Giethoorn – Dutch Camels, Goat Horns And The Other Venice

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.

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Short History

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.

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Wooden plank  with the emblem of Giethoorn

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.

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Top right – Traditional boat handmade in Giethoorn

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.

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Camel Roofs

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.

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Camel Roof

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. 🙂

Cooking Houses

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Traditional Cooking House

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.

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Concert hall on water, floating ice cream store and island for rent

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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Flower Parade of Bollenstreek – Flower Overdose

For all you flowers lovers out there, the Netherlands is the place to be during spring. From wonderfully colorful flower fields, to tulip’s day, to flower gardens and parades, the Dutch really know how to celebrate their love for flowers.

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The Flower Parade of the Bollenstreek is the biggest event happening during springtime, becoming more and more every year, the symbol of the start of warm season. No other event is so full of color, perfumes and joy!

The origins of this event go back all the way to the end of the 1940’s, just after World War II, when people needed a bit of color and happiness in their lives, right after the war. The very first procession consisted only of a couple of flower garlands and decorated trucks. Still, it was the beginning of a great event.

Willem Warmenhoven, an amaryllis grower from Hillegom, is the creator of the first float, which took the shape of a whale, built out of hyacinths. Hillegom invited back then Sassenheim and Lisse, to cooperate at this event, which set the base for the large-scale parade taking place nowadays.

Like every year, this year the Flower Parade of Bollenstreek (the bulbs area), started in Noordwijk, and traveled slowly through Voorhout, Lisse, Hillegom, all the way to Haarlem, enchanting the spectators waiting for the colorful vehicles. In total, over 40 km of color, happiness and festive atmosphere.

With over 20 floats and 40 richly decorated vehicles, all covered in flowers, the procession made its way through the thousand of visitors, and around 9 pm Saturday evening, the illuminated parade arrived in the centre of Haarlem, ready for receiving a wave of admirers, on the following day.

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The entire Sunday, the parade floats were displayed in the beautiful old centre of Haarlem, the perfect time for seeing them closer, and clicking pictures with the million of flowers. Many activities were organized as well by the municipality, from music to street performances and food stalls.

And what better way to end such an amazing event, if not by sharing flowers with the spectators? Flowers sure put a smile on everyone’s faces 🙂

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In the end, we have the appreciate the effort and dedication which are required in order to keep this beautiful tradition going. As every single flower, must be manually set in the right spot, you can only imagine how much time and patience it requires.

Happy Spring, from the bulb region!


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Seeing the world through your eyes

Choose to see the world through optimistic eyes!

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After starting my blog, I got very lucky to meet a lot of wonderful people from all around the world. We shared stories and ideas and got to know so much about each other and about the place we call home. I’ve found out so much about everything around me, and I can’t be happier about this.

Going through other blogger’s posts, I’ve found similar stories, opinions on trips, places, people and experiences. It seems like even if we all talk about the same person, event or location and the pictures are pretty much the same, the posts are always very very different.

At first I wondered why? It seems weird. Then I’ve realized we all see and feel the world in a different way.We see everything around us, and paint our entire life, just as we are inside.

When it comes to travel, it will always open your mind, if you keep it open. Some see something as simple as a sunset and it makes them smile and fill their hearts with joy. Meanwhile, for others, the same view is worthless and might not even get noticed. Most people I know travel only to have fun getting drunk and spending money, while others meet people, absolve different cultures and traditions and, most important, grow.

seetheworldasyouareSome spend their entire life running after money, wasting it on nothing but meaningless things, finding joy only in what they can feed of. If it makes money, or if they can make it bring money, it gets registered. If not, it won’t make a difference to them. The way we experience our surroundings makes us pursue fortunes, destroy the environment, bring species to extinction, just so we can grow and spread our greed. Such people will never enjoy the simple things, events, places. If it’s not loud, expensive, fancy or cool, it’s not worth a second look, or a spot on the blog.

Some just can’t see past the ones mentioned above, and so, the same place or experience it’s very different from one person to the other. This got me to think about some people I know, who are always unhappy, cranky and mad at everything and everyone around them. How do they actually see the world I see? For sure it’s so different.

For me, the right way to travel is to open my mind and my heart, learn as much as I can, and meet as many people as possible. Once you open your eyes, you will see much more out there, then it’s noticeable at a first glance.  This can never fail, but it will take you places!

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The way we see ourselves is what makes us all unique. This is what makes our stories unique. No matter how many people you ask about a certain subject, the answer will always be different.

Who we are is how we see the world!

 

Madurodam – Think Small, See Big

The major pain of travel: you can’t ever see everything you want. It’s either the time, or something else, but it’s always that one thing you’ve missed.

If you find yourself in this situation while visiting Netherlands, there is a solution, sort of. How about visiting a whole country in just one day?

image_1Madurodam, located in The Hague, gives you the opportunity to discover, in only one day, the entire Netherlands, at a smaller scale. Even more, it allows you to be the center of the main activities happening on a daily basis, around the country. You can put out the fire on a ship or load containers, operate the storm surge barrier, become part of Schiphol Airport’s staff, and many more.

The amount of work which went into the details of the buildings makes you appreciate this place even more. Every building is a very detailed copy of the real one. This, combined with the sound effects, will put you right on the spot. The more you look, the more you see, the more real it becomes.

Doesn’t really count as being there, but second best. Close enough I would say, and a fun place to visit!

Driving with the dog

20141108_143133Road trips can be hard on our pets. Some hate it, others bare with it, Lisa loves it. I guess it depends on the dog.

She’s a very well behaved pup, so it’s easy to take her along everywhere we go. To make sure she’s comfortable in the car, I always take her blanky along, feed her plenty of treats, and stop often for water and short walks.

Here are a few pictures from our latest trip. When the car is running, she’s either sleeping or looking out the window. When the car stops, she loves to check out what’s going on in the front of the car. Always puts a smile on my face.

Has anyone seen the rest of my dog? I am missing the wagging tail! 🙂

Travel journal – Volunteer for the Turtles

I’ve put a lot of thought into writing this blog post and it wasn’t a very easy decision. On one hand, I would like to inform as many people as possible about the situation, and on the other hand I have troubles deciding if I should inform more people about this. Why? It’s simple: more tourists in the area, means less chances of survival for the turtles.

Considering this, for conservation reasons, I will name the location: Big S.

Big S is home of a quite large Marine Park which means turtles can be spotted. When I first got there, I had no idea you can spot so many beautiful marine animals and this is what made the surprise even bigger.

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Fascinating little creatures… Simply stunning!

I went slowly from enjoying my vacation, to realizing I ended up in the middle of a disaster area for the local wildlife, which will slowly lead to the extinction of turtles.

The Marine Park is quite unusual, because the bay in which it’s located is home of hundreds of stores, bars and restaurants, all projecting into the sea bright colorful lights and loud noises, spooking out the turtles. Besides this, motor boats and ships full of tourists scan the area for the wonders of the Sea, injuring the animals with the propellers. To make matters worse, the tourists step on the turtle nests and destroy the eggs. What also doesn’t help are the water sports which led to the injuring and death of a large number of turtles, in the past year.

Not quite the habitat for a turtle? You are perfectly right! This is why NGOs started working on the protection of these fascinating creatures. Switching from vacation mood to all hands on deck mode, I became a volunteer for a few days, helping a marine biologist in the fight for raising awareness of the impact of tourism on the beautiful animals. Difficult mission though and it will always be this way as long as the financial interests of the locals get into conflict with the marine wildlife. This started a lot of conflicts between locals who want to keep their business at any cost and people who want to protect the animals. Marine Park guards got harassed by locals and tourists who simply don’t want to leave the beach when the turtles are nesting, and protectors got harassed for endangering the local tourism.

Very sad story, especially when you know the turtles stand no chance when it comes down to what’s more important for the local economy. A Marine Park doesn’t make money, but a restaurant or club does. What’s even more sad is that Big S has a similar story, when the wildlife lost the battle. Not long ago the habitat of the flamingo birds, which used to call Big S their home, got destroyed and replaced with concrete structures, and now, because of the increase in the number of tourists, the turtles are endangered as well.

The main problem is that tourists are not informed about the location of the nests and the dangers of the vibrations caused by walking close to the area. Curiosity brings people closer and closer, until they end up suffocating the hatchlings. Also, following them into the sea, or chasing them with speed boats, causes a lot of stress on the turtles, and sometimes they end up injured or even worse, dead.

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Beautiful Big S is definitely worth seeing, but in such location, with a rich turtle population, you have to consider the marine wildlife and don’t become part of the problem! The main reason for writing this article is to raise awareness on the turtles, as conservation of all species is very important. Animals were there long before us, so think twice before renting a speed boat or practicing water sports, in any location where you know marine creatures are present. Also, keep your distance from the nesting beaches, as you might step on a nest without even realizing it, and kill the hatchlings. Considering that only 1 in 1000 hatchlings reaches mating age, every turtle is precious!

For most of the wild things on earth the future must depend upon the conscience of mankind.” – Dr. Archie Carr