Around Belgium | Le Moulin de Moulbaix
Have you ever seen a working windmill up close? They turn frighteningly quickly once they get going. It’s incredible, really. From afar, windmills seem like peaceful symbols of the rural landscape, but get close and you’ll fully appreciate their power. The Moulbaix windmill, situated near Ath in the Hainaut, is the perfect place to do that. In fact, it’s the only fully functioning windmill in the province.
The moulin de la Marquise, as it’s officially called, still grinds grain into flour as it has done for years. Almost 200 years after its construction in 1747 and a long period of disrepair, the windmill was purchased and finally restored to its original condition by Joseph Dhaenens, a Flemish miller. It has served the area ever since, although now under the supervision of Dhaenens’ son and his assistant.
One realizes immediately upon entry that this windmill is a labor of love for those who run it, as well as an important part of the community. Anyone is welcome to visit the inside, and Mr. Dhaenens and his assistant are happy to answer questions about the windmill. During the hour we spent there, it seemed the whole village had come out for a quick visit and a chat. One couple had even come from out of town to revisit the place where they had taken their wedding photos, years ago, right on the steep, wooden steps.
Step around the great, bulging sacks of flour and climb the narrow ladder up to the second floor. Watch the great wooden gears as they pick up speed, or let the grain run through your fingers as it funnels down the chute to be turned into flour. It’s not difficult to imagine a simpler time.