75 x 115 cm acrylic on canvas painting
75 x 115 cm acrylic on canvas painting
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?
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.
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.
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 🙂
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!
Choose to see the world through optimistic eyes!
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.
Some 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!
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!
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?
Madurodam, 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!
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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
If i had a penny for every time someone told me: “Romania is a beautiful country, too bad people live there” I’d already be living on my own private island 🙂 . All I can say is I agree with this statement.
Romania is a gorgeous country when it comes to landscape and it has so much potential and resources that you can’t help wonder why isn’t doing better than it does.
Focusing on full half of the glass, I will present those places I’ve recently been to, which are worth more than just a visit.
The second-highest paved road in Romania, built as a strategic military route, that stretches 90 km from north to south across the tallest sections of the Southern Carpathians. It’s probably one of the most beautiful places in Romania.
A glacier lake situated at 2,034 m altitude. Absolutely gorgeous area.
Transalpina – The King’s Road
Is one of the highest roads of the Carpathian Mountains. It connects Novaci to Sebeş.
The road was built under King Carol II and rebuilt during World War II by German troops and it’s, in my opinion, the most beautiful road in the whole Country.
There are certain areas when, because of the climb, you can’t really see where the road continues, so you only see the sky. Also, if you are lucky enough to be there on a partial sunny day, you will notice the clouds are below you.
To describe it in one word: breathtaking!
Ochiul Beiului Lake
After 15 minutes hike through the forest, you reach the beautiful blue lake, situated at an altitude of 310 m with a depth of 3.6 m. It has carst origins and doesn’t freeze during the winter because the river’s water constantly fills it.
” It’s been said that a beautiful girl used to live in this area when an ottoman young man falls in love with her, kidnaps her and dishonors her. The girl chooses to take her own life and the tears of the youngster form the lake that we know today by the name of Ochiul Beiului.
Another legend tells us that the beautiful son of a pasha falls in love with a girl against his father’s wishes. The pasha kills the girl and the boy sheds tears for her and decides to take his own life as well. From the boy’s tears and sufferings a wonderful blue lake is formed. “
La Vaioaga Waterfall
It’s situated in Beusnita National Park and it’s an absolutely gorgeous waterfall.
Situated on the national road 57 B, between Oravita and Bozovici villages, to 45 Paralel. The water falls from a cliff, which is covered with moss. It is said to be the most beautiful waterfall in the country.
Leaving National Road 1 behind, heading towards Rucar village, we meet an amazing landscape.
Built between 1211 and 1225 the fortress was built as part of a defence system for the villages exposed to outside invasions.
Fortress Valley Cave ( Peştera Valea Cetăţii )
Located near Râşnov, Braşov County, the cave was first opened in 1949. After a few minutes through the forest, you will reach the cave’s entrance. Due to the amazing acoustic of the cave, it used also for classical music concerts. Absolutely beautiful place, in my book.
You will have to squeeze between the beautiful mountains, and enjoy a breathtaking view.
So, pack your backpack and come by 🙂 Mother Nature provides the entertainment!
I said this before, and I say it again – As long as you have this, it really doesn’t matter:
When I first got my passport, I felt like a whole new world just opened its gates and invited me in. Travelling for me is always an amazing experience, which gives me new eyes to see the world with, and a free heart to experience the surroundings. As Danny Kaye said, “To Travel Is to Take a Journey Into Yourself“. Meeting new people, learning about a new culture, helped me find myself in more than one way, and this is why I like to travel as much as possible. Every trip made me richer in a way in which money will never be able to.
Ever since I was younger, I started dreaming about experiencing the desert ( seeing the camels, meetings the Berbers), the food, the music, the landscape. When I told my family and friends I wanted to travel to Africa, the reactions weren’t very positive ( “What about riots, disease, kidnappings?” ). But, how do you stop a derailing train 🙂 ? In the end, life begins when you let go of your comfort zone! My heart told me I should be there, so, I decided to go for it.
Arriving in Morocco
Starting from up in the sky, you can see the difference in landscape and colors between Europe and Africa. Sandy, rocky, wild, and extremely beautiful. Leaving Romania behind (negative temperatures, wind, snow) and arriving in a place where you feel the warmth of the sunlight on your skin, palm trees and orange trees next to the airport, it’s an amazing experience on it’s own. The gates to an amazing trip were declared open!
Europe VS Africa
Fez -country’s cultural and spiritual centre
The first city to welcome my arrival in Morocco, Fez! And it felt like home, right away. My first contact with a Moroccan house, gave me a wonderful feeling inside. The combination of mosaic work, wood, fabrics, colors, takes you on a trip in time on it’s own.
Warm people, hospitality, mint tea, fresh food cooked with a lot of heart and dedication. What else can you ask for?
One thing is for sure, if you go to Morocco and you say you love their music and you love to dance, this translates into a party. Whoo hoo! And my new friend, Said, planned it all perfectly! He found someone who can play music for us, took me on a shopping trip in the Medina, to get authentic Moroccan food cooked with so much love, got the mint tea ready and the party started. Even if it might sound weird, I’ve always dreamed to have someone play live music for me somewhere in Morocco, so I can belly dance. And this dream came true…
I love to cook, so obviously one of my wishes was to see a Moroccan dish being cooked, and learn some tricks from a local. This was also turned into reality. Some of the Moroccan guests from Marrakesh, staying in the hotel, also musicians, were passing by through Fez, while I was there, and invited me in the kitchen to cook Tanjia with them, and listen to their music. I’ve learned the spices, tasted everything and absorbed the whole experience like a sponge.
I consider myself very lucky and honored to have been invited into their lives, and learn from a real master, how such a complex dish is made. Many thanks for making my experience in Fez, so enjoyable!
How do you go though all 4 seasons in one day? By leaving Fez, crossing the Atlas Mountains, heading towards Merzouga, of course. We went from rain, to snow, to sunny in only a few hours. And, I was lucky enough to experience a snowfall in the mountains.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about Morocco I think about heat and nice weather, so this was a total shock for me. What was even more shocking is to stop the car next to a forest, in the mountains, and have monkeys coming down from the trees! Beautiful animals!
And we continue our journey down the mountains….and in a few minutes, we leave the snow behind and enter a gravel-desert. In the middle of nowhere, we find a super nice restaurant, with WIFI?! and a super friendly fireplace, waiting anxious to warm my frozen hands.
I was questioning if we’ll ever get to the sand dunes or not. The location was beautiful but wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, when thinking about the desert. We keep on driving, and then…..They appear:
WOW! Sand duneeees! And there are as high as a building!
We arrive at Merzouga!
In this small village, 50 kilometers from the Algerian border, we leave the car behind and jump on the camel, for a night in the middle of the desert.
Saying Assalamu Alaikum to my camel, Bob
What I’ve found out when arriving at Merzouga is: those scarfs, are not for fashion. You simply need them! Crazy wind started soon after our arrival, and in the desert, sand in your eyes and mouth is not fun. I was ‘very lucky’ to experience rain in the desert. Yes, rain! In a place where it rains twice/year, I managed to be there on one of those two days.
Now I don’t know about you (in case you’ve ever had the change to ride a camel), but I’ve tried to sit on it in all possible ways, and none managed to make me feel comfortable. What made the ride even more exciting was the moment when Bob decided to trip and fall face first into the sand, with me on his back. After looking at me, and breathing out deeply, we continued the journey. With an aching bottom, sand in my eyes, and a hurt ego after my camel called me chubby (in less words than this hahaha ) we arrived at the tents.
In the Berber’s camp, we managed to get to know the locals a bit better. They warmed our hearts with their music and good food. Amazing is that they didn’t go to school, but they speak 4 foreign languages, not perfectly, but they start a conversation. Using all the language skills available, I had an amazing evening.
Going to bed was really interesting, as combing the rain with very low temperatures, got me from my normal routine of sleeping in my pajamas, to sleeping with my hiking boots on, jeans, 2 blouses, a jacket and a scarf … Suddenly, sleeping outside with Bob seemed like not such a bad idea!
Waking up a few hours later, the storm was long past us, the wind stopped and the stars were absolutely fascinating. It’s unbelievable how bright they shine and how big they look like from a place where there is zero light from close by cities. With camera batteries dead from the very low temperature, we headed back to Merzouga, before the sunrise.
Sunrise in the desert – with our Berber guide
With my new buddies
Ouarzazate – The door of the desert
Home of Morocco’s biggest film studios where movies such as The Mummy, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and others were shot, as was the TV series Game of Thrones.
The fortified city of Aït Benhaddou, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, the place where we were invited in a Berber home, leaves you breathless. You look at the enormous Ksar, and you still can’t believe people still live there! The nice Berber told us all about his carpets business, and served the never missing Moroccan tea.
Gorges Du Dades
The road runs from Ouarzazate and stretched to the east to Tineghir. Heading towards Marrakesh, we drove through stunning desert landscapes and villages through the Dades Valley. It left like traveling through a smaller scale Grand Canyon!
First contact with Marrakesh, late in the evening, when the Jemaa El Fna is at the highest activity level, was confusing, to put it mildly. Very busy city center, crazy traffic which goes from donkeys, to bikes, to scooters, to cars, to trucks, on very narrow streets, making sharp turns in front of stores, or between the carpets on which people sell products. Jemaa El Fna is a mix of restaurants (street food), clothing stores, snake charmers, henna painters, hotels, and others. All the food stands are opened only in the evening; during the day, they simply vanish, until sunset, when they magically reappear.
When you first arrive there, you will feel a bit overwhelmed if you are not used to having cars and bikes on the sidewalk, driving fast close by you (living in Romania, gave me some serious training when it comes to this hahaha, and even so, it took some adjustment). After a bit of walking though, you just get into that rhythm, you are absorbed by the smell, the colors, the music, the people, the entire atmosphere, and don’t even notice the traffic anymore.
To describe it in one word: unreal. Stunning plants and colors! A little green oasis in the middle of a very busy city.
On our way to Essaouira we stopped in the area where argan trees grow and argan oil is made. I’ve never been more surprised, than when I saw beautiful goats sitting in a tree. Absolutely amazing!
While looking at the process of making argan oil, I’ve realized the price is correct, even if at a first glance it seems expensive. You have to put so much work into extracting just a small bottle of oil, that the price is more than justified.
Leaving the argan trees behind us, we reached our destination – A place you definitely shouldn’t miss when going to Morocco! This city at the Atlantic Ocean, situated in a fishing harbor, set my mind and heart free and brought me the peace so very much needed.
Essaouira is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, like wood-carving. Being a harbor city, this means besides a lovely beach, you will find fresh sea food. This makes Essaouira one of tourist’s favorite destinations in Morocco. Besides small arts and crafts, it is also well known for the fish market. What you can do, is choose the fish you want to eat, and then ask a restaurant to cook it for you. And so I did…
Packing to come back home was a hilarious experience. With a very small backpack, quite a bit of clothes, a few small gifts I’ve got for my friends and family, and a tajine I just couldn’t leave behind in the store, I had to make them all fit…somehow. So, let’s get dressed. How do: 3 pairs of pants, 3 blouses and 2 jackets sound to you? :)) …I couldn’t even bend over, or sit down without some effort, but hey, I did got the tajine home in one piece!
It’s been a few months since I came back from Morocco, but I would go back there in a heartbeat! The people, the landscape, the music, the food, everything combined into such an amazing experience. I don’t have any regrets about this trip, except ending too soon. It was a journey which got me back in touch with myself, a trip in which I’ve meet wonderful persons and learned about a fascinating culture. If you are not sure about going there or not, my advice is: don’t hesitate! Nothing to lose, but everything to gain.