Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 17: Windmill Country with the Wilkens

We are lucky to have friends who live in the Netherlands, Angelica and Herman Wilkens. We met them in 2000 in the crowded café of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. Like most educated Dutch people, they speak pretty good English. They were friendly and knew quite a lot about art, so we continued contact by email. We visited them during our tour of the Netherlands in 2003, and after 12 more years of erratic correspondence, we had an opportunity to visit them again while we were staying in The Hague, since Gouda is not far from there. Angelica had promised to drive us to windmill country.

It was easy and quick to take the train to Gouda, arriving at 10:30 a.m. We weren't sure where to meet Angelica and Herman, so we were waiting outside the station when they emerged looking for us.

Angelica and Herman Wilkens emerging from Gouda Train station
Their home is only a 10-minute walk from the station, which is handy for Herman, since he works for a publisher in The Hague. They live in a very attractive brick row house in a quiet neighborhood. I didn't photograph the front of their house, but here is the back. Angelica is a needlework expert, and her workroom is located on the top floor, in that room with all the windows.

Back view of Wilkens Home
In person, and through Facebook, I have seen examples of quilting and crochet work by Angelica. I was surprised to find that she had taken up an old form of needlework for these panels in her front window.

The Wilkens have terrific taste; I wanted to photograph every detail of their interior decoration, but I was afraid of being too intrusive, and we had lots to talk about.

Tower of Babel sculpture;
part of the Wilkens' collection on this subject
Their pet is a rabbit, whose home is convenient to the back patio.

We started our visit with tea and fancy pastry. Here's Angelica in her kitchen.

After tea and buoyant conversation, we all piled into Angelica's red Toyota Yaris, and headed for Kinderdijk, a town where you can see a lot of windmills. The ride through the country roads was quite scenic, and we took a ferry across the Rhine river, which is called the Lek in that section. Captain Dan loves to ride ferries.

Ferry that crosses the Lek River
As a World Heritage site, Kinderdijk was packed with tourists, and we had to park a long way from the entrance to the park. By then it was time for a late lunch, so we stopped at one of the many restaurants along the main street for a snack. Herman picked up the tab.

Windmills can have a variety of functions. Sometimes wind power is used to operate flour mills or saw mills. In Kinderdijk the windmills are used to drain the swampy land, as the area is below sea level. Here's a diagram showing how the system works. We didn't spend a lot of time delving into this.

The day was warm and felt very muggy as we walked the trail along the canal, along with hoards of other tourists. Since there was no breeze, the windmills were not turning.

I was surprised to see that boys were actually swimming in the canal at one spot near a bridge.

Angelica chose a very interesting route to get back to Gouda. Then she and Herman showed us around their house. Herman has an austere book-lined den on the second floor. The third floor was remodeled from two rooms to one large, well-lighted studio where Angelica does her needle-work projects. It has loads of storage for her materials. The only problem is that the third flight of winding stairs has such narrow treads that you have to carefully place each foot sideways when descending.

We had dinner at Yoshi Sushi, an all-you-can-eat restaurant with a wide-ranging menu. I remember pigging out at the dessert bar, and lively conversation. Again, Herman picked up the tab.

At the end of the evening, Angelica drove us back to our hotel in The Hague. It was a very satisfying day. The Wilkens couldn't have been more welcoming.