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11 world-class windmills outside the Netherlands

By: Matt Hickman on July 6, 2016, 7:04 a.m.
The windmills at Kinderdijk have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

Photo: Christian Mueller/Shutterstock

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The power of wind

From the UNESCO-recognized beauty of Kinderdijk and its 19 water-pumping grondzeiler in South Holland (pictured) to the exceptionally well-preserved workhorses of Zandaam in the north, windmills — or molen — are as quintessentially Dutch as tulips, tolerance and the color orange.

Because windmills are so strongly associated with the Netherlands, a flat-as-a-pancake-nation that’s long relied on the power of the wind to move water and make gin, it's sometimes easy to forget that there are more than a few historic sail-equipped structures elsewhere in Europe and beyond. (And no, miniature golf courses don’t count.)

With an eye toward historic preservation, authenticity and architectural significance, we’ve rounded up 11 noteworthy wind-driven mills and windmill groupings outside of the Netherlands — these are the forebears to electricity-producing modern wind turbines. Spanning a variety of shapes, sizes, ages and types, you’ll find these bladed beauties in locales ranging from the hills of La Mancha to the American heartland to Greece’s sun-drenched Cyclades. Some are still fully functional, some were retired long ago; most were used — and, in some cases, are still used — for grinding wheat and other grains while others serve different purposes such as irrigation. Most of our picks now serve as tourism-friendly cultural attractions and protected historic landmarks that offer a glimpse into a not-so-distant, non-motorized past when commerce, industry and, well, life relied on the strength of the wind.