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May 23, 2017
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Home > Holland Hotels > Holland Intro


Holland Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations

     

Discount Hotels in Holland : Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Utrecht

 

Holland (The Netherlands)

Bikes, dykes, windmills and tulips...sure! But that's just the start. A quick trip to Amsterdam will shed a whole new light on the Dutch perspective. Of course, once there, the 'quick trip' will not do justice to the experience and you will most certainly wish to extend your stay. The casual and good-natured Dutch are a hospitable bunch and their flat little country is chock-full of delightful surprises for anyone who happens by. Antiquity and high-tech hold hands on the banks of canals; posh, pomp and bohemian tendencies share tables at outdoor cafes; the spirit of Rembrandt and Van Gogh permeate the landscape; fields festooned with brightly coloured flowers, deep green pastures and enormous wheels of cheese...Suffice it to say, Holland is truly ripe for discovery and exploration.

Holland Map
Holland Map

Holland joins Belgium and Luxembourg as one of the low-lying countries in north Western Europe, shouldered by France and Germany. The land is flat and everyone knows that but no one ever mentions the highest point, Vaalserberg (321 meters/1,053 feet), which is found in the foothills of the Ardennes. With so much land below sea level and protected by dykes, Holland spends an enormous amount of effort constantly pumping seawater back out. In fact, a massive project has been under way for more than 70 years to reclaim land from the large inland sea known then as the Zuiderzee. In 1932, upon completion of the 31-kilometer (19-mile) dam, a freshwater lake, now known as the Ijsselmeer, was created by water flowing from the IJssel, Vechte, and Zwartewater rivers. As the water is drained, reclaimed land (called polders) is used for farming and town sites.

Tulips
Tulips

Historically, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg were known as the "Low Countries" and were inhabited by tribal entities such as the Germanic Batavi and Frisii. In 1568, the Spanish Inquisition arrived to wage war against the united provinces of the Netherlands under the leadership of Prince William of Orange. Almost a century of conflict passed before Holland emerged an independent country. The Golden Age of prosperity brought about by the Dutch East India Company ran from the late 16th century until British dominance on the high seas in the mid-seventeen hundreds. Trade with in the Far East was brisk. The colonization of the Cape of Good Hope, Indonesia, Surinam, the Antilles and New Amsterdam (today's New York) was well in hand. Amsterdam's burgeoning bourgeoisie indulged all manner of flagrant self-gratifying activities. The 'fat cat' era was rudely interrupted in 1795 when Napoleon invaded and appointed his little brother Louis as king. The odious French occupation finally ended and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands-incorporating Belgium and Luxembourg-was born. William I of Orange, the very first king, was crowned in 1814. (Today, the House of Orange is represented by Queen Beatrix van Oranje Nassau, acting Head of State for the Kingdom of the Netherlands.) In 1830, the Belgians rebelled and became independent; Luxembourg followed suit soon thereafter. Global prominence gradually declined and the Netherlands seemed content to sit back in relative obscurity, even managing to remain neutral throughout the First World War. Not so for the second however,-Germany invaded in May 1940. Much of Holland's overseas territories won independence during the three decades following the war. The Netherlands is today, an integral part of the European Union, and a nation noted for its liberal and progressive approach to social issues.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam
Amsterdam

Getting lost in Amsterdam's canal area is a real pleasure because no matter which turn you take, you are likely to find yourself wandering along yet another interesting street lined with shops, tall skinny houses and canals. Before long, you're bound to emerge in one town square or another where cafes, bars, and restaurants fill to the brim with locals and visitors alike. These neighbourhoods are a fascinating collection of humanity: some are portals to a grand era of stately edifices and bourgeois indulgence; others, lean towards a trendy bohemian flair; yet others (red light district), dip to street-sleaze displays framed in desire. As Amsterdam's old city centre is concentrated in the canal belt (a crescent-shaped ring of concentric canals) crisscrossed by numerous streets and arched bridges, just walking around can be confusing.

The three main waterways are the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, areas once reserved for the exclusive residences of the city's wealthier class. The distinctive architecture makes this a great place to begin an extended stroll. Along the banks of the Herengracht (Gentleman's Canal), the city's largest private mansions impose their presence. Begun in 1670 and named after its original investors, this was the first of the three main outer canals to be built. South of the Herengracht are the Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal, named for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I) and Prinsengracht (Princes' Canal, after the House of Orange.) The houses here are not as regal, but no less conspicuous.

Amsterdam Centrals
Amsterdam Centrals

Though many of Amsterdam's canals were filled in during the 20th century-sanitation engineering-it is still possible to sightsee by canal boat; just be sure to keep your hands out of the water. The view is nothing short of dramatic. Impossibly skinny houses stacked together and stretching five or six stories crowd the view, a thin strip of sky visible overhead. You will slip passed old barges converted into homes, ultra-modern architecturally designed houseboats for the well-heeled, relics once posing as fish boats and even small sailing vessels with their masts taken down. Gliding under arched, stone bridges lend an air of gracious antiquity to the cruise. During winter, and if the canals freeze over, strap on a pair of skates and join in the fun.

Museums

The Rijksmuseum is the country's foremost art museum. Notable works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals and Steen, are on display as well as collections of dollhouses, delftware, and Asiatic art. The Van Gogh Museum nearby portrays some 200 paintings by the master. Right next door, the Stedelijk Museum, is one of the world's leading museums of modern art. West of the museum centre, is the Anne Frankhuis, which draws over half a million tourists each year. It was here that the Jewish Frank family went into hiding trying to escape capture during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The Franks and four others hid in the part of the house concealed behind a bookcase from July 1942 to August 1944, when they were betrayed to the Gestapo. Anne's diary was found and has since been translated into 55 languages. Amsterdam has many more museums ranging from historically significant to amusingly bizarre. Numerous galleries scattered throughout the city are another great source of distraction.

The Begijnhof

The Begijnhof is an enclosed courtyard dating back to the early 14th century. Tucked behind the clamorous Spui shopping strip, the Begijnhof is an oasis of tranquility. Formerly a convent of the Beguines, (a Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women from wealthy families who cared for the elderly and lived a religious life without taking monastic vows), the neat courtyard is ringed with small houses, the oldest of which is a wooden structure dating from 1465. It is the oldest maintained home in the country. The last true Beguine died in the 1970.

Leidseplein Square

Leidseplein Square is Amsterdam's evening hot spot. It offers outdoor cafes, cinemas, theatres, buskers and, when it's cold enough, a skating rink. If you are looking for lively nighttime entertainment or a 'happening' restaurant, this is where you want to be. The square boasts Holland's best-known coffee shop, The Bulldog. The infamous music venue known as De Melkweg (The Milky Way) is also found here.

The Randstad

The Randstad translates as 'Urban Agglomeration'. It is the most densely populated region in the Netherlands, incorporating Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, as well as smaller towns like Haarlem, Leiden and Delft. A spectacular sight greets visitors near Leiden from March to May; the bulb fields burst forth with a dazzling display of colour. A leisurely back-roads bicycle trip is the best way to enjoy this countryside. The Keukenhof, south of Haarlem, is another grand attraction. It draws a staggering 750,000 people each year during its eight-week season when millions of tulips and daffodils bloom in a seemingly impossible harmony-perfectly in place and exactly on time. Other Randstad attractions include the stately mansions, ostentatious embassies and prominent art galleries of The Hague, the country's seat of government; the distinctive blue-and-white pottery of Delft; the avant-garde architecture and industrious energy of Rotterdam; and the effervescent city of Haarlem.


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