Sat. Jul 20th, 2024


The Afsluitdijk, a 32 km long dike, plays a key role in the Dutch struggle against the sea. Like a wall, it stands between the North Sea and the former Southern Sea transforming this sea into a lake: the IJsselmeer.

Afsluitdijk – Photo Dieter Noverodus

Visiting the countryside in the Netherlands you could be walking 16 feet below sea level. Take a life jacket with you. Be prepared. And, if necessary, join the Dutch in their perpetual struggle against the sea. You could become a hero during your vacation. The saga of the boy who saved his city from flooding by putting a finger in a leaking dike is about preventing disaster. That is what heroes do. Right? I am talking about Hans Brinker, now. He lifted his fingers and put one finger in the dike. He is honored by statues and children want to hear his story over and over again before falling asleep and honor him in their dreams. Hans Brinker is awesome.

Holland on your fingertips Put a finger in the dike. Statue of Hans Brinker in Spaarndam
Statue of Hans Brinker in Spaarndam.

A finger in a mole hole in the dike.

The Romans sailed down the great river Rhine 2000 years ago. They did not come further than the present City of Utrecht. They called this place Ultra Trajectum. This meant it was the last spot where a man on a horse could wade across the River Rhine. Not being protected by dikes large parts of the Netherlands were flooded at that time. Utrecht was on the seaside. The Hague and Rotterdam did not exist yet. Beyond Utrecht, there was nothing but wetlands and water. The Romans hated the Dutch swamps and swarming mosquitos. Life in the delta of the rivers Rhine, Schelde, and Meuse was too harsh for them.

In that era, hundreds of years ago, people also wanted to keep their feet dry of course so they raised mounds. Collections of mounds grew into villages. The villagers needed arable land. To protect their crops against the tides coming in, 1400 hundred years ago, the first dikes were built around this arable land. These dikes were four feet high. Then dikes were built around villages. To protect the villages against the sea and against foreign intruders. Villages became fortresses. Villages got city rights. Towns were born. And so on. Thus since the sixth century, step by step, over a period of 1500 years the Netherlands was gained from the sea.

Bricklayer = Photo Must See Holland

A finger in the dike is not enough

Nowadays facing the perils of climate change and rising sea levels the Dutch standard for dikes is 18 m above sea level. But most dikes are not that high yet. So quite impressive waterworks are underway in different areas of Holland. The main project starting in 2019 is the renovation of the 32 km long dike called: Afsluitdijk.

Watchtower Vlietermonument

Tower on Afsluitdijk

Halfway along the Afsluitdijk is a watchtower where you have a magnificent view over the Wadden Sea, the Afsluitdijk, and the IJsselmeer. The Vlietermonument was designed by architect Dudok. The architect was commissioned by the government to design a simple monument as a reminder of the strength and will of the Dutch people. The monument is currently being restored to its original state.

Holland Below Sea Level Afsluitdijk Dike

Visitor center Afsluitdijk – Wadden center near Kornwerderzand

The Afsluitdijk, the IJsselmeer area, and the Wadden area are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit the Wadden Center to get a good idea of ​​the water management in this area. Several other projects are under construction as well including the renewal of the Afsluitdijk and the unique Fish Migration River. You can also find a lot of information about this in the Wadden Center.

Wadden Centrum Afsluitdijk
Afsluitdijk 1c, 8752 TP, Kornwerderzand
T 0517 – 72 30 26 / M [email protected]

Holland Below Sea Level Afsluitdijk visitors center
Wadden See Centre – Photo Must See Holland

Light Art project “Icoon” Afsluitdijk

Light Art project “Icoon” Afsluitdijk by Daan Roosgaarden. The artwork is well thought out, beautiful, involved, sustainable, innovative, and impressive and it only glows in the dark when light shines on it. You can therefore only see the artwork if you drive a car in the dark on the Afsluitdijk. The work of art is the lock towers at the beginning and end of the dike, the whole has a wonderfully beautiful Art Deco appearance. The Afsluitdijk is largely dark and partly only lit by the reflection of car lamps on hectometre posts and traffic signs.



By Lala