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Top 10 Things You will Love about Holland
Growing up in the far east, I have always associated Peterpan's Neverland to the Netherlands...Just the sound of it makes me imagine a lot of fastasy creatures and prince and castles and fairies and people never growing old...
Even though i learned in my geography class that the Netherlands is indeed a real country with real people (who grow old just like everyone of us) and that there are no fairies, i am still delighted because my childhood dream was not very far from reality. When I visited the Netherlands and stayed there for 3 months, I fulfilled that dream. It may not have mountains and waterfalls and caves that i can easily find in my beautiful country, it does have a different kind of paradise where beautiful flowers and canals and windmills abound together in one perfect scenery...Peter Pan may not actually live there, but the people are beautiful and friendly. The Netherlands may be flat as a pancake and may not have a lot of other world-famous natural and geological formation, but there are a lot of other things the Dutch people are world-famous for...
1. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese!
The Netherlands is world-famous for their cheese. Everywhere you go, you will see a lot of stores that sell cheese and what is amazing about it is they sell hundreds of different kinds of cheese...there is a cheese with cumin seeds, there is an old cheese (1 year or longer), relatively mature cheese (4 months), new cheese (4 weeks), goat's cheese, sheep's cheese, herb cheese, smoked, cheese with holes, the famous gouda cheese (the most important type of cheese in the netherlands) and a whole lot more...!
The Dutch cheese is ranked as the best cheese in the world. It is something that is a must in every Dutch household. You will never see a dutch table without cheese served with their food during parties and gatherings. The Dutch love their cheese and i love them too!!!! As a matter of fact, according to experts their cheese coupled with their excellent health care system is what makes the Dutch people the tallest in the world...
The Netherlands is the cycling capital of the world. It is home to more bikes than people! 99.1% of the population are cyclists!!!
Despite the huge number of bikes used daily in the country, cycling in the Netherlands remains the safest in the world. This is due to the excellent cycle paths and the discipline of the people. Pedestrians are not allowed to walk on cycle paths and cyclists have equal rights to that of the car drivers. There are dedicated parking spaces just for the bikes everywhere in the Netherlands...Cycling while drunk is also illegal and bikes should have lights for safety reasons.
The Dutch are the masters of water management. Their constant battle with the North sea helped them find genius ways to tame the water. The over flooding of 1953 which killed thousands of lives forced the Dutch to build the world famous Delta Works which is a series of dams, levees, storm surge barriers, locks, dykes and sluices to protect the land from the sea. This massive construction is an engineering marvel considered by the Civil society of Engineering as one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. The risk of flooding in the North and South Holland is incredibly reduced to one in every 10,000 years. In other areas it is reduced to one in every 4000 years. The project will undergo defences upgrade if the need for new insights arises.
There is a saying that "God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands"...This is so because a significant portion of the country was reclaimed from the sea. The Dutch used windmills to drain water and built dams and dykes to protect the land from flooding.
The Netherlands is a flat country and most of its land is below sea level. This is the reason why the country is always vulnerable to flooding however, the Dutch managed to build intricate systems to tame mother nature. They built windmills to keep the ever-rising sea water at bay and there are more uses to the windmills than just pumping water. Some mills are used for grinding grains and wheat and milling flour. Another very important mill was for sawing wood. These wooden planks are used for ships that in turn sailed around the world and brought back lots of valuable goods into the country.
Since then, windmills were always associated with the Dutch even though the neighbouring countries have them as well. For the Dutch, the windmills are the sign of their constant battle with nature. The Dutch learned to live with water by utilizing windmills to drain water and built dams and dykes to protect their land from flooding.
The most notable of the windmills in the Netherlands is found in Kinderdijk. Here, the 19 authentic windmills are still in good shape and is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
5. Wooden Shoes
"Klomp" as what Dutch people call their wooden shoes is also a trademark of Holland. Although it is not generally used in the cities, farmers in the countryside are still using it at present. At first look, they seem to be uncomfortable but when you get to try it, you will be surprised that it is really nice and comfortable. "Klompen" are also waterproof. They are great all year round because wood is an excellent insulator. It keeps cool during summer and warm in the winter.
The "klomp" is among the most popular souvenir items that tourists around the world often buy in the Netherlands. Other souvenir items include pictures and hand-crafted materials of windmills, postcards and of course their famous tulips.
Some Dutch people may prefer Belgian beer than their own because for them Belgian beer tend to be stronger and due to their sophisticated taste buds they can easily recognize the good beer from ordinary ones. This doesn't mean however, that Dutch beer is not good at all. As a matter of fact, Dutch beer brands are one of the most popular in the world...
I'm sure you all have heard about Heineken...This Dutch company has the third largest beer brewery in the world. Grolsch, on the other hand is the leader in importing lager in all of the United Kingdom. Pale Lager comprises the majority of beer consumed and produced in the Netherlands. However, Dutch brewers also brew special kind of beer like the witbier (white beer) and the brewed beer in Spring and Autumn known locally as "bok".
According to the Brewers of Europe, the Netherlands exports approximately 50% of beer production making it the largest proportion of beer of any country in the world. Out of the total 2,300 million litres produced, almost 1,300 million litres were exported in 2004.
Tulips were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire which is now known as Turkey. During the 16th century, tulips were imported in Holland. They became so popular when Carolus Clusius wrote the first major book on Tulips and so everyday, his garden was raided and his bulbs were stolen. This popularity grew even more during the Dutch Golden Age and gave birth to the first economic bubble known as "Tulip Mania". Tulips became so expensive as people bought bulbs in large quantities that they were used as money until the market collapsed.
Since then, tulips have always been associated with the Netherlands. Every year in Spring, people from all over the world come to the Netherlands to see the beautiful tulips fields bloom in different colors. Those who left the Netherlands brought tulips with them as they settled abroad. Tulips festivals started becoming popular in the United States as well particularly in New York and Michigan where dutch influence is still quite strong.
In the Netherlands, the world's biggest flower auction takes place every year from late April to Early May. Keukenhof is also very popular among tourists as the world's largest flower garden.
The Dutch people are the tallest in the world. An average dutch guy stands a little over 6 feet while an average woman is at 5 feet and 7 inches. Scientists have always been fascinated why the Dutch height increased dramatically in the last 150 years. In 1860, dutch people are among the smallest in Europe at an average height of 5 feet and 5 inches. Americans were 2.7 inches taller and were the tallest people back then. Today, however, the Dutch towers above every one else and study shows that they are still continuously growing!
Why then did the Dutch people grow so tall?
Scientists believe that natural selection and evolution is the answer to this dramatic height increase. Taller men tend to have more children than those of average height or lower. Scientists also observed that taller men are healthier and stronger than men of average height or lower.
In addition, researchers also believe that increased wealth is a contributing factor. As the Dutch wealth increases, their access to healthy food and lifestyle also increased. Their diet consists of more milk and dairy products like cheese and egg compared with their other European neighbours.
9. Orange (Color)
Whenever there is a national sports competition or whenever there is a royal occasion, all Dutch people wear orange clothes and accessories. In most countries however, national events call for people to wear clothes that match the color of their flag. The Dutch are different. The color of their flag is red, white and blue. So why do the Dutch people like to wear orange?
The answer lies in their monarchy. The color of the Royal family is orange. They are commonly referred to as the "Oranje Family". The House of Orange-Nassau is a branch of the House of Nassau in Germany. This family, played an important role in the Freedom of the Netherlands. William I of Orange led the revolt of the Dutch against the rule of Spain which then resulted to the Netherlands being an Independent State after the Eighty Years War.
And so whenever there is a Royal gathering or event, Dutch will gladly put on their best orange clothes to show appreciation to the Royal family for what they have done to the country.
10. Liberalism and Calvinism
Same sex marriage, divorce, abortion and prostitution are all legal in the Netherlands. And even though selling and consumption of soft drugs is considered a criminal offense, the Netherlands has a toleration policy applicable to it.The country is also the first to legalize matrimony between homosexuals. For most people, especially for those who came from conservative countries like the ones in Asia, the culture in the Netherlands will be a total shock and will merit an utter dismay. For the Dutch however, liberalism is their way of life. They believe in the freedom to do what they want and Calvinism dictates that they do everything in moderation. Although Dutch society is liberal, their Calvinistic beliefs prevent them from overdoing things.
The Dutch are disciplined and although most of them do not observe a religious life, their behavior and lifestyle is heavily influenced by Calvinism. It is typical of the Dutch to be rule-driven, hard-working, conscientious and thrifty which are all Calvinistic traits. It is amazing that although soft drugs are legal in the Netherlands, it is very rare if not at all that one can see a Dutch person high on drugs. They are sober. The Dutch lifestyle is also reserved. They do not like showing off. They do not like standing out and if someone is having a difficult time, expect that a Dutch friend or family will always come to the rescue. The Dutch like to remain in the middle of everything. This is why they do everything in moderation...