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Driving on water – the 30 km long Afsluitdijk

Original image: the final closing of the Afsluitdijk
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If you want an absolutely unique driving experience, go to Afsluitdijk and cross it. The dike is no less than 27 km long and both sides you will only see water, water, and again, yes: water. The Afsluitdijk gives you the feeling that you are endlessly driving on water, and at the same time you can be sure that you will not drown. The dike was built for a good reason. In the 1890s, the Netherlands were struggling with weak dikes and salt agricultural land due to the sea water. A dike would close off the sea, creating the fresh water lake the IJsselmeer, and protecting the land from the sea. After some powerful storms in 1916 and a famine in 1918, the government was ready for these water works and in 1927, the grand project was started.

In many ways, it was a crazy endeavor. The techniques were not as advanced as now and quite a lot of the work was done manually and by boat. From four locations on the shore, they worked towards each other. The first layer of the dike consists of braided willow twigs and stones, which was topped off by boulder clay, then sand and stones. In 1932, the final part of the dike was finished. The Afsluitdijk now connected the province North Holland with the northern province of Friesland. On both ends, locks are in place to manage the water.  

It was and is a remarkable piece of engineering. In the newly created lake, it was now possible to reclaim land from the water. A completely new province was created in the IJsselmeer, Flevoland, which was reclaimed from the water in the 1940s. It created a lot of new agricultural land.     

From Amsterdam, it will take approximately an hour by car to get to the Afsluitdijk. At the Afsluitdijk, you can stop and climb the tower to have a magnificent view over the water. Once you have crossed the Afsluitdijk, it is nice to visit one of the villages of Friesland. A nearby village is Makkum, right at the IJsselmeer. Here you can enjoy the picturesque houses and harbor over a cup of coffee before you head back.  

If you don't want to drive, you can join a tour which will take you to some of the quaint villages of North Holland as well. Check out www.keytours.nl. If you would like more information on the history of the Afsluitdijk and how it was built, go to the Deltawerken website.