In Alblasserwaard, problems with water became more and more apparent in the 13th century. 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. After a few centuries, in 1739, an additional way to keep the polders dry was required. It was decided to build a series of windmills, with a limited capacity to bridge water level differences, 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 now provided by two diesel pumping stations near one of the entrances of the windmills site.
The name Kinderdijk is Dutch for “Children dike”. In 1421, during the Saint Elisabethflood of 1421, the Grote Hollandsche Waard flooded, but the Alblasserwaard polder stayed unflooded. It is said that when the terrible storm had subsided, someone went on to the dike between these two areas, to see what could be saved. In the distance, he saw a wooden cradle floating on the waters. As it came nearer, some movement was detected. A cat was seen in the cradle trying to keep it in balance by jumping back and forth so that no water could get into it. As the cradle eventually came close enough to the dike for a bystander to pick up the cradle, he saw that a baby was quietly sleeping inside it, nice and dry. The cat had kept the cradle balanced and afloat. This folktale and legend has been published as “The Cat and the Cradle” in English
St. Nicholas history:
To save three poor sisters of prostitution, Saint Nicholas threw three purses with money through the window, so the girls could still be married. Our gingerbread dolls and chocolate coins refer to this story. The veneration of the holy bishop Saint Nicholas has a long tradition.
Whether St. Nicholas was a real person is not entirely sure, but there is a good chance. The historical figure that model would have been for the Dutch Sinterklaas was born according to legend, around 270 AD in the port of Patara in the Greek province of Lycia in Asia Minor (now Turkey). His Greek name Nikolaos means “conqueror of the people”. He became bishop of Myra and would be deceased on 6 December 340.
During his life he would have visited include Jerusalem. About his actions as bishop went quickly wondrous stories around that were written centuries later. He was canonized by the Greek Catholic Church, and in 550 the first church was dedicated to him in Istanbul, then called Constantinople. The oldest and most important biography of St. Nicholas, features quite a few miracles, dating from about 800.