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.
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.
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.
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 an 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.