62km (38 miles) N of Amsterdam; 30km (19 miles) NW of Enkhuizen
It's hard to grasp what a monumental work the great barrier that separates the salty Waddenzee from the freshwater IJsselmeer is until you drive its 30-km (19-mile) length. The Afsluitdijk connects the provinces of Noord-Holland and Friesland. Dr. Cornelis Lely came up with the plans in 1891, but construction was delayed for 25 years while he tried to convince the government to allocate funding.
Massive effort went into building the dike, which is 100m (330 ft.) wide and 7m (23 ft.) above mean water level. Many communities around the shores of what used to be the saltwater Zuiderzee lost their livelihood when access to the open sea was shut off. Some of the fishing boats that now sail the IJsselmeer hoist dark-brown sails as a sign of mourning for their lost sea fishing industry.
Midway along the dike's length, at the point where it was completed in 1932, stands a monument to the men who put their backs to the task, and a memorial to Dr. Lely. Stop for a snack at the cafe in the monument's base and pick up an illustrated booklet that explains the dike's construction. For those crossing over by bike or on foot, there's a bike path as well as a pedestrian path.
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