Giethoorn is a beautiful village situated in the Dutch province of Overijssel.
With over 180 bridges, this little settlement known as The Small Venice of The Netherlands, is only accessible by boat and attracts more and more tourists every year.
The village of Giethoorn is a place full of history, with a fascinating past.
Founded in 1200’s by a group of fugitives from the Mediterranean region, Giethoorn was firstly inhabited by illegals and criminals.
The village got its name from a large number of goat horns found on the grounds after a massive flood, which destroyed the area a few years earlier. The settlers named the little village Geytenhorn, meaning ‘goat horn‘, which in time became Giethoorn, the name currently used nowadays.
Early settlers, including Franciscan monks, took to peat mining and the canals were dug for transportation. Some areas became lakes, many of them not deeper than 1 m. Actually, the small village has currently only one lake naturally formed, also 1 m deep, like the water canals.
Only in 1958 Geithoorn became popular as a tourist destination, after the Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra made a comedy, Fanfare, at this location, attracting tourists in large numbers, who named the small village the Venice of Netherlands.
Water Canals and Bridges
As mentioned above, the place is not accessible by car. Inhabitants who own cars, have a special parking lot, where they leave their car, and jump into their boats for the rest of the trip home, or walk, depending on the area where their house is located. With so many water canals, the village is home for over 180 wooden bridges.
With so much water, Giethoorn is the place where even nowadays wooden boats are handmade, without any blueprints, like in the old days. This means every boat is unique, in shape, size and looks. The boats are considered so precious, they are passed from generation to generation.
During history, with every new island created, every owner was forced to build his own bridge, to connect the property to the rest of the village. Starting off with only a simple wooden board from the shed, not wider than 30 cm, nowadays, the bridges are beautiful structures, over the very busy water canals.
Nowadays, nothing changed from this point of view, so the house owners are still in charge of building and maintaining their own bridges.
Giethoorn is a village with beautifully designed houses. Even if all houses are unique, at a closer look, you will notice one thing most of them have in common, which is that the roofs have an unusual shape.
As the area was initially constantly affected by floods, the locals were forced to find a solution for their livestock. Bringing the animals inside was the best one, so the house roofs got a camel hump, in order to create the extra space needed.
Even more interesting, is the placement of the hump, which is towards the back of the house, to preserve the heat in the front of the house, during the cold season.
Even if not many goats live in the village at the present day, we can say the camels never left the area. 🙂
Having straw roofs can be pretty dangerous, especially when you plan on doing some cooking. Because the locals were extremely afraid of fires, they decided to build the kitchen outside the main house, in a separate smaller house, with regular roof tiles.
Not much bigger than a garden shed from nowadays, the cooking houses are not used anymore, but kept as a reminder of the small village’s beautiful past.
Vacation islands and concerts on water
In the area, you can rent a vacation house, or why not, even your own little island.
The place also hosts concerts on water, where people drive their boats to a stage in the middle of the lake, and listen to the performance.
The last farmer…
Tourism definitely changes the face of any location on Earth. People have to readjust and accommodate tourists, or simply relocate.
As the place became a major tourist attraction and everything is done by water, not all activities find a spot anymore, in the village’s new lifestyle.
During warm days, over 650 small boats are rented by tourists, not counting the larger tourist boats. As most tourists have no experience sailing, the narrow water canals are constantly very busy and sometimes traffic comes to a full stop, especially when most boats end up on top of each other, instead of passing by each other.
Considering the new traffic flow, farmers couldn’t possibly do their job anymore and had to switch from farming, to tourism, as bringing all the supplies needed, proved to be way too difficult and in some days, even impossible.
Even so, Giethoorn can proudly say it still has one farmer left, who’s still doing farming, by water, on his own little island, as it has always been done, since the beginning of the settlement.
Living in a place like Giethoorn sounds like a dream, but considering all the intensive tourism in the area, the place is slowly losing its charm for locals. Business vs privacy … Which one wins in the end?
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