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Coordinates: 53°00′30″N 5°11′25″E / 53.00833°N 5.19028°E / 53.00833; 5.19028

Afsluitdijk with the North Sea on the left and the IJsselmeer on the right

The Afsluitdijk (English: Enclosure Dam, Frisian: Ofslútdyk) is a major causeway in the Netherlands, constructed between 1927 and 1933 and running from Den Oever on Wieringen in North Holland province, to the village of Zurich (mun. Wûnseradiel) in Friesland province, over a length of 32 km (20 miles) and a width of 90 m, at an initial height of 7.25 m above sea-level.

It is a fundamental part of the larger Zuiderzee Works, damming off the Zuiderzee, a salt water inlet of the North Sea and turning it into the fresh water lake of the IJsselmeer.

Previous experiences had demonstrated that till (boulder clay), rather than just sand or clay, was the best primary material for a structure like the Afsluitdijk, with the added benefit that till was in plentiful supply in the area; it could be retrieved in large quantities by simply dredging it from the bottom of the Zuiderzee. Work started at four points: on both sides of the mainland and on two specially made construction-islands (Kornwerderzand and Breezand) along the line of the future dike.

From these points, the dike slowly grew by ships depositing till into the open sea in two parallel lines. Sand was then poured in between the two dikes and as it emerged above the surface was then covered by another layer of till. The nascent dike was then strengthened from land by basalt rocks and mats of willow switch at its base. The dike could then be finished off by raising it further with sand and finally clay for the surface of the dike, on which grass was planted.

Construction progressed better than expected; at three points along the line of the dike there were deeper underwater trenches where the tidal current was much stronger than elsewhere. These had been considered to be major obstacles to completing the dike, but all of them proved to be relatively straightforward. On May 28, 1932, two years earlier than initially thought, the Zuiderzee ceased to be, as the last tidal trench of the Vlieter was closed by a final bucket of till. The IJsselmeer was born, even though it was still salty at the time.

The dike itself however was not finished yet as it still needed to be brought up to its required height and a road linking Friesland and North Holland (the current A7/E22 motorway) also remained to be built. It would not be until September 25, 1933, that the Afsluitdijk was officially opened, with a monument designed by architect Dudok marking the spot where the dike had been closed. The amount of material used is estimated at 23 million m³ of sand and 13.5 million m³ of till and over the years an average of around four to five thousand workers were involved with the construction every day, relieving some of the unemployment following the Great Depression.

image from satellite

Beside the dike itself there was also the necessary construction of two complexes of shipping locks and discharge sluices at both ends of the dike. The complex at Den Oever includes the Stevin lock (named after Hendric Stevin, a son of mathematician and engineer Simon Stevin) and three series of five sluices for discharging the IJsselmeer into the Wadden Sea; the other complex at Kornwerderzand is composed of the Lorentz locks (named after Hendrik Lorentz, the famous physicist, who personally did the calculations of the tides that were crucial to the construction of the Afsluitdijk) and two series of five sluices, making a total of 25 discharge sluices. Periodically discharging the lake is necessary since it is continually fed by rivers and streams (most notably the IJssel river that gives its name to the lake) and polders draining their water into the IJsselmeer.

During the period 12–13 May 1940, it was the site of the Battle of the Afsluitdijk.

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to North-Holland article)

From Wikitravel

North-Holland [1] (Dutch: Noord-Holland) is a province in the West of the Netherlands. It compasses the northern half of the old County of Holland, not to be confused with the Northern Netherlands (Friesland, Groningen (province) and Drente). Obviously the city of Amsterdam is the place-to-be for tourists and the economic heart of the country, but the City Region around it consists of green and flat polder landscapes with thousands of canals, windmills and farm houses, and are considered typical for the country. Especially the Zaanse Schans, Volendam, Marken and the less-touristed Edam make for a typical Dutch day-trip, with their clogs, traditional costumes and windmills. Also typical Dutch are it's dykes, of which the Afsluitdijk and the Markerwaarddijk connect the province with respectively Friesland and Flevoland.

In the summer, many Dutch tourists head out to the sandy beaches of Kennemerland on the west coast, of which Zandvoort is the most prominent. Another way to take some time off here is in one of the national parks. The historic towns of Haarlem and Alkmaar are also popular among tourists, the latter for it's typical Dutch cheese market. West-Friesland, not to be confused with the province of Friesland, is a distinctive area with it's own dialect. Many historic trade towns from the Dutch Golden Age can be found here, like Enkhuizen, Hoorn and Medemblik. De Kop van Noord-Holland is an area off the beaten path, except for Texel, one of the West-Frisian Islands and a great tourist resort. Last but not least, the Gooi and Vechtstreek is a great area for cycling through the heath lands. Naarden has one of the best preserved fortified towns in the world, while Hilversum places an emphasis on modern architecture.

Regions

North-Holland is the northern half of the former County of Holland. It can be divided into 6 historic regions:

Regions of North-Holland
Regions of North-Holland
Amsterdam-Amstelland
Famous capital for it's canals, architecture and liberal culture, and the surrounding urban sprawl
Gooi and Vecht Region
Known as the Garden of Amsterdam with plenty of opportunities for cycling
Kennemerland
Dunes, beaches and national parks, as well as some historic towns
Kop van Noord-Holland
Some beach resorts and the gateway to the West Frisian Islands
Waterland and Zaan Region
Traditional Dutch villages, polders, clogs and windmills
West-Friesland
This area has a distinct culture, language and VOC history
  • Haarlem — Capital of North-Holland with plenty of tourists visiting its ancient city center, shops and numerous museums.
  • Alkmaar — Historic town, well-known for it's cheese market.
  • Amsterdam — The place-to-be for tourists for it's buildings, canals, museums, weed, red light district and nightlife.
  • Den Helder — Mostly visited for it's seaside resorts, beaches and the ferry to Texel.
  • Hilversum — Starting point for cycling tours around architectural marvels, forests and the heath.
  • Hoorn — Historic town from the Dutch Golden Age.
  • Zaandam — Probably one of the oldest industrial areas in the world, which makes for an unusual day-trip.

Understand

North-Holland is one of the twelve provinces and consists of about 60 municipalities.

Talk

With the exception of immigrants, most people in North-Holland speak standard Dutch, with standard pronunciation. Many speak English, although often not as well as they think they do.

  • The highway E22/A7 passes over the Afsluitdijk from Friesland
  • Bus 350 from Alkmaar or Leeuwarden enters North-Holland via the Afsluitdijk, but it also stops at all major points of interest along the way.

By plane

As it is home to Schiphol Airport, North-Holland is easy to reach by plane.

By train

International train services connect Schiphol/Amsterdam with Germany as well as Belgium/France.

Get around

There is an excellent public transport network throughout the Netherlands and particularly in the highly populated province of North-Holland. Buses and railways criss-cross the region with services reaching all but the most remote villages. Larger cities in North Holland (Amsterdam, Haarlem, Hilversum) also have trams and sometimes light railways (metros). Planning routes across the region (and throughout the country) is exceptionally easy because of the co-operation between the service providers. http://www.9292ov.nl provides a comprehensive point-to-point public transport route planner covering all major transport types.

  • The lovely canals of Amsterdam with their characteristic houses.
Defence Line of Amsterdam
Defence Line of Amsterdam

The Defence Line of Amsterdam (Stelling van Amsterdam) is a 135 km long ring of fortifications around Amsterdam. It consists of 42 forts about 10 to 15 kilometers from the city center. It's surrounded by lowlands, which could easily be flooded in time of war. It was constructed between 1880 and 1920, but the invention of the airplane made the forts obsolete almost as soon as they were finished. It received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

There is no one place to visit, as the forts and remains are spread all over North-Holland.

  • The Zaanse Schans. It is an open air conservation area and museum, on the bank of the river Zaan, north of Amsterdam in Zaandam (Zaanstad). It displays the traditional architecture of the area (green wooden houses) and has several functioning windmills and craftmen's workplaces, which are open to visitors.
  • Alkmaar, Hoorn, Haarlem
  • Medieval castle Muiderslot. In Muiden, just outside and east of Amsterdam. With 17th Century-style herbal and vegetable gardens. Website castle (in Dutch, but a lot of images and video).
  • The nearest small fortified town from Amsterdam is Weesp (14 minutes by train), with a quiet historic centre on the river Vecht and windmills. At the station in Weesp you can rent bicycles for a ride to the fortified towns of Muiden (3 km) and Naarden (9 km). Information on day trips in the region on this link page.
  • The Afsluitdijk. A 32km long dike connecting North-Holland and Friesland. Built in 1930 to close what is now the IJsselmeer from being flooded by the North Sea. The dike was built as part of a plan to reclaim land in the IJsselmeer; this land became the province of Flevoland.
  • The Kazematten Museum. The bunkers defending the entrance to the Afsluitdijk were a vital part of Hollands defence plan during the Second World War. Some of the bunkers have been restored, with period-appropriate weapons, equipment and everyday items giving an overview of the soldiers' life inside the bunkers in 1940.
  • Het Monument. A small statue of a dike-builder which has been placed on the spot where the dike was closed in 1932. Next to the monument is a plaque, cafe and a watchtower where (because of all the water) you can see the Wadden islands on a bright day.
  • Zuiderzeemuseum.
  • Frans Hals Museum.

Get out

North-Holland has borders with Flevoland, Friesland, South-Holland and Utrecht (province). Major cities such as The Hague, Leiden, Rotterdam and Utrecht can easily be reached by car and train. Typical Dutch destinations surrounding the province are Delft, Keukenhof, Kinderdijk, Urk and Schokland.

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