Giethoorn, Netherlands


Giethoorn (Stellingwerfs: Gietern) is a water region village in the head of Overijssel, in the municipality of Steenwijkerland in the Dutch province of Overijssel and is located between Steenwijk and Meppel.

Giethoorn was an independent municipality until 1973. It then became part of the municipality of Brederwiede, together with Wanneperveen, Blokzijl and Vollenhove. On January 1, 2001, the municipalities of Brederwiede, Steenwijk and IJsselham merged to form the municipality of Steenwijkerland.

The village has 2630 inhabitants and is known for its bridges, waterways and punts. It is called the 'Dutch Venice'. Giethoorn is elongated and consists of three neighborhoods that are always staggered from each other. In the north it is the Noordeinde, followed by the Middenbuurt and finally the Zuideinde. The Dorpsgracht is the central axis of Giethoorn and ends in the south in the Zuideindiger Wijde. The farms and houses are separated by lot ditches over which are platforms connecting the house lots. The humpback farm is characteristic of Giethoorn. The farm seems to have a hump because the barn is higher than the house.

The peatland created puddles and lakes. Canals and ditches were dug to transport the peat. Many houses are built on islands, as it were, which can only be reached via bridges. Most of the more than 176 bridges are private property.

The only through land connection through the old village is a bicycle-cum-walking path that runs from Noordeinde to Zuideinde and is only interrupted by Kerkweg between Noordeinde and Middenbuurt. The main traffic takes place over the water. The main traditional craft used for this was the punt, propelled by a punt boom (punting). Nowadays all kinds of motor-powered boats are used for this and there is hardly any punting anymore.



The first mention of Giethoorn dates from 1225. Flagellants are often mentioned as founders of Giethoorn. Gait L. Berk writes about it, "If that's true, it's fantastic. Imagine a bunch of ragged bigots flogging themselves and wandering madly to become ancestors of a well-dressed and calmly toiling people." Berk also makes a connection with the monastery that used to be in Giethoorn-Noord. These pioneers are said to have found many goat horns from goats killed in the storm surge of 1170 from the Zuiderzee. Following this statement, they would have named their settlement Geytenhorn. Later that became Geythorn, and thanks to the dialect it became Giethoorn. The goat horn can be found in the coat of arms of Giethoorn. However, according to linguists, "horn" means "corner of land jutting out in the water", which is also suggested by the shape "Gethorne" (1230).



Giethoorn was a settlement of peat cultivators. The exploitation started from the east bank of the Giethoornsche Meer and consisted of gorges facing east that were separated by waterways, such as the Cornelisgracht and the Walengracht. The Dwarsgracht formed a rear quay of such a development. As the development progressed through the centuries, the village was moved eastwards. The last time this happened in the 17th century, when the village of the Gieterse Dijk, which was later called Beukersweg, was moved to the area of ​​the current Dorpsgracht. Around 1750 the village switched from peat bogs as the basis of life to livestock farming. The canals were initially dug for the removal of peat, but became more and more important for the agricultural sector. After the last relocation of the village to the Dorpsgracht, Giethoorn took on the character of a water village with a canal guided by a footpath with finders detachable for shipping. In addition, the typical high bridges were added. These had to be high in order to allow punters standing in the boat and high with hay-laden goats unobstructed passage. The Gietersen also used their boats for transport to surrounding places such as Steenwijk, Meppel, Zwartsluis and Blokzijl.

A sailing culture developed with its own Gieterse ship types. The Gieterse punt is the best known. This is a boat of approximately 6.30 meters long and with a maximum width of 1.45 meters. The punt was used for all kinds of transport. Shopkeepers, such as the baker, took it around the village to sell their wares. Workers working in peat making or cutting rushes and reeds took them to work and could then take part of the harvest with them in the punt. Furthermore, the punt was used for funerals and weddings. Ferrymen who traveled to Steenwijk or Meppel on market days to buy or sell merchandise also used the punt for a long time. Visitors also often came to visit by punt. In Giethoorn, the punt was boomed, and when the wind was favorable, we also sailed with a spritsail and a sword that was hung on the other side when tacking or jibing.

Punters were also used in "haul towing". When the water level is high, the water is fed to a cragge, a soil consisting of half-decayed plant remains, held together by the roots of water plants, which floats through the air channels in the roots. This collar was cut into one-meter wide strips and rolled on the side. Then they were tied one after the other. This series of kraggen was dragged behind a punt to a place where they wanted to reclaim land. This transport also took place through the village canal.

A stroke larger than the punt is the Gieterse raft, between 8 and 11 meters long and the width fluctuated around 2 meters. It was used for transporting milk cans, hay, peat, wood, manure and reed. A ferry service to the market in Meppel was maintained for a while with the help of a ferry. Rafts were treeed and sailed with favorable winds.

The largest ship used in Giethoorn was the Gieterse bok, which could be more than 12 meters long and was sometimes equipped with a cabin. The buck was used for the heaviest transports and large amounts of hay, but also large cattle were transported with the buck. Bucks were also rented out by punt makers to farmers, for example, sometimes for a year, who then sublet them to others for certain activities. Bucks were treeed and sailed when the wind was favorable.

The rowboat was the smallest boat traditionally used in Giethoorn and was locally called 'botie'. These were 4 to 5 meters long. In contrast to the other vessels (collectively called "Gevaer" in Giethoorn), this one was rowed. These boats were used for milking or for short, quick trips.


This extensive use of boats led to a number of punt yards. Sometimes numbers of 14 to 20 punt yards in Giethoorn are mentioned. This is questioned at Berk and Niek van den Sigtenhorst ends up with 4 to 6 punt yards in Giethoorn.

In addition to the aforementioned livestock farming and peat extraction, reed cutting and cutting other water plants ("dulen") for roofing was also a source of income. Fishing was also important in Giethoorn in the 19th century / early 20th century. Extracting crab shave as fertilizer (shard pulling) was also an economic activity. Sand extraction was also done. That sand was removed from the bottom of the Bovenwijde with the help of punts.

Due to the storm floods of 1775, 1776 and 1825, the narrow ribs with wide draw holes were destroyed in the peatland area and the Bovenwijde and the Molengat were created. Because the peat was no deeper than 1 meter and there was a solid layer of sand underneath, the maximum depth of these lakes is also limited to 1 meter, with the exception of a place in the southwest of the Bovenwijde where sand was extracted on a larger scale. In 1825 there were no fatalities in Giethoorn because the population could bring themselves to safety with their vessels. There was also a lake directly west of Giethoorn. This lake was drained in the 19th century and was called the Gietersche Polder.

From 1928 Polder Giethoorn (a different polder than the above mentioned Giethoorn polder) was created. The land was expropriated while the population of Giethoorn protested vehemently. With the help of unemployed people employed, the swampy area was reclaimed and other farms were built with more modern management, without the characteristic sailing culture of Giethoorn. A few Gieters farmer could continue his business in this polder, but most farmers came from other parts of the country. The Gietersen then converted the land east of Giethoorn into pasture land.

In 1950, after a brief revival in the Second World War, peat extraction in the area around Giethoorn came to an end.


Tourism and further development

Bert Haanstra recorded his feature debut Fanfare in Giethoorn in 1958, a film about two rival brass bands in the fictional village of Lagerwiede. After the release of the film Fanfare (which was watched by 2.6 million people) tourism increased sharply. It became the main source of income. From the 1970s onwards, foreign tourists also came, especially from the neighboring countries of Germany and Belgium.

Leaf reed was used until 1966 as a cover for bulb fields and provided income for the Gieteren farmers. Straw was used for this after 1966. The boating farmers disappeared from the village image. The farms were converted into homes and inhabited by people from elsewhere. The lands of sailing farmers gradually come into the possession of the Natuurmonumenten, which is building up the large reserve De Wieden in the region around Giethoorn. The N334 will be converted into a good through connection because the road was built through the Belterwijde in the fifties of the twentieth century and in the sixties a wide road along the Beukers-Steenwijk canal towards Steenwijk. A new housing development will appear on the northern edge of the Giethoornsche Polder. Marinas and other facilities for water sports will be built along the Beukers-Steenwijk Canal.

In 2005 'Holland Marketing' opened an office in Beijing to attract Chinese tourists to the Netherlands. The Giethoorn hotel owner Gabriella Esselbrugge successfully promoted the village through this company among the emerging increasingly well-off Chinese middle class (who could now also get a passport) using picturesque images of thatched farms, punts and other highlights from the village. She appealed to traditional Chinese values ​​and nostalgia and longing for the Chinese rural idyll. Esselbrugge hired a Chinese-Dutch woman to serve the tourists in their own language. From 2014 she also opened 'Dutch' places in China, where Chinese guests could also find flyers from Giethoorn in addition to 'Dutch' food. A campaign was also set up to attract Arab tourists from Bahrain and Dubai in order to further expand the tourist season. According to estimates in 2020, 1 to 1.5 million tourists a year come to Giethoorn.