The land of cheese, windmills and bicycles

Netherlands

Recently I had a friend who visited the Netherlands and after seeing all the pictures she sent me I got very curious and wanted to learn more about the country.

Despite the flag being red, white and blue, orange is the national colour as the monarchy is from the House of Orange. The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country located in Western Europe with three island territories in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the East, Belgium to the south and the North Sea to the northwest. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country’s capital while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament.

The history of Holland as a country begins with the story of how Holland became a country. It is important to note that up to the 19th century Holland was just a river divided into several regions which had their own government. It was only on 29th March 1814 that the nation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was born.

Holland is known as a flat country which means that the landscape is perfect for cycling and walking tours. There are around 18 million bikes in the country, including the bakfiets which combine a bike and a wheelbarrow; this is used for taking the kids to school. A study from Rutgers University shows that The Netherlands has the lowest rates of serious injuries. This is thanks to excellent cycle lanes and respect from car drivers. Bikes get the same respect as cars and it’s not just on the roads for example there is dedicated parking at train stations.

For a relatively small country, the Netherlands boasts a rich variety of nature. The infinite number of nature parks, each with its own character, offer up wonderful landscapes. The largest national park is De Hoge Veluwe, which is best explored on one of it thousand free- to- use white bikes to explore the unique flora and fauna. Holland also offers a long coastline with beautiful beaches. Since there is too much water The Netherlands is at risk of flooding and for this reason the authorities have implemented measures such as Afsluitdijk and Delta Works. These are unique structures that are definitely worth visiting and are considered to be the best and largest strong barriers in the world. These barriers were designed after the floods of 1953 and offer protection to the land.

When you think about The Netherlands the first thing that probably comes to mind is tulips, windmills and cheese. The Dutch produce 650 million kilos of cheese every year. Two thirds is exported, which makes Holland the largest cheese exporter in the world. I was impressed when I read this and wanted to share this fact with you: on average the Dutch eat 14.3 kilos of cheese per person per year. No wonder Holland has a reputation of being a cheesy country!

Tulips were imported into Holland in the sixteenth century and when the great Carolus Clusius wrote the first major book on tulips in 1592 they became so popular that his bulbs were stolen on a regular basis. Tulips got more and more popular in paintings and festivals throughout the years. Today, Holland is still popular for its tulips and other flowers and is often called as the flower shop of the world. Tulips are cultivated in great fields and beautiful colours and are often used for festivals in the country in the spring. The love for tulips is so strong that the Dutch took their love for tulips abroad when they settled.

As I already mentioned the Dutch have become very innovative when it comes to keeping out the water. They built dykes, fortifications and last but not least wind and watermills to create new land. The oldest mills is a watermill that dates back to the eighth century. Kinderdijk is the most famous group of polder mills and is World Heritage listed, it is a truly picturesque area.

I have been thinking about visiting the Netherlands for a long time and I am sure that I will after reading a lot about the country. Holland has many cities that offer plenty of entertainment with historic architecture, museums, city parks and restaurants and cafes. The Netherlands is a truly unique country that offers something for everyone!

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