Europe

Yes, it really is Noah’s Ark

The next time you find yourself in Dordrecht, which is a city in the western Netherlands about 65 kilometres from Amsterdam, be sure to have a look at Noah’s Ark. For three years, the residents of this quaint and charming have watched as a local businessman’s dream of building a real-life Noah’s ark, stocked with thousands of plastic animals, became a reality.

The enormous vessel stands at an abandoned quay on the Merwede River. Johan Huibers and a team of 50 dedicated employees put the final touches to what they believe is the only life-size wooden ark in existence.

The plan is to open what Huibers calls “a Bible museum” by the end of this year.

His undertaking is all the more amazing as Huibers is building the replica according to ancient standards cited in the Book of Genesis, which say the boat was 300 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 50 cubits wide. With a cubit estimated roughly as the distance between the elbow and fingertips, or a half-metre, this makes the ark’s dimensions staggering — about 150 metres long, roughly four storeys high and some 25 metres across. It weighs around 3,000 tonnes, Huibers said. The wood used to build the ark is Swedish pine, because Huibers believes that is the most similar to  ‘resin wood’ God ordered Noah to use in the Bible.

A massive roof protects sprawling decks where Huibers plans to place life-sized replicas of some 1,600 animal species to represent the Biblical tale of Noah, who was ordered by God to build the ark to save his family and animals of all species before the earth was swamped by a massive flood.

On board there will be sleeping quarters, including Noah’s bedroom, a theatre and stage, a fully equipped restaurant as well as conference facilities to seat 1,500 people. There is even a millstone to grind wheat to make “Biblical bread” and artists are painting walls with the story of the ark and other Biblical tales.

Next year, Huibers wants to tow the ark like a barge across the Channel and moor it somewhere in London during the 2012 Summer Olympics. He has already done a trial run to Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, and believes his vessel is completely seaworthy.

Johan Huibers’ home of Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland and has a rich history and culture. Dordrecht is located in the province of South Holland. The municipality includes Dordrecht Island, also often called Het Eiland van Dordt (the Island of Dordt), bordered by the rivers Oude Maas, Beneden Merwede, Nieuwe Merwede, Hollands Diep, and Dordtsche Kil. Dordrecht is the largest and most important city in the Drechtsteden and is also part of the Randstad, the main conurbation in the Netherlands.

While you are here you can also visit the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-Kerk (Our Dear Lady Church) or simply the Grote Kerk (Big Church) which was built between 1285 and 1470. The 65-metre tower contains a carillon with 67 bells including one weighing 9830 kilos, making it the heaviest bell in the Netherlands. You can also stop in at the Augustijnenkerk (Church of the Augustins) which dates to around 1293. The church includes the Augustinian Monastery het Hof which was built in 1275 and was the location of the First Assembly of the Free States.

You may also be interested in visiting the Munt van Holland (Mint of Holland), built in 1366. The majority of the coins used in the region of Holland in the Middle Ages were struck here. Today, however, the building houses a music school.

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