Holland is a tiny country with a large population. With its 17 million inhabitants – that´s 488 people per sq. km., Holland is the most densely-populated country in Europe and one of the most-densely-populated countries in the whole world. Naturally, Amsterdam is the top destination with its wealth of excellent art museums featuring the great Dutch masters such as Rembrandt place it in the premier league of art – just as Amsterdam´s Ajax football club are world-class, too. A sparkling little souvenir for the woman in your life is not a problem either should you be feeling sentimental after a ginever or two at a local outdoor café, as Holland is one of the world´s leading diamond trading centres.
Holland has also paved the way when it comes to liberalization of euphoric substances such as hash, or sex for payment, though with certain restrictions. But it´s something you won´t find elsewhere in Europe. So now you know! Often, it´s these two topics that come up when travellers swap tales on Holland, but that is only a fraction of what makes Holland unique, and its inhabitants see it as an expression of tolerance and decriminalization – a tolerance that has existed for hundreds of years and which includes all people – regardless of religion or skin colour.
Tulips and flower exporting make up a much larger sector of Holland´s domestic product. Although the tulip actually originated in Turkey, once imported to Holland in the 1600´s, fortunes were made and lost on single exotic bulbs during what became known as tulip mania – during Holland´s Golden Age. Today, Holland is one of the world´s top 5 flower exporters. 77% of flower bulbs traded worldwide come from Holland which is the dominant world supplier, market leader and trendsetter when it comes to seeds, bulbs, plants and flowers. That all amounts to over 6 billion Euros a year in sales. If you are in Holland from early March to late April, don´t miss a visit to Keukenhof – the world´s most spectacular tulip garden with over 8 million bulbs of not only tulips but also many other flowers in stunning displays that have to be seen to be believed.
But don´t rush off…Holland has a wealth of funky cities to visit all within a short distance by car or the excellent public transport system – such as gorgeous Giethoorn – the “Venice of Holland”, the authentic villages around the Ijsselmeer with their centuries of nautical traditions, Delft – the home of Johannes Vermeer and Delft Blue pottery, the wonderful and entertaining cheese markets in Gouda and Edam, edgy Utrecht and ancient Maastrich – from the old to cutting edge- Holland is full of surprises.
Water is the key to understanding Holland, both the positive and negative aspects. This is especially true when it comes to concerns over one of today´s most pressing issues, “Climate change”, which as we all know, is now well underway and rapidly changing the face of the map. As mentioned before, this densely-populated country is not only centrally located in Europe, it is also built on largely reclaimed land, some of the lowest land on the continent. Three of the largest European rivers, the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt Rivers, flow into the sea via Holland. In fact, 26 % of the country is below sea-level. Holland has met these challenges, however, by developing some of the most innovative engineering and architectural solutions in the world to meet the challenges of living at such low levels at the mercy of the water and weather conditions. Such solutions – survival strategies, relevant know-how and practical solutions- are also a valuable product in terms of exporting. And the Dutch have paved the way in demonstrating that there are plenty of solutions to be found.
Population: 17 million
Capital: Amsterdam, around 900,000 inhabitants
Seat of Government: The Hague
Languages: Dutch, Friesian. Democracy: Parliament.
Religion: 44% No religion, 29% Roman Catholic, 19% Protestant, 6% Muslim, 1% Hindu, 1% Buddhist
Highest point: 323 m (Vaalserberg, Limburg)
Lowest point: 6.7 m (Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, Zuid)
Average temperature in July 17.4 °C
Average temperature in January: 2.8 °C
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