Beltmolen, Lonneker, The Netherlands

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“It’s the most beautiful windmill in the Netherlands,” Frank tells me as I stand behind the structure, staring up at its gears and debating if I would get in trouble were I to climb the hill under the mill so as to get closer. Frank is the keeper of the Lonneker Molen, c. 1851, a type of beltmolen, or mountain windmill. Frank came into milling by chance: he was out of work when his mother told him she had heard the Lonneker windmill was looking for volunteers. When the miller later passed away, Frank was asked to begin milling studies so that he could take over the mill’s management. He is now in his third year of windmilling apprenticeship and hopes to complete his studies and final practicum this year.

He says he truly enjoys the career to which the winds blew him because it lets him meet people from all over the world who are drawn to tiny Lonneker to visit its unique windmill. “Just look at ‘the book!'” Frank exclaims. “Just last month a lady from Arizona was here. And that one is from Macedonia.” It was true; the guestbook contained entries from all over the world, and, as I was preparing to pedal away, two Asian gentlemen pulled up, cameras in hand, and began to excitedly chat about the mill while posing for photographs.

Setting the mill apart from others of its type is its reed-covered thatched roof over a brick base. All other thatched mill roofs cover wooden walls, Frank patiently explains. The purpose of the thatching is to keep moisture out of the ground grain. It seems to be doing quite a good job of trapping the region’s ever-present precipitation as the outer layers of the thatching are coated in lichen and tiny green fungi while the inner layers, now nearly 20 years old, remain dry and brown.

Later, Frank demonstrates each component of the mill, from the brake to the sails, to the lowering and raising of the bags of grain, to the grinding process itself. He also permits me to walk around on top of the mill’s little mountain, no trespassing required.

Still today the mill continues to operate, though usually by its secondary, electric, horse-powered grinder. For sale are bags of various grains and a “delicious pancake mix,” which Frank suggests on more than one occasion. The Dutch seriously love their pannenkoeken. Like the country’s more than 1,000 remaining windmills, pancakes are a deeply-rooted icon of Dutch culture.

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