Explore The eastern Netherlands
Giethoorn’s origins are really rather odd. No one gave much thought to this marshy, infertile chunk of land until the thirteenth century, when the local landowner gifted it to an obscure religious sect. Perhaps to his surprise, the colonists made a go of things, eking out a living from local peat deposits and discovering, during their digs, the horns of hundreds of goats, which are presumed to have been the victims of the great St Elizabeth’s Day flood of 1170; duly impressed, the residents named the place Geytenhoren (“goats’ horns”). Later, the settlers dug canals to transport the peat and the diggings flooded, thus creating the watery network that has become the number one tourist attraction hereabouts – and no wonder: Giethoorn is extraordinarily picturesque, its slender brown-green waterways overseen by lovely thatched cottages, shaded by mature trees and crisscrossed by pretty humpbacked footbridges. The only fly in the ointment is Giethoorn’s popularity: avoid the centre of the village in the summer, when the place heaves with tour groups.