The Netherlands has more people per square kilometre than almost any country on earth, though they’ve spread themselves out so sensibly that it only feels crowded when there’s a royal abdication or a football final.
Sprinkled between the Dutch people are places that feel delightfully deserted. The village of Driehuizen, just north-west of Amsterdam in the Schermer district, has more than three houses, but not many more.
Friends took us out on the water in a ‘fluisterboot’ – ‘whisper boat’ – an electrically-powered dinghy that (once we’d mastered the basics) slid slowly and silently between the reeds, sneaking up on geese and cows.
We love the feel of the area. You just unhitch a boat and sail it off, leaving your money in the box later if there’s nobody around.
The local school has only four classes. The school year was coming to an end, so a group of students and teachers in pirate costumes had ridden to Driehuizen on their bikes, commandeered some boats and taken to the water.
There are plans to merge the Schermer with the neighbouring town of Alkmaar in 2014, despite resistance from residents. We can only hope that it’s not the beginning of an incursion of Alkmaar’s suburbs into this beautiful backwater.