Monday, July 7, 2014

The Swan

We recently got back from our second vacation to Michigan.  I wrote about our first trip to Michigan last summer here.   This year we went for a whole week, so we were able to do more than just hit the beach (although you can be sure we did hit the beach too).

One of the things we did this summer was to visit Holland.  Holland was settled by a Dutch minister with his family and members of his congregation in 1847.  It is still proud of its heritage and boasts many things to do related to it.  We wanted to tour its working windmill, De Zwaan, (The Swan) while we were in town. 

You can barely see us, but we are standing in front of this huge windmill.  This windmill was actually brought over from the Netherlands.  Part of it has been rebuilt since then.  It was the last one to ever leave the Netherlands.  It was first built in 1761 and was badly damaged in World War II.  They have a blade from the original windmill outside that is on the ground.  You can see the bullet holes in it from the war.  My daughter was very impressed by this.

 You can see the name in this picture.
The Swan is the only fully functioning authentic Dutch windmill in the United States.  Yep, fully functioning -as in they really make flour in it.  Our tour guide told us that The Swan has the only female American miller who is Dutch certified.  Apparently, she taught herself Dutch just so she could go to Holland and become certified.  People who have such a specific purpose in life always leave me a bit mystified and in awe of them.
Here are few other shots of the inside.
We climbed the many levels to the very top.  At first, I didn't think we were going to get to go outside on the deck, but we did.  What a view!  It didn't hurt that it was a gorgeous, clear summer day.  The tour guide was explaining some things about the blades of the windmill and mentioned how the miller climbs up them to maintain them, when I stopped her.  "Seriously?  She climbs those blades?"  Seriously.  She does.

Seriously - it made a little weak in the knees to be out on the deck!

 Our tour guide was nice enough to snap this picture of us on the deck.
Guess what my souvenir from this trip was? 

I always try to find a Christmas ornament when we visit a new place. I wrote a post about that here. This little windmill is made from the traditional Dutch blue and white Delftware.  Holland has the only Delftware production factory in the U.S  It even says Holland on the side.

I'll be honest, this was the kind of thing that probably would have bored me crazy as a kid.  My kids did pretty well, but I'm sure they would have rather been at an amusement park.  That's okay. As I get older, I appreciate the history and craftsmanship behind things like this windmill.  I want my kids to know that.  I also appreciate the way people care enough about their heritage and legacy to keep something like this maintained and running. Can you imagine caring about any thing this much?  They brought this enormous windmill across the ocean and put it back together!  I sometimes lose patience putting batteries in something if I have to unscrew the battery panel!  Not only did they bring it over, but they keep it maintained and running and beautiful!   As I was reading The Monuments Men this winter, I wrote down a quote that speaks to this:

 ""We do not want to destroy unnecessarily what men spent so much time and care and skill making... [for] these examples of craftsmanship tell us so much about our ancestors....If these things are lost or broken or destroyed, we lose a valuable part of our knowledge of our forefathers. No age lives entirely alone; every civilization is formed not merely by its own achievements but by what it has inherited from the past. If these things are destroyed, we have lost part of our past, and we shall be the poorer for it."
British Monuments Man Ronald Balfour, draft lecture for soldiers, 1944

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