Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #21

We landed after about 15 hours of flight and layovers, excited beyond all means, especially since I had never been to Amsterdam. We were given time to store our luggage, but I wanted to see the city. Obviously one cannot even begin to observe a metropolitan area in 6 to 8 hours, but we gave it an effort. Viking River Cruises had a walking tour that was good and gave us a brief picture of the magnificent municipality. Everyone has heard I’m sure of the canals and their popular mode of transportation, bicycles. I think I was able to capture both in a couple of photos.

 

Amsterdam Canal

 

I feel the photo above captures what I have always thought of when someone mentions Amsterdam. It is amazing how the residents can take advantage of every free square inch of space along the canals. It’s a mixture of small of cars, bicycles and motorbikes all parked and intertwined among each other, leaving no area without some type of vehicle slotted in the gap between trees. I was totally in awe of their ability to make use of every space available. Even the boats were lined up and water traffic could flow in both directions without obstructing the canal. It was a beautiful sight for this old man’s eyes!

 

 

Amsterdam Canal with Mopeds, Bicycles and Cars

 

I can’t wait to return and spend quality time in this gorgeous metropolis. Regardless of your favorite travel spots, Amsterdam is a place I feel I could return to again and again! Next time I definitely will spend a couple of weeks or maybe even a month or more. I want to experience it like a local!

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own. 

Viking Cruises, Kinderdijk Windmills

 

I am fairly certain most of my followers understand my more than modest passion for history and my sincere love for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the aspects that first drew my attention to Viking River Cruises was their ability to share these sites with their passengers on their river cruises. I am totally enthralled by all the historical locations available for one to visit, when taking a cruise with Viking.

 

The Rhine Getaway on the Viking Longship Eir was no different and on our first day we were able to visit the Kinderdijk Windmills and explore history dating back to 1738. The windmills were originally constructed and used as vehicles for draining the polders, which are a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes and in this case intended to keep the water from the junction of the Lek and Noord rivers from overrunning the dikes.  The windmills are located 9 miles/15 Kilometers east of Rotterdam.

 

UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmill

 

After our Cheese making tour to the Holland dairy farm, we rode the bus through Kinderdijk and alongside the dikes. The story of the dikes is fascinating, as the dikes had been originally built nearly 300 years ago to keep water out of the farming land. To do this they had to configure a method to pump water out of the surrounding farmland, as it continued to flood after the advent of dikes. They discovered that an additional way to keep the polders dry was required.

 

Large canals, called “weteringen”, were dug to get rid of the excess water in the polders. However, the drained soil started setting, while the level of the river rose due to the river’s sand deposits. The land was basically peat (an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors or muskegs.) Essentially they weren’t able to maintain it as farm land. They were then required to make the decision to switch all farms to dairy operations.

 

Three UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills Alongside the Canals

 

In addition, it was decided to build a series of windmills, with a limited capacity to bridge water level differences (similar to current day locks on major rivers), but just able to pump water into a reservoir at an intermediate level between the soil in the polder and the river; the reservoir could be pumped out into the river by other windmills whenever the river level was low enough; the river level has both seasonal and tidal variations. Although some of the windmills are still used, the main water works are provided by two diesel pumping stations near one of the entrances of the windmills site.

 

The Diesel Fueled Archimedes Screw Used to Drain the Polders Currently

 

There are over 1000 windmills in Holland. Some are still being used for drainage, such as one or two of the nineteen in Kinderdijk. The Molen de Otter, still in operation in Amsterdam, is also used for drainage. The Molen de Valk in Leiden has been restored and now grinds grain once again. It is also a museum, a witness to the history of windmills in the area. The few mills that still turn are on the verge of losing power: with buildings around them getting higher (an interesting conundrum if I do say so), they can no longer catch the wind as they used to.

 

Diagram of Windmill Internal Gears Reflecting the Mechanical Operation

 

Our guide led us to a Kinderdijk windmill that was inhabited and we were allowed to climb through the windmill. I have to say it’s a very crowded place to live with basically no privacy, not to mention the extreme the angle of the stairs inside. I basically had to turn around and walk backwards down the stairs. The angle sufficiently frightened me so, that I couldn’t walk forward down the stairs, for fear of tumbling face first. I can only guess the inhabitants managed to overcome any fears similar to mine.

 

The different levels were separated by gender with the males sleeping on the second floor and the females on the third floor. Families had large amounts of children to help with the windmill operation. As explained by our guide, it was back breaking work and families never knew when they would be needed to help harness the wind and save the dikes from flooding. The families had to be on the ready 24 hours a day. Missing gusts of winds might allow flooding in the farmlands.

 

Kim in Windmill Women’s Level with Bed and a Closet for Basic Necessities

 

We came across a rail with the infamous wooden shoes of Holland. I thought it wasn’t a serious display until Robert explained they were mandatory in the peat and wet ground surrounding the windmills. If the population attempted to wear their normal cloth or leather footwear, it would be a serious mistake. Water penetrated both types of normal shoe gear and could lead to health problems or at minimum wet, cold feet in the winter. I was really surprised people actually had a need for these shoes. Can you imagine trying to maneuver around the thin blades of the fan with these clodhoppers on? I would surely not be able to master this task I’m guessing.

 

An Interior Rail Filled with Holland’s Infamous Wooden Shoes

 

After exploring the internal workings and living arrangements, Robert our astute and humorous Viking guide, explained how this huge gear wheel outside controlled the windmill blades similar to a ship’s wheel steers a sailboat. I can only gather it was fashioned after the same device. He told us how the young males would scamper up and down the fan blade frames to unfurl the material used to capture the wind and spin the Windmill. It was dangerous work, especially for the younger unskilled boys. One miss step and they could fall to their death. Can you imagine asking your children to scale a fan blade 35 feet in the air, knowing if they slipped it would certainly be extreme injury or even death? I’m not sure I could.

 

 

Robert Explaining the External Gear for Windmill Operation

 

Exploring windmills in Holland is an exciting thing to do. The Dutch have restored many of the historic sites. Once a year Holland holds “National Mill Day”.  Every second Saturday in May 600 windmills and watermills around the country open their doors to visitors. It’s an opportunity to see some of the historic mills that are no longer open day to day.  A great way to see these mills is by bicycle. Talk to anyone at a tourist information office and they’ll be able to give you a route by some of the most beautiful mills.

 

Two UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills Beside the Canal we Explored

 

Flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as about sixty five percent of its area is sensitive to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide fortification against storm surges from the sea. River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while a intricate system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (historically: windmills) keep the low-lying parts dry for dwelling and farming.

 

After walking through the windmills and exploring the areas surrounding the canal Robert took us into a classroom that contained several spare parts for windmills and in the past had been used to help new tenants to understand the operation of the windmills so they could maintain them during their stay. It was a great session and Robert helped us understand the windmills’ function and how hard it was to keep them in operation.

 

Robert, Our Viking Guide, Reviewing History of Windmills

 

In modern times, flood disasters coupled with technological developments have led to large construction works to reduce the impact of the sea and prevent future floods. It is also a matter of survival. Twenty-six percent of the country is below sea level. This was overwhelming to me. This is a significant portion of the country to be at risk.

Historical accounts state that windmills in Holland served many purposes. The most important probably was pumping water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers beyond the dikes so that the land could be farmed. A immense North Sea storm in January 1953 flooded 500 square miles and killed more than 1,800 people. Therefore a large amount of study has gone into protecting the marsh lands and low lying farms that are really only good for dairy farming now.

 

Three UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills

 

The flood-threatened area of the Netherlands is fundamentally an earthly plain, built up from sediment left by thousands of years of flooding by rivers and the sea. About 2,000 years ago most of the Netherlands was covered by extensive peat swamps. The coast consisted of a row of coastal dunes and natural embankments which kept the swamps from draining but also from being washed away by the sea. The only areas suitable for habitation were on the higher grounds in the east and south and on the dunes and natural embankments along the coast and the rivers.

 

It never ceases to amaze me how man’s ingenuity is instrumental in resolving issues that arise throughout history. The Dutch people have sincerely faced adversity and calamity after calamity in regards to the low lands that have been used in various manners throughout the years. Flooding and extreme saturation of land is not a simple problem to mend, yet they have altered methods of existence to survive. There is no doubt the will to survive trumps all dilemmas that may arise.

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Medicine Has Gone to Pot!!!

Our medical situation in the US is growing more and more ridiculous day by day and costs have forced many individuals to search out medical procedures and medicine in foreign locations. It is called Medical Tourism and the countries involved are growing daily. The costs vary enormously, depending on the world status of the country involved. This chart in the link gives you an idea of what each procedure would cost in the US and in other countries. I know the first thought will be, “Are the facilities clean and up to par”? I will answer with a resounding yes, in most situations.

As a child I remember our family doctor making house calls for my mother, with her serious back issues. He would come early in the morning. during the middle of the day or even late at night after most people had gone home. It was expected back then. This past year I fell sick in Cuenca Ecuador and was traveling alone. I went to a Doctor I met next door to a Tour company I work with, when I am in Ecuador. He assessed my condition and charged me $20.00 for my visit, blood tests, etc. He then escorted me to the pharmacy to ensure I obtained the correct medicine, etc. The pharmacy was 5 blocks away I must add. It took me back to when I was a child and our Doctors really cared about their patients, not just spending time and money, avoiding malpractice lawsuits and raking in the cash trying to pay off their sizable student loans in most cases. I have heard some Doctors do not really begin to make any income until their mid forties or even later. Is it worth it you have to ask and are talented individuals avoiding the stress and financial issues associated with being a Doctor?

I am a Baby Boomer and a child of the sixties. So did I inhale? Of course I did. At least I will be honest and admit this, contrary to many of our politicians and public figures who have blatantly spoke falsehoods in this regard. We are not daft, oh illustrious people and you are not fooling us a bit. I have not partaken in at least thirty five or more years and from what I understand the strength of Marijuana is a great deal more than in my day. I have been deeply saddened over the years, seeing young individuals incarcerated basically for possession of a plant and in most cases a minor portion. One of the reasons I stopped its use, along with impact on my job, ability to function and the fact I got married and started a family.

Through the years I have seen it legalized in a couple of states now and a large portion of the country has made it accessible for Medical purposes, which I favor completely. I have suffered five back surgeries, a heart attack and a complete rebuild of my rear end and my nose (completely separate and unrelated operations), from a deviated septum. Through all of these operations I was supplied with heavy opiates. Over the years these pharmaceuticals tended to make me somewhat of an addict and it became harder and harder to jettison these horrible drugs each time I suffered through a surgery. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to kill a portion of my pain with Marijuana instead of Oxycodone or Oxycontin or Hydrocodone.

Hippies

Hippies

I live in Texas as most of you know and I thought I would never see the day that our great state would catch up with the more progressive states and countries around the world and actually consider a Medical Marijuana law. If you take CBD oil UK law into account or any other country’s law that has legalized the usage of CBD for medical uses, you can see how they have achieved a milestone in the cannabis industry. And, when it comes to us in Texas, the law is being strongly considered this year and has a fairly decent possibility of passing. Of course the recent law for Washington DC, secretly hid the fact that Federal police groups would no longer actively try to incarcerate legal state distributors will probably help Texas along. This topic wasn’t talked about, even in our Liberally slanted press. That surprised me greatly! Now people can enjoy things like CBD oils to help their health and not worry nearly as much about the surrounding issues.

Hopefully the Texas law will allow cultivation of a few personal plants and I can order my cannabis seeds from The Netherlands or some other reputable source. I am visiting Amsterdam in December and shall give it a go! When I was single I had all kinds of plants and really have a green thumb. I would relish getting back into cultivating my own plants.

It may also be good to see increased availability of tools such as a bubbler pipe and bongs available in stores so that individuals who may need to take the drug might potentially do so more safely. Even though Texas has a substantial financial position with their economy, I would think they would love the additional tax revenue generated, as evidenced in the huge success of Colorado’s Hemp Law. Even overall crime has been effected in a positive manner in Colorado. Not quite what was projected by the naysayers.

Perhaps the most satisfying factor in the eventual legalization of Marijuana (apart from the fact that now it could be grown using proper seeds and fertilizers such as Dr. JimZ Fertilizer) would be the end of the insane territorial wars carried on along our border with Mexico and at the expense of the Mexican population. My heart has been profoundly traumatized by the magnitude and scope of deaths associated with the drug wars along our border with Mexico. I feel so ashamed of the total loss of life and the billions of dollars our government has spent with their futile efforts in this area. It is a joke, as anyone from Texas and I am sure the other states that share a boundary with Mexico can tell you.

Growing up as a young man and adult I always felt comfortable crossing the border for a night or even a weekend. I felt secure even when I first married taking my wife at that time across the border and sharing a fantastic meal, a shopping excursion or maybe a drink at a Cantina or two. But now I wouldn’t feel safe going alone, much less with a woman. it’s just too dangerous. I fully believe and am confident in stating when we legalize Marijuana and treat it just like alcohol, taxes will decrease, crime will decrease and our penal system will have its population cut in half. Not to mention the medical and research impact for those of us with severe pain issues as I experience on a regular basis, glaucoma, anxiety, issues associated with chemotherapy like vomiting and nausea, insomnia associated with spinal cord injuries, pain issues, stiffness and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis and finally weight loss and loss of appetite from HIV. The article referenced in the link states both positive and negative reactions, but I would like the ability to see if it works for me. Only through the passage of these laws will I be able to explore additional pain remedies. I hope it is soon!

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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