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This village without roads is straight out of a fairytale book.
If you ever wanted to live your own fairy-tale, you may want to consider moving to the village Giethoorn. Also known as “Venice of the Netherlands”, this magical village founded around 1230 is the kind most people could only dream of…
It has no roads or any modern transportation at all, only canals. Well, and 176 bridges too. Tourists have to leave their cars outside of the village and travel here by foot or boat by (usually by “whisper boats”, which have noiseless engines). So you can probably imagine how peaceful it is here (well, when it isn’t flooded with tourists, of course)… Even the village’s website says that “the loudest sound you can normally hear is the quacking of a duck or the noise made by other birds”. It’s like something out of a storybook.
It is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty that it hardly seems real – gently gliding along small canals past old but pretty thatched-roof farmhouses. You can turn down a “side street” (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbor. No this is not Venice, or Amsterdam. It is too quiet, too serene and remote. It is so calm that its nickname of the “Dutch Venice” may give a false impression of size and crowds and commercialism. Here in Holland’s water village of Giethoorn the loudest sound you can normally hear is the quacking of a duck or the noise made by other birds.
Giethoorn is in the province of Overijssel in the east of the Netherlands, a green and still area. Giethoorn is at the centre of Overijssel’s canal system. Indeed, the little village is so dependent on its waterways, many of the houses cannot be reached by road. When the postman delivers the mail he travels by punt.
Boating has been a popular tourist attraction here for years, with 90km of canoe trails and scores of motorboats to rent, but now, instead of conventional outboard motors, the hire shops stock so-called ‘whisper boats’ – dinghies driven by electric motor. Giethoorn’s name originates from the first inhabitants’ discovery of hundreds of goat horns (gietehorens) in the marshland, remnants of a 10th-century flood. Today no goat horns will be found here, but the vegetation is quite distinct still. Here you will find yourself on the edge of vast series of lakes and canals, ideal for boaties, angling and paddle-cycling.
The best way to explore Giethoorn and the myriad of canals is obviously by joining a canal cruise. Local skippers will be able to guide you through the place and show you the most important places in this quiet village.
It is best to book a canal cruise in advance as there are a limited number of departures daily and the popularity of Giethoorn soared during the last few years. Alternatively, visitors can hire a small electric boat that requires little technical skill to operate, and seats two or three comfortably. Most of the canal-side restaurants rent them and it is a pleasant way of spending an afternoon, gently puttering down the narrow waterways, under gracefully arching bridges, past cosy thatched cottages. There are three canal-side museums to visit and the Schreur shipyard, where the Giethoorn punt is built. Footpaths beside the canals are ideal for walking or cycling, and there’s a wide selection of cafes and restaurants.