It last gained independence on January 30th, 1648. Home of the tallest people in the world, six foot on average. The most common names are Daan and Sophie, for men and women respectively. Its national anthem, Wilhelmus, is the world’s oldest national anthem written around 1568. Birthplace of artists such as Rembrandt, M.C. Escher and Van Gogh, director Paul Verhoeven, most noted for directing RoboCop, and Franciscus Sylvius, inventor of gin. Home of Heineken, the world’s third largest brewer of beer. The bicycle capital of the world, with 18 million of them, more than one per person. Where the microscope was invented. The first country to legalise same sex marriage, in 2001. And it’s where 70% of the world’s bacon comes from. Today, we’re visiting the Land of the Windmills, the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is the main constituent country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located in Europe, bordered by Belgium and Germany, plus the North Sea. It is the 131st largest country on Earth at 41,850 square miles, with the 65th largest population with just over 17 million people. The motto of the country is, ‘Ik zal handhaven’, which is Dutch for, ‘I Will Uphold’.
This may be a land famed for its painters, windmills, clogs, tulips, cheese and for being as flat as a pancake, but there’s more to the Netherlands than this. Whilst it is very, very flat, with 26% of the country below sea level and nearly 10% of that manmade, it is a country extremely proud of a wealth of cultural and artistic heritage. A historic land criss-crossed with rivers, canals and dykes, plus a very rare foothill here and there. The Dutch take great pride in their international affairs. They were one of the founding members of the EU and NATO, plus they host the International Court of Justice. It’s a strong and stable place, with a long history of social tolerance, a liberal and environmentally conscious country. Music and sports are popular, with two-thirds of the population participating in sports each week. Football is their number one love, but hockey and volleyball are also popular. However, the greatest asset of the country is undoubtedly its people.
The welcoming, modern and self-reliant Dutch are an egalitarian, modest and practical people. They are individualistic, moderate and frugal, adopting a no-nonsense attitude, a forward yet polite and courteous people. Tolerant, informal and easy going, an open and direct folk, who are perhaps best known as being trustworthy and kind.
There are sights to see such as the brilliant Ridderzaal, one of the main buildings in The Hague, completed in the 13th century. It’s bonny and picturesque, with fairytale turrets and gothic appearance, a lovely and charming sight. And then there’s Delft City Hall. I mean, what can one say about this remarkable building? A mash up of various portraits of the Renaissance style gather together in this one outstanding piece of art. It carries a gravitas isangelous, a graceful and grandiose splendour.
Then there’s De Haar Castle, near the small village of Haarzuilens. A striking and bold statement, caressing the water’s edge with soothing gentility and roaring elegance. Built in 1892, this incicurable and beautiful castle dominates, yet never overpowers. The intricate detailing, especially around the windows, and the nuances of the fine architectural features, both combine in superbly kempt grounds to create something rather special.
But my favourite sight of the Netherlands is Keukenhof, an elaborate tapestry of colour, merriment and life, a beautiful gardens bursting with sumptuous and supernaculum beauty. Located in the town of Lisse, this stunning and gorgeous wonder is an amazing sight to behold. An ethereal and majestic song, with each of the thousand colours an angelic note, combining to create an empyrean symphony unlike anything else. A marvellous and unique place indeed.
The Netherlands. The country of etiquette, windmills and bacon.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of The Netherlands
3) De Haar Castle
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