The tiny Dutch village of Giethoorn, located right in the middle of the De Wieden nature reserve, is fondly known as the Venice of Netherlands. Quite an apt name for the place, since it has distinct features that are reminiscent of the romantic Italian city – 7.5 km of canals, about 50 little wooden bridges, boat rides, quaint houses, and more.
If there’s something that Giethoorn does not have in common with Venice, it’s history. The small village was first inhabited in the year 1230 by a group of fugitives from the Mediterranean regions. It is said that when they first arrived in the area, they noticed an unusually large number of goat horns that were left over after the big flood of St Elisabeth had ravaged the area in 1170. So they named their settlement Geytenhorn (horn of goats), but with dialect changes over the years the name gradually changed to Giethoorn. There’s a story about how all the lakes came to be as well. Early settlers took to peat mining; they dug for peat in the areas that suited them the most and left holes in the ground. These holes soon filled up and turned into lakes of varying sizes. So to carry the peat from one area to another, they would sail through navigable canals and ditches. The means of transportation that was once a necessity is now a huge tourist attraction.
It was in the year 1958 that Geithoorn first became popular as a tourist destination. A great Dutch filmmaker named Bert Haanstra made a movie at this location, after which tourists started arriving in large numbers, calling it the Venice of Netherlands. The boats called punters are typical to Giethoorn, however, and have become famous the world over. They are driven by an electric motor that make a sound no louder than a whisper. The village itself is the main attraction, where the atmosphere is said to be extremely peaceful and relaxing. Tourists also love admiring the classic Dutch architecture, including houses with thatched roofs and some carefully preserved 18th and 19th century farm houses. There are no roads in the old part of Giethoorn, so tourists generally take a boat ride around the village. A few cycling paths have been build recently for locals to use as transportation.
Giethoorn sounds like a delightfully picturesque location that you would not want to miss if you ever happen to be in the Netherlands.
Photo: Arwen Willemsen