Giethoorn was the third and final item on my Dutch Bucket List. I’d visited the 400-year old Alkmaar Cheese Market, the half-Belgian and half-Dutch twin towns of Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau. The only one left was a little village just north of Zwolle; Giethoorn. This was the famed town with no roads.
Coming from Australia, there are some things in Europe that I just can’t get enough of. Buzzing town squares are one. Ridiculously old buildings are another. Perhaps above all though, are thatched roofs.
What are thatched roofs, you say? Well, think of the Three Little Pigs. You know, the silly one, that built his house with straw? As an Aussie, I really didn’t get that. Who builds their house with straw? Well, some northern Europeans do. And they look charming.
Originally I was to make it out to Giethoorn by myself by public transport, but Paul wanted in on the whole plan. The weather was beautiful that week, and as we drove up to the parking lot on the edge of the town, we realised that half of the country seemed to have the same idea as us. The carpark was PACKED, mostly with Dutchies but also a smattering of Germans had also read about this mysterious place.
The first glimpse I got of Giethoorn was probably the best. It was true; it was a town with no roads. Where roads would normally be, there were canals. Alongside the canals were walking paths that were shared with a handful of cyclists. Instead of cars, people opted for boats.
It was all so cute and so… Dutch. It was good, old-fashioned fun and everyone just seemed to be having a jolly old time. There were groups of guys with slabs of beer, families with dogs and even plenty of ‘allochtoon’; first or second generation immigrants. Strangely, apart from the handful of Germans, there were no international tourists.
I found that hard to believe. I mean, look at this place!
Walking around Giethoorn, I felt like a bit of a giant. There were no cars to make you feel smaller, no wide avenues to cross. Accidentally you would find yourself in someone’s front garden. The only way around this was to rent a boat.
Now, I know nothing about boats, and neither does Paul. But we got a crash course (in English, the boat guy in this tiny village had of course done a working holiday in Oz) and took off.
Ten minutes later, we came to an abrupt stop. The motor had died.
Once we were set up with a new boat (our rescuer had come by bike) we were off again, joining the long line of boats following a loop around the canals and nearby lake. I felt like Bridget Jones, ready to recite poetry to Daniel Cleaver on her mini-break.
Along the canals were bed and breakfasts, canal-side cafes and eventually cows and the like. It was the most relaxing, twee way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Low Countries.
Oh, and can you please, please sing the title of this post to the tune of ‘A Horse With No Name’? I can’t get it out of my head.