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Featured Article

Windmills And How They Became A Dutch Icon

Ooops, the image is missing. Turn on view images to see itOne of the first images that comes to mind when people think of Holland, no matter where they are from, is a windmill. Funny enough, windmills are not a Dutch invention at all. So how come they ended up as an icon for everything Dutch?

The first windmills were probably invented by the Greek. We know that the Greek Tesibius, who lived from 285 to 222 BC, was probably the first who experimented with the idea of using wind instead of water to drive a mill.

We also know that the Persians had windmills for grinding grain, during the 940s, although historians suspect that they may have existed in the area already in the 700s. These were fixed mills that could not turn to follow changing winds. Only if the wind was blowing from a certain direction the mills could be used.

Windmills first pop up in Europe during the 1000s and 1100s in Flanders and Normandy. These were also fixed mills and mainly used for grinding grain.

Around 1180, we find the first documented rotating windmills in Flanders, also known as post mills. These mills were a technical revolution because they allowed the miller to follow the wind by turning the upper part of the mill, hence making more and better use of it. During the 1200s and 1300s, the post mill spread around Europe and could be found from Scandinavia in the North to Bulgaria and Turkey in the South.

By the 1400s, post mills were a very common sight in almost every part of Europe. So what happened that nowadays people associate windmills so specifically with the Netherlands? Cynics may say that this is mostly the result of the promotional efforts of the Dutch Bureau for Tourism. And although they have put a lot of effort in promoting an image of tulips, cheese and windmills overseas, they did not invent these icons. They merely took and emphasized icons that were already there.

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Dutch Language

Windmill Sayings

If windmills are such a common thing in daily life it is no surprise that they pop up in many Dutch sayings. A few to entertain you:

"Hij loopt met molentjes" He walks with windmills, meaning he is insane.

"Hij heeft een klap van the molen gehad" He was hit by the mill, meaning he is insane.

"Wie het eerst komt, die het eerst maalt" He who comes first, grinds first, meaning the person who shows up first is the first to be served / get some kind of profit.

"Twee harde stenen malen zelden fijn" Two hard stones rarely grind well, meaning that two stubborn people usually are unable to cooperate.

"Je rommelt als een molen maar ik zie nog geen meel" You rumble like a mill, but still I see no flour, meaning you are making a lot of fuzz but you aren't getting anything done.

"De molen is door de vang" The windmill missed the brakes, meaning that something has become a total disaster.



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