Going on a road trip through the Netherlands there are some pretty common sights you come across. Windmills are probably what you expect, although so far I have only seen one of the traditional windmills that you are thinking of. Usually what you see out your car window is this:
Yep, lots of wind turbines. Sometimes you might see something a bit more intriguing such as this:
Can you figure out what it is? That’s a canal bridge. As in that big concrete thing in front of the truck holds water and a boat is passing over the highway in that very photo (you can kind of see the masts sticking above the concrete). That is still a fairly common sight as you drive around the Netherlands, although I haven’t seen enough of them to get over being a bit awed and excited! I am still on a mission to get a decent photograph from a bit higher so you can actually see the boats and water going over the road.
A while ago I talked about the dikes/dijks of the Netherlands and how a dijk really looks as opposed to what you might imagine if you have never been to the Netherlands (hint: they’re not big walls all around the country keeping the sea out like I always imagined).
Now, ever heard of the Afsluitdijk? Probably not. I never heard of it until I was going to be driving over it…
As you can see in the above map, the Afsluitdijk is a very long causeway (dike) that connects the provinces of Friesland and North Holland. It also acts as a barrier to the salt-water Wadden Sea (which is in turn an inlet of the North Sea) and enabled the creation of the freshwater IJselmeer lake.
There is also of course a highway across it, meaning you can drive on a road with the Wadden Sea on one side and the IJselmeer on the other. And near the middle of the dike is a car park with a viewing tower so you can even have a look from above at the causeway, sea and lake!
It was a very windy squally day when we drove across it, but we braved the gusts of wind and rain showers to climb the tower and get some photos. Below, the Wadden Sea on the right.
And the IJsselmeer on the left.
There is also a statue of the Dutch engineer and politician Cornelis Lely, who was one of the main people responsible for the Zuiderzee works, which saw the Zuiderzee closed off from the North Sea with the Afsluitdijk, creating the IJsselmeer (a freshwater lake). Lelystad was also named after him and there’s another statue of him on top of a big column in the city centre!
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Afsluitdijk is that it was built between 1927 and 1932 before they would have had big machines and such that are used in construction today. The Dutch people are really quite ingenious!
So there you have it, a little explanation of what the Afsluitdijk is! If you’re visiting Amsterdam and wish to see it for yourself it’s about a one-hour drive from the city to the viewing tower pictured here. Stay tuned for more interesting Dutch sights soon!