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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Here we go again….

Day 14/15 2023 Viking VE Grand European Christmas Markets River Cruise

No alarm today!  Yeah!  We went for breakfast in the dining room and I had a delicious oatmeal made with oat milk which is how I make it at home. Viking has lots of nice ‘add ins’ such as flax seeds, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, bananas, raisins, and dried pineapple and apples. All I was missing was the fresh berries because they were all gone. Anyway, we had our breakfast and I got an Earl Grey tea finally. The coffee and tea station which is self serve never has Earl Grey. It was nice to have a proper pot of Earl Grey tea and I took an extra cup of tea back to our cabin to work on yesterday’s blog from Cologne.

We also had some administrative work to do too such as completing the paper surveys that Viking had left in our cabin to complete. Since we would not be docking until after lunch, there wasn’t much to do other than pack, paperwork or work on the blog.

Richard reconfirmed with Guest Services our departure time on Saturday morning. We were the first people leaving the ship once it docked at 2am in Amsterdam Saturday morning. Our departure time from the ship would be at 3:15am via private car transfer to Schipol. While it’s an ungodly hour to be getting up to “hurry up and wait” all day home, it’s good to have a private car transfer and not be leaving with other people at that time of the morning.

We noticed as we were sailing along that we were getting closer to Rotterdam, since the buildings were a lot larger and the bridges we were sailing under were huge. There was a lot of barge traffic on the Waal River carrying shipping containers too.

The water levels were so high that we had white caps and the ship was actually swaying a bit; something we had not experienced before on this river cruise.

Our lunch choices today included a cream of artichoke soup. I had never had artichoke soup before so I tried it. It was a bit bland so I asked for some fresh lemon. It kicked it up nicely and then the soup was quite enjoyable. Richard hates artichokes so as the famous line goes from Seinfeld “NO Soup for YOU!”

After lunch I worked on the blog and we also got ready for our excursion. Our guides were meeting us on the pier and were walking us over to the Kinderdijk windmills. The windmills were across a busy road and about a half a km walk from where the Viking Ve was docked.

Our volunteer guide was named Weibe and he was hilarious. Weibe was cracking jokes as he walked us across the dike towards the windmills. I’m not sure why we never realized it until now but people actually live in windmills!

To live in and operate the windmills people have take a 2 year course to become a Dutch ‘Miller’. Once the course has been completed then you can apply to live in a windmill which only costs €300 a month for rent vs €800 per month, which is typical of that region.

When the water level in the canals are high, the millers have to run the windmills and move the water to higher ground, avoiding a flood. The 19 windmills at Kinderdijk date back to around 1740. In 1997 UNESCO declared the area of Kinderdijk a World Heritage Site.

One of the windmills had been turned into a museum that we toured.

It was interesting to walk inside the windmill and see how a family lived on various floors of the windmill, in such tight quarters. The kitchen for the family was outside in a separate building to avoid having a fire in the windmill. The toilet was also outside and originally the waste from the toilet went right back into the canal; pumped to the higher level, with drinking water taken from the lower water. The plumbing for the windmills now is more modern and hooked up to a septic system.

As we got to the museum windmill the rain started coming down in sheets!  We had checked the weather before leaving the Ve and we were not supposed to have any weather until after 5pm. It was cold too at 4C but we were dressed for cold, but not rain. Yeesh!

We went inside the windmill to explore and see how the Miller and his wife and 13 children managed to live. We heard from our guide that the wife of the 13 children was killed when she was hit by one of the windmill’s sails, leaving 13 little ones with her husband.

The steps up to the second floor were quite narrow and to get back downstairs we had to turn around and walk down backwards. After climbing up one set of stairs to the second level, I wasn’t interested in seeing the top level which was originally used for drying fish. It was a very narrow and difficult staircase to come down backwards!  Richard went first to make sure he could guide me down and tell me how many more steps I had to take before I reached the bottom, while I hung on for dear life!

It was still pouring rain after visiting the windmill museum and we still had to walk back to the visitors centre/gift shop in the driving rain. Why is it on the last day of vacation when we don’t have a lot of time to dry out our clothes, it pours?!!

I found a couple of nice Dutch Christmas ornaments in the gift shop as well as some windmill socks for Richard which will be a conversation starter I’m sure whenever he wears them.

We saw a metal cradle with a metal child and cat on the cradle  in the middle of the lagoon as we were walking back to the Ve on our own. This monument was meant to remember the flood of 1421 called the St Elisabeth’s flood where a child called Beatrice washed up in the cradle in Kinderdijk. The cat jumped back and forth on the cradle during the flood to keep it from tipping over, and keeping Beatrice safe. The 400 lb metal cradle monument actually does rock back and forth!

We walked back to the Viking Ve in a light rain and realized that we were now finished with shore excursions for another cruise and this was the last time we would see the Ve in the daylight!

And now the packing starts…AGAIN!  Luckily we had brought a hand held luggage scale from Florida with us and as I packed one large soft sided suitcase, Richard would lift it to let me know if the case was overweight or not. We were looking for a max weight of 23kg or 50.7lbs.

Once I had one large suitcase packed, I packed a roller board full of dirty clothes and souvenirs. We had decided since we could check 4 bags, that one of our roller boards would get checked.

Our plan was to check our toiletry bags in the other large suitcase so we couldn’t actually finish packing the large hard sided Samsonite suitcase until the morning.

We loaned our luggage scale to our friends Dave and Tracy from Pinehurst who were now across the hall from us, then I went back to working on the blog.

The Captain and crew had a farewell cocktail reception from 6:30pm-7pm. Our Captain was actually busy with high waves so the Hotel Manager and Daniel said their good byes and thank yous to us for our patience and understanding on this very difficult cruise. Three ship swaps seems to be unheard of so everyone onboard were glad that we actually were finishing up the cruise on a ship to Amsterdam instead of on a bus to Amsterdam!

Our final dinner on the Ve was of course with our friends from Perth, Australia Graham and Alice, and Dave and Tracy from Pinehurst, North Carolina. We sure did have some great meals with this bunch laughing over Graham’s wit and eyebrow raising stare: Richard’s Pepe le Pew antics (as Tracy labelled them); and Tracy’s small, but mighty pit bull nature. We toasted new friends before our meal and of course we exchanged contact details to stay in touch for future potential “meet ups” or cruises together. It is so nice to meet new people when we travel and learn things from them too!  

Richard learned yesterday that it’s not Holland but the Netherlands. He kept referring to us as sailing to Holland and Graham corrected him by saying that Holland was actually a region of the Netherlands. Much like Niagara Region is part of Ontario or Hillsborough County is part of Florida. Anyway, now Richard knows!

After dinner it was back to finishing up our packing, putting our dirty clothes from the day into the carry on suitcase and closing all suitcases until the morning. I feel like all I’ve done this trip is PACK and UNPACK and ‘here we go again’ I’m packing again!

I tried to to to bed early because we had a 2:30am alarm set, but unfortunately I’m not wired to go to bed early, so I only managed to get to bed by 10:30pm when Wix was acting up and I just couldn’t get the blog on Cologne published. I will have wifi in the airport at Schipol so that’s when I will finish adding the photos, proof it and publish it.

Seeing the windmills actually working in Kinderdijk, Netherlands was something I had always wanted to see. It actually was on my Bucket List! When you think of the Netherlands a couple of things immediately come to mind. Tulips, cheese, windmills, and wooden shoes. The iconic photos of the milk maid with wooden shoes next to a windmill and tulips growing all around is something that distinguishes the Netherlands in their tourist advertising. My minds eye of what the windmills would look like was a little bit different than what I had seen today. The dreary gray, rainy day was not as pretty as I had imagined seeing windmills, but then again it is the middle of December and not the spring when the tulips are in bloom. At least we’ve now seen working windmills, even if the weather did not co-operate for our visit to Kinderdijk today.

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