Every traveler knows the thrill of finding themselves in a new place with traces of the past hiding around every corner. But while most cities only have remnants of the past scattered here and there, one small town in the Netherlands has barely changed over the course of hundreds of years.
It’s hard to convince anyone who steps foot into the town of Giethoorn that they haven’t literally walked into the past. It was established all the way back in the year 1230 AD by settlers who needed waterways to transport peat extract between two lakes lying at the either side of the town that exists today (the eastern and southern sides). The result? A town interwoven with tiny canals that are used for transportation instead of roads, which – wait for it – simply don’t exist at all. On the bays of these little currents of water are thatch-domed houses, with picturesque wooden bridges built every few blocks for it’s 2,600 inhabitants and a few especially curious tourists to cross by foot.
Thanks to its tiny waterways, it’s been nicknamed the ‘Venice of the Netherlands.’ Boats float along up and down the canals, many owned by the locals for individual use and a few available for commercial rides anywhere along the 4 mile-stretch of the flowing network. There are 180 wooden bridges in total around the town, making for incredibly easy – and beautiful! – transportation on feet and bicycles.
Thanks to the famous 1958 movie called “Fanfare,” Dutch director Ber Haanstra finally put Giethoorn in the spotlight. It now has a steady stream of tourism – but for unknown reasons, or perhaps simply because of the city’s magic, it never becomes overrun with tourists and retains its calm, pastoral charms.
Although Amsterdam is the most frequented destination in the Netherlands, anyone willing to travel there should definitely not miss the beautiful town of Giethoorn – just a couple of hours away by train.