Monday, February 29, 2016

Water Worlds: 8 places around the globe where the “streets” are water

1. Venice (Italy)
The best-known example of a city that has waterways for streets is charming and romantic Venice, Italy. Venice’s Grand Canal, or Canałasso as its known to the locals, is perhaps the most famous ‘water world’ on the globe, with millions of tourists visiting. Couples can often be seen floating along in a Gondola while taking in the beauty of the architecture that dates back as far as the 13th century. Until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge was the only bridge that crossed the canal, due to the fact that most of the city's traffic goes along the canal rather than across it. Today there are four bridges in total, the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell’Accademia, the most recent and controversial Ponte dell Constituzione, and of course the Rialto. But visit it soon if it’s on your Bucket List, because Venice is slowly sinking city every year as the city’s infrastructure ages and water levels around the world rise.

2. Giethoorn (Netherlands)
Located in the Dutch province of Overijssel, Giethoorn is known as ‘The Venice of the North’. Fugitives from the Mediterranean founded it around the year 1230 AD and it was a separate municipality until 1973, when it became part of Brederwiede. It became particularly famous to the locals after 1958, when Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra made his big screen comedy ‘Fanfare’ there. In the old part of the village, there were no roads (though a cycling path was eventually added), and all transport was done via canals. While the Grand Canal in Venice only has four bridges, Giethoorn boasts over 180 of them. This village only has 2,620 inhabitants but gets between 150,000 and 200,000 Chinese tourists each year!

3. Taling Chan Floating Market (Thailand)
This is just one of the many floating markets in Thailand and Southeast Asia, and yet Taling Chang is a hidden gem. The entrance of the market is not all that impressive with a tatty green plastic roof but within the entrance is the a floating market that’s one of the most remarkable in the world, with so many varieties of food, cooked dishes, sweets, and fruits and vegetables that they could film 100 episodes for Food Channel shows there (and they often do!)

4. Santa Cruz del Islote (Colombia)
Santa Cruz del Islote is located off the coast of Colombia and can be accessed by ferry from the port of Tolu – a waterway commute. You can barely see a patch of earth on this island from above since it’s so completely covered with houses. In fact, the island measures just 0.0046 square miles yet has an astonishing population of 1,200, making it the most densely populated island on earth. Santa Cruz del Islote is so densely populated that he residents have to use neighboring islands for their cemetery and recreation grounds, while many of the locals work on the mainland and even students cross the water to attend school on the neighboring mainland.

5. Ko Panyi (Thailand)
This beautiful little fishing village is set against the dramatic backdrop of the stunning Phang Nga province in Thailand. For people who love the water and tropical weather, Ko Panyi would seem like a paradise. The village was built on stilts by Indonesian fishermen in the 18th century, and is home to around 1,685 people from 360 families that descended from two seafaring Muslim families from Java. There’s even a fully functional Mosque there, where the predominantly Muslim villagers to worship. The coolest thing about this village is its floating soccer pitch, which was built by local children using old scraps of driftwood and fishing rafts – the subject of a popular short documentary about a decade ago.

6. Mexicáltitan (Mexico)
Mexicáltitan or La Venecia Mexicana (The Mexican Venice), is a tiny man-made island off the coast of the municipality of Santiago Ixcuintla in the state of Nayarit, and only accessible by boat from nearby La Batanza. Legend has it that it was the home city and birthplace of the Aztlan and Aztecs, and where they set out on their pilgrimage in 1091 that led them to the founding of Tencochtitlan. Now promoted as a tourist attraction, Mexicáltitan is 1,300 feet in diameter and home to only 818 people. During the dry season it looks like any other island, but in the rainy season the streets flood completely, forcing locals to get around only on canoes and small floating vessels.

7. Zhujiajiao (China)
This ancient town with rivers for streets is located on the outskirts of Shanghai, and was established some 1,700 years ago. 36 stone bridges and numerous rivers line Zhujiajiao, and many ancient buildings still dot the riverbanks today. Aside from most residents residing on – not by – the river, the town is also famous for its cuisine, particularly green soybeans, lotus roots, pig trotter and other foods. Zhujiajiao still has ancient dwellings built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and today, old historical buildings such as rice shops, banks, spice stores and even a Qing dynasty post office can still be found among it’s liquid streets.

8. Ganvie (Benin)
Located on Lake Nokoué in the African nation of Benin, you can find the largest lake village on the continent. Established by the Tofinu people around the 16th century, Ganvie is a “neighborhood” of 3,000 buildings on stilts rising above the lake, housing a population of 20,000. Residents of Ganvie, which is often referred to as ‘The Venice of Africa’ subsist mostly on fishing with a little tourism, and use pirogues (canoes) to get around. The village of Ganvie was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on October 31, 1996 in the ‘Cultural’ category, awaiting approval as one of the world's most important heritage sites.


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