garden complete with perfect bodies twisting and telling mythological tales to all those who visit the Sella Terrana. Many of the statues are copies of Adrien de Vries, a leading sculptor in Bohemia in the 17th century.
A bronze statue of Venus and Cupid is located just a short walk from the Grotto. This statue is in the center of a large fountain that was used for boat rides!
As I mentioned before, the people in Prague have always found an outlet in artistic ‘soapboxes’. They utilize art as a form of expression for discontent, or rebellion against communist repression. David Cerny is no exception to expressing his political and personal opinions through his, more often than not, shock and awe art pieces.
A good place to start viewing a number of his art pieces is in Kampa Park. Here you will find the infamous crawling babies, with bars that replace their faces.
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Although David Cerny does not publicly comment on the meaning behind these pieces, there are many theories behind their meaning. One such theory is that the faceless infants are supposed to represent the rising generation. They are no longer humans, but bodies indulging so much in technology, that it has now replaced their faces. These babies are the same ones that adorn the Zizkov TV tower, which was a so-called transmitter TV tower that many believed was a tool for the communist regime. Location:U Sovovych Mlynu, Prague, Czech Republic — just in front of the Museum Kampa entrance.
“Piss” or Proudy Prague
Another statue that when I entered the plaza, had me stop in my tracks and exclaim, “Oh!” then start laughing and pull out my camera. Many believe these statues to be symbols of the European Nations pissing on the Czech Republic. The statues further drive their point home, by the rotating hips of the males while pissing. Once you realize what the people of the Czech Republic believe it represents, it really drove a point home in my heart — of how much the people here have truly suffered at the hands of dictators.
The statues also have a text message electronic device located within. You can send messages to and the men will write the message with their penises in the water. To have a little fun with this, you will find the number to send a text message near the statue. Happy hunting. Location: Mala Strana (Small Plaza at Cihelna 2b near the Kafka Museum)
King Wenceslaus on his Dead-Upside Down Horse
The Nouveau Lucerna Palace holds this odd statue. Standing on its steps it appears as if you are standing inside of a Latern (Lucern means Light). Here, you walk down the stairs and suddenly see a man on an upside down horse. I felt like I was staring at something you would see in Monte Python. After the initial shock of what you are looking at, you realize it is not just an upside down horse, but a DEAD upside down horse — complete with a tongue hanging out. It pokes fun at the Saint Wenceslaus riding his horse in Wenceslaus Square.
[gallery type="square" columns="2" size="medium" ids="11096,11097"] Location: Nouveau Lucerna Palace. Lucerna Palace 36 Vodičkova Prague Czechia Other Art pieces by David Cerny: Animated giant head sculpture of Kafka, In Utero, The Hanging Man.
The Penguins at Kampa Park
The first time I saw the penguins I thought they were lanterns. While cruising on a dinner boat on the Vltava you see them in the distance. It appears, at first, that they are lanterns pointing the way to St Vitus Cathedral, creating a nice ambiance near the water’s edge. The next day, I was taking a walk in Kampa Park and there were the odd ‘lanterns’ which were actually Penguins. The Penguins are standing in a line, facing the water, evenly spaced on a metal beam that leads to a giant iron chair. The Cracking Art Group is responsible for this modern oddity. Their name suggests that while creating this artwork, they may have actually been on crack. I can’t for the life of me know the meaning of this art piece other than to make the viewer smile. If you have any ideas on this, leave a comment below. Location: On the Vltava near Charles Bridge on the West side of the waters. They are bright yellow and you can’t miss them. The iron chair is a little harder to visualize, but just keep following the line of penguins and you will see it.
Holy Trinity Column, Olomouc – a UNESCO Heritage Art
Built between 1716-1754 by local artist Václav Render, in the iconic Olomouc Baroque style. Located in Olomouc, you see this commemoration of the devotion of local church members to their faith and their religion. If you look closely, you can actually see a real chapel within the monument. A Copper sculpture of the Holy Trinity tops the monument. Underneath, you will find 18 stone statues of Saints, many of whom are specifically Saints to the people of the Czech Republic. If you peer into the chapel itself, you will find reliefs of stories from the Bible including Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, and the death of the Savior. Location: This is located about 2 hours from Wenceslaus Square. Check out the Bus Route to Olomouc to see this monument of faith. Prague is Europe’s Hollywood: Shooting movies in Prague is common because of its affordability and the laid-back nature of its citizens. Some notable movies and series that have been filmed in Prague include Outlander, Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Zookeeper, Amadeus, Yentl, and many many more.
The Art of Prague In Summary:
Prague is the most artistic city I have visited to date. There are many cities that celebrate and cherish the masters of the past, but Prague holds the artistic masters of the future. From their markets to their tallest towers, they cultivate that which enlightens the soul and expands the mind. So take a little from your savings and go explore the Art of Prague. I did not have time to visit all of the art pieces in Prague. Listed below are several other art pieces that are noteworthy in this wonderful city.
Other notable Artistic Pieces to visit:
Franz Kafka Statue — by Jaroslav Rona The Broken Men — by Olbram Zoubek Giant Metronome along the Vltava II Commendator StatueThe Devil’s Head – Forests of Zelizy Art Museums: National Museum, Museum of Decorative Arts, National Gallery
The Humble Beginnings of the Windmills of the Netherlands
Windmills have been recorded since clear back in the 12th century. Most of these records point to windmills being used as some of the first water pumps.
In a letter dated the Thursday after St. Nicholas’s Day of the year, 1299, John the First, Duke of Brabant and Limburg, grants to Arnoldus, named Heyme, as an addition to the territory the latter held in fee from him, the right to erect a windmill between the village of Hamoda van Rode (Sint Oedenrode) and Skinle (Schijndel), in the place which he should consider the most suitable, and for this purpose grants to him the hereditary right of free wind. (The oldest known document containing a reference to windmills is considered to be the privilege which was granted to the burghers of the town of Haarlem in 1274 by the Count Floris V.)– (see source here)
The Necessity of Windmills Increased:
It was the year 1421 when St. Elizabeth’s Flood hit Holland. A heavy winter storm rolled in on the night of November 18th and massive waves brutalized the Dikes, striking them without mercy. The primitive Dikes gave way and all the lower lands of Polder were rapidly flooded. Without our modern technology, nearly 30 villages were swept up in this cataclysmic disaster, killing thousands.
The Rijksmuseum holds several paintings depicting this terrible natural disaster. Here you will see the devastation of families being swept away, bodies floating in those towns and being fished out by the surrounding village people. The damage was not only done to their physical surroundings, but would remain like a festering wound on the people of Holland.
The Evolution of the Windmill:
In the next two centuries, the Windmills of the Netherlands would begin to evolve. The Internal structures were adjusted, tweaked, and changed, and the Sawmills were created. This enabled the rapid building of fleets of ships which gave way to the East Indian Company and the Dutch Golden Age.
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This is the point in the Netherlands history where their ships, trade, and production of goods shaped much of what the Netherlands is today. The East Indian Company gave rise to the Delft Pottery, Tulip stock markets, and the Dutch people earning the title of ‘The Water People’ because of their ability to flourish not just at sea, but to transform their wetlands.
Abandoning Wind for Steam
The production of Windmills peaked in the 19th century with nearly 9,000 working windmills. The production of items such as artistic pastel colors, flour, wood, chocolate, and yarn also increased. Yet these gentle giants would be abandoned for steam power. Why? Because as a Windmill worker, if the wind was blowing, then you were working. It did not matter what time of day it was if the wind appeared; money was to be made through work. When steam was introduced, the option to sleep during the night became a better situation for its workers and eventually many of the windmills fell into disarray and decay.
Where are the Windmills Today?
In the 20th century, a Dutch Windmill society came through and with the help of numerous donations, many windmills were restored and now preserved in a town called Zannse Schans. Although this town is quite touristic, it gives some lovely views of the iconic Dutch Windmills. A trip to Kinderdijk (see map to Kinderdijk) will put you right in the middle of a masterful engineering feat and World UNESCO Site as of 1997. This is where you will truly see just how astoundingly simple, yet powerful these gentle giants can be. You will witness the soggy ground of the Netherlands, ride a boat through the waterways, and see Windmills which are still occupied and operated to keep the towns dry. Kinderdijk is also the site of the old St Elizabeth’s flood, where Kinderdijk actually means ‘Children’s Dyke’ after a cradle had been found bobbing up and down in the water after the flood with, what is assumed, the house cat keeping the cradle steady.
How to Visit these famous Windmills:
Really, no matter what train or bus you get on, you can see windmills along any of your rides. I would recommend visiting Kiderdijk though because of its historical significance and Zaanse Schans for the views and ability to showcase the complexity of these clean energy engineering masterpieces.
To get to Zaanse Schans, take bus 91 from Central Station and it drops you off within a 1-minute walk of the start of the walkways to the Windmills. Be sure to check out the Museum inside. The cost is 5.50 Euros for a roundtrip ticket to Zaanse Schans. (Night bus rides cost around 7.50 and the bus drivers do have change, should you need it). To get to Kinderdijk, leave from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Blaak and transfer from the train to the 144 Bus towards Ridderkerk. For the most up to date information regarding bus times, visit Rome2Rio.com and take a screenshot before you leave.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I loved revisiting what I now call ‘my windmills’. My Great-Grandfather was from Holland and actually helped run one of the mills here in my hometown, so these were very special places for me to visit. If you decide to visit, you will be greeted by warm volunteers who love to hear your background story and make you feel as if you are traveling with your uncles.
If you have any suggestions on other windmills or picturesque places our Culture Trekking Community can visit, do not hesitate to list them below.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the flip side.
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