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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Going Dutch - the fourth day

The rural idyll

When we were planning our trip to the Netherlands, I asked my wife if there was anywhere in particular that she would like to visit. Shu-E did some research on the Internet, and decided on a small village in the Northern Overijssel region called Giethoorn. I'd never heard of the place, but the photos she showed me on a Mandarin-language website looked nice. However, when I looked up Giethoorn in my Lonely Planet guidebook, the words "the site has become a must-visit for Asian tour groups" leapt off the screen of the iPad. I had nightmarish visions of a once-lovely village collapsing under the weight of all the tour buses disgorging hordes of Chinese tourists. Our lunch after getting off the bus stop in Giethoorn (and before reaching the canal area) was, in fact, interrupted by a large group of noisy middle-aged Mandarin-speaking women, and things didn't look much more promising when we passed a Chinese noodle restaurant as we walked toward the bed-and-breakfast where we were going to stay that Wednesday night. But the tourists never materialized (the lunch group apparently got back on their bus and went elsewhere), and Giethoorn turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, one of the most idyllic locations I've ever visited. Chalk it up to traveling out of season.

A last look at our hotel room in Amsterdam before checking out:

Getting to Giethoorn from Amsterdam involved taking a train from Amsterdam Centraal station to Steenwijk, then ride Bus 70 to the village. The view while waiting for the bus outside Steenwijk railway station:

Lunching on a pancake:

The B&B De Galeriet Giethoorn, where we spent the night in reasonably-priced (though cash-only) comfort:

After checking-in and dropping off our bags, we spent the rest of the day wandering along the canals, admiring the scenery and letting the village work its charm. The area can be explored by bike and boat, but we were content to let our feet guide the way:

A stork's nest. We didn't see any of the birds in Giethoorn; we haven't encountered any in Lithuania, either, though we've been told they're quite common:

A gaggle of geese rest in a field. The Netherlands is a densely-populated country, but open spaces dominate the Dutch countryside:

Amber makes a friend:

A couple takes a boat through the canals:

It doesn't get more much more pastoral than having sheep graze on the lawn:

Dining that evening at the Ristorante Fratelli:

Even in the chilly night air, the village retains its charm:

Back at the B&B, reading the entry left in the guest book by a Taiwanese visitor. My daughter added her impressions:

On a cold day in late November, my wife and I fell in love with a small Dutch village. Giethoorn is one of those places where I could see us purchasing a small house as I approach retirement, and settling down to enjoy its mystical charm...

...until I remember the tourists that show up in droves during the peak season (between 150-200,000 Asian visitors a year, according to numbers found online by a friend of mine), and then the dream turns into a nightmare of having to put up signs in Mandarin, Korean and Thai (as we saw in Giethoorn), asking people not to trespass in our garden and press their noses up against our living-room window glass to have a peek inside.

Then again we could always live there during the chillier, darker months, when things become quiet and quaint. And we could always fund our retirement by opening up a Taiwanese tea stand...

Dutch treat:

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