Introduction to the Netherlands

The Netherlands. Holland. Low Country. Whatever you call it, this European country is awesome. You’re guaranteed to come back with stories you’ll tell the grandchildren, and maybe a few you wouldn’t tell your grandparents. Let’s just start with the Dutch. They eat sprinkles on bread for breakfast, skate in packs of thousands through the streets in summer and seem to be always playing pranks (on each other and tourists too). They also brew beer that Homer Simpson would drool over. Mmmmm Heinken.

Now, the cities. While its capital Amsterdam is famous all over the world for its liberal way of life, there’s much more to this city than its red-light district and infamous cafes. It’s home to some incredible national icons, like Anne Frank Huis, the Van Gogh Museum and Vondelpark – the city’s equivalent of Central Park in New York. It’s a city of contrasts where 7th-century buildings and 17th-century canals sit among joint-smoking alien sculptures.

While Amsterdam is a massive drawcard, there are plenty of other cities and canal towns worth exploring, namely the cities of Edam (cheese town!), Haarlem, Delft and Deventer. The canal towns of Utrecht and Leiden are also charming places to visit. And Rotterdam deserves a special mention. It’s a post-modern, progressive city with its own sense of quirk. Here, you can see a Paul McCarthy statue titled ‘Santa with a Butt Plug’ in the main shopping district. Enough said.

Sharing borders with Germany and Belgium, the Netherlands is a very flat country with some 20 percent of the country lying below sea level and about 50 percent just 1 metre above sea level. Though its risky for flooding, it’s also perfect for bike riding. No wonder two-wheeling is a way of life here. Dotted with windmills and fields of tulips, the Netherlands landscape is truly beautiful. Won’t you come visit?

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