Family Kiwidutch were driving down the main street of Foxton, when all of a sudden Himself starts to laugh.
I’m taking photos out of the front window but was distracted by the general view so didn’t at first see what he had seen: a strange but familiar spike-like shape behind the chemist shop on the right hand side of the street.
I keep clicking as we advance, unaware until I saw the photos on the computer screen why Himself was laughing so hard, until the van reached a point where the object of Himself’s mirth was simply unmissable: there’s a massive windmill right in the heart of this small New Zealand town!
For Dutch people to find something like this so far from The Netherlands is a little surreal… did we really sit on a plane for twenty-four hours to see something so kitchly Dutch staring at us in the New Zealand landscape? Apparently so… the whole family are now laughing as we pull into a side street and then a car parking area next door so that we can take a closer look.
Sure enough, it’s a real windmill… and totally Dutch in a rather over-the-top kind of way.
The sign on the door says “de Molen” ( the mill) and inside there is a small shop that sells an array of Dutch sweets, baked goods and a few general Dutch groceries as well as flour milled by this, a working flour mill. There is some blue and white porcelain and rather touristic figurines of the Dutch boy and girl kissing (does anyone actually ever buy these?) and books on wooden shoes and windmills.
Himself and I joke about buying relatives some of the items for sale… but decide that would just be a little too weird, so instead ask the lady behind the counter questions about how this rather severely transplanted windmill came to be so far from home.
We learn that the Mill’s first stone was laid in 2000 but it was officially opened in 2003. That said, planning, fundraising and construction had been taking place over the ten years prior to this.
There were some local émigré Dutchmen who had this idea on their wishlist for many years, since they felt like it would be a good tourist attraction for the town and because the area of drained and stop-banked pasture land just down the road reminded them strongly of the drained and dyked polders they had left behind in their homeland.
It’s possible to go upstairs and see the working parts of the mills, but the kids are getting restless and hungry.
Himself doesn’t think it’s a good idea to let Little Mr. see it because he’s terrible at listening and can’t keep his fingers off machinery, and I have no intention of negotiating stairs on crutches of the type I know are found in windmills. We have fun looking around and can’t stop smiling at just how ludicrous this feels, but mind you, it does bring in tourists!
The biggest laugh of them all came when we were on our way out of the door and came face to face with a Dutch couple coming in! They were speaking Dutch as they arrived and were rather taken aback when we started speaking to them in Dutch as well (greetings).
A quick chat revealed that they were a retired couple who were combining a tour of New Zealand with visits to relatives who had emigrated in the 1960′s and that they too were so taken aback by the presence of a windmill here, that like us they pulled over to investigate.