This past week we traveled to the city of Giethoorn in The Netherlands. Giethoorn is only accessible by foot, bike or boat. Giethoorn was created by religious zealots who settled in the area and began peat farming. The methods by which they cut the peat out of the land caused waterways and bodies of water to form. In addition, the farmers needed to cut canals in order to transport the peat more easily. Thus, Giethoorn was formed into a town of water passages.
There are two ways to see Giethoorn. You can park near the highway and walk the tourist boardwalk to the middle of the town which is the church (most of the inhabitants of the town are Mennonites). Once in the town, you can use the pathways to walk or bike. There are many tourist shops and restaurants along the main path and there are bridges to the homes and businesses on the other side of the main canal (most of these are not accessible to the public).
The other way to see Giethoorn is by boat. You can rent a boat and explore on your own or you can book a tour boat. The tour boats are “whisper” boats meaning that they are electric and thus do not make the noise of a fuel run boat. The tour boats stick to the main canal and the lake to the other side of the town. The smaller boats that can be rented allow you to go down smaller side canals along the homes. There are many choices for renting a boat such as a rowboat, small motorboat, canoe or raft.
There are only 2,600 inhabitants of Giethoorn and just like the tourists, their only way to get around town is by boat or foot. In fact, there is farming that occurs in Giethoorn but the cows must be transported by boat to the fields for grazing. All homeowners are required to inhabit in the town permanently. Summer or rental housing is only found around the lake area where there are cottage style homes, camping areas and retreat facilities.
We were lucky enough to arrive in Giethoorn in the early morning and walk the town on foot before many other tourists arrived. The town was very peaceful and idyllic with lush gardens and manicured lawns.
After a couple of hours, we took a tour boat around the canals and out to the lake. And lest you think that the town is just a storybook town all day, keep in mind that as more and more tourists arrive (and there are plenty), the canals get very packed with boats.
But even with the boat traffic, the town is very enjoyable. We ate some lunch along the canal and enjoyed watching all of the boats go by. After our lunch, we decided to visit the museum of Giethoorn. It was a very nice museum with some interesting displays on what life in Giethoorn was like in the past. We especially enjoyed the displays of traditional dress and old style farm housing.
Giethoorn was a lovely town and a fun way to spend the day. If we return, we plan to rent our own boat and do some further exploring, but that will be an adventure for another day.