“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go!” – Alexandra Stoddard
Giethoorn, Holland is one such place that became an irreplaceable part of me not just for its picturesque beauty, but for a couple of other special reasons, which I will share in this post!
It was December 2016. We were in Sweden. A couple of months later would mark one year of my brother’s passing. As that dreaded day drew near, I started drowning in grief. Memories of that tragic day started playing over and over in my mind as the one year mark approached. It was a sort of pain and panic I cannot describe or even share with anyone. The sort of pain you’ll expect no one to grasp. As soon as Vijay and kids would leave home to office and schools respectively, I would lie on our couch and weep inconsolable. One such day, I drifted to sleep while I was in my couch and I had a vivid dream.
In the dream, I saw myself lying on a narrow boat in a stream. I was surrounded by nature so serene. The tiny boat went under narrow bridges one after another. Each time the boat came out from under a bridge, more beauty unveiled. I am not sure how long I was in that dream, but I woke up with a huge weight lifted off my heart and felt an indescribable calm and peace!
A year and a half passed, I had completely forgotten about this dream. I was excitedly planning our Holland + Germany trip. I had planned each day to the T. The first four days went perfectly according to plan. We kick started our trip by celebrating the Dutch King’s Day at Den Haag with our amazing hosts Annie and her family! It was followed by our visit to Madurodam, the Miniature Replica of Netherlands and the quaint little town of Delft! Our third day at Zaanse Schans, where the historic Dutch windmills are, turned out to be one rainy day. However, we still had a great time and I will write about it shortly!
On the fourth day of our trip, we were supposed to be joined by our friends from Germany and we were meant to spend the entire day in iconic Amsterdam. I had already prepared the best walking route which will cover some of the must-see landmarks, the restaurant where we should be having our lunch and the street food we ought to be checking out.
The night before, just when we were about the hit the bed, our friend called in from Germany saying that the weather forecast for the next day was heavy rainfall in Amsterdam and it would be too inconvenient with little kids and no vehicle. He then said that he has identified a place called ‘Giethoorn’ and the weather is expected to be pleasant there. I was hugely disappointed that all my Amsterdam plans had come crashing down. I did not have even the slightest enthusiasm to google this new place. I simply decided to go with the flow.
It was one of those moments when I LET GO AND LET GOD surprise me!
A scenic drive brought us to Giethoorn. The rain clouds were leaving and the sun was beginning to peek through. The landscape was greener than green can be! There was a waterway that was leading into the village. It was lined up with cafes and restaurants, both with outdoor seating with this stunning view!
It was almost noon and we were hungry. So we got into one of those restaurants, feasted on pizzas and hot chocolates!
With our tummy’s full, we stomped our way into the village!
The moment I stepped into the village, I came to a halt. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. Mind blowing beauty! Could such a world even exist on this earth?
It was a sight of man and nature living in perfect harmony.
We all hopped on to a boat!
It was one epic boat ride that will forever remain fresh in my memory!
In the past I had noticed, in my excitement of being in some place beautiful, I let the curiosity of ‘what more is in store’ ruin the moment and distract me from being present.
This time, I wasn’t going to make that mistake! I picked a corner spot on the boat just for myself. I zoned out of the laud giggles of our kids. I took a deep breath. As I savoured the fresh clean air fill my being, I let the serenity and the pristine atmosphere encompass me. I wanted to soak and absorb as much as possible within the few hours we were meant to spend there!
All of a sudden, I was reminded of the dream I had one year prior. This is exactly the place I had dreamt – me in a little boat, drifting in a small stream through tiny bridges, each time coming out from under a bridge to a greater beauty. Déjà vu!
I felt the same peace that filled me on the couch that afternoon, fill me right there on that boat. In the last three years of dealing with grief, I have experienced comfort from numerous sources – God, people, music, books, movies, silence… And at that moment, I could feel the calming, comforting power of nature wrap me.
I honestly wished time could freeze for a while and I could simply curl up in nature’s arms!
Sitting there I couldn’t help but wonder, doesn’t every human around the world deserve such pristine nature? I then realised it is not nature that has let us down. It is we who have mistreated it. Every human and every nation was given equal and unique gift of nature. Some knew its worth, preserved it and care for it. While others have foolishly exploited it!
You will be surprised to know that Giethoorn has no roads. ONLY canals, bridges and small walkways.
Our friend Paul and Vijay took turn to navigate the boat. Like ‘dashing cars’ in play areas, we were constantly dashing the other boats. Gosh! How embarrassing and hilarious it was at the same time!
Giethoorn dates back to the 14th century and it is known to have been a farming community.
It is a very small village. You can cover the entire village within a two hour boat ride. You can either choose a guided boat tour and hire a boat and pilot the boat yourself. With basic common sense anyone can do that!
We then strolled endlessly. One can never get enough of the pretty houses and greenery!
While one side of the canal is lined with residential houses, the other has houses as well as some great cafes, pizzerias, restaurants and boutiques!
While one day is more than sufficient to see and enjoy Giethoorn, ideally I would prefer spending a day or two staying there, relaxing, enjoying quite walks, more boat rides, the sunrise and sunset.
Whether you plan to shop or not, be sure to enter the boutiques and window shop!
While we are so accustomed to noise in this side of the world, every single time I marvelled at how much people value silence the further west we go. At Giethoorn, the boats are run on electricity to minimise sound and the loudest noise you might hear is the quacking of a duck or the chirping of birds!
Giethoorn also has a very small museum, which couldn’t visit due to the lack of time!
While every single city we visited in the Netherlands WOWed us, Giethoorn topped the list. It’s just amazing, how in life sometimes what you least expect, completely exceeds your expectation. And that happens only when we let go. I being a believer in God, I let go and let God! The result was extremely rewarding!
And guess what, we did visit Amsterdam too and we did go on a walk according to my plan! Will share all about it soon!
I have experienced day-dreams (Dreams that I consciously dream) coming true. But Giethoorn was a unexpected dream that came true. I know for sure I walked out of Giethoorn with healing and peace that I so desperately needed!
As I am sitting here in Hyderabad, recalling this day one year later, I am looking forward to more surprise dreams and them coming true!