The province of Noord Brabant is a plain that mostly consists of agriculture. The countryside in Brabant is very beautiful with landscapes of forestry, polders, natural fens, heathlands, drift sands, and large country estates. 's Hertogenbosch (or more commonly, Den Bosch) is the capital of Noord Brabant. It is here that you will find the largest cathedral in the Netherlands, St Jan's Cathedral. There are a number of large cities and major attractions in this province.
The city of Eindhoven is an industrial city which revolves a lot around the company of Phillips. Phillips originated and is based in Eindhoven. Eindhoven also has a prehistoric open air museum where people are living with the crafts and customs of the Iron Age. Another major industrial city is Tilburg which is also home to the university of Brabant. The Technical University is in Eindhoven. The annual Tilburg fair (kermis) is considered to be the largest in Europe plus there is a large amusement and recreation park north of the city. The city of Breda is a very old city where you will find a number of medieval buildings. The start of the Dutch War of Independence started with the signing of the declaration in Breda in 1566.
The Dutch National War and Recreation Museum is in Overloon, with the history of the Second World War featuring. There is a safari park (De Beekse Bergen Safari Park) with safari buses also available. And if it is magic and adventure you see, look no further than Efteling in Kaatsheuvel. It has over 50 attractions including rollercoasters, a large fairytale wood, and a haunted house. The little town of Nuenen was home to Vincent Van Gogh from 1883-1885 and you will find statues, his house, and other local references around the town.
This province is the most southerly province of the Netherlands and is different to the rest of the country. Most of the Netherlands is very flat and even below sea level but this part of the country has beautiful rolling hills. It is bordered by Germany on one side and Belgium on the other. At the bottom tip of the province is the site where the three countries meet and you can stand with a different part of you in each country at the same time. Being at the crossroads also makes day trips to the other countries very easy.
The capital of Limburg, Maastricht, is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and the St Servatius church in Maastricht is the oldest church in the country. Maastricht has a lot of history in the city and tours can point out the best spots. Other towns in Limburg include Roermond which has a rich cultural and artistic centre.
Carnival is really only celebrated in the provinces of Noord Brabant and Limburg so I am including it here rather than in the culture pages. Carnival originated in Greece and the custom was to mark the beginning of Summer with a parade. In Greek culture, the arrival of Dionysus (god of wine) saw three days of partying. This tradition is continued but it is celebrated in the Roman Catholic areas of the south of Holland. The Catholic tradition is a final celebration before the beginning of Lent. In Brabant and Limburg, the three day party tradition and parade is as strong as ever. Absolutely everybody wears costumes for these three days and many people take a week long vacation for drinking and partying. Every town or city puts on a parade and some of the bigger cities have two parades, one especially for children, and even all the spectators lining the streets are dressed up. In these provinces, the Monday and Tuesday are seen as public holidays.
Every town puts on its own entertainment and scheduled events for carnival but to give you an idea of what these include, here are a few events scheduled for my town. These include a headache ball on the Sunday morning after a big party the night before which followed the parade. Those taking part in the headache ball turn up in their pyjamas. The scheduled events actually start a few weeks before the big final event and one of those events in this town is a farmer's wedding. This is a traditional (but not real) wedding that takes place and the whole town is invited to come along as guests in costume, and of course bearing a gift like a wheelbarrow of vegetables. The second last event on the carnival calendar is the bringing down of the symbolic mouse. My town is known as the mouse catchers and this sets the theme for carnival to this day. The town was known in the Middle Ages because farmers came to the local church to obtain blessed water to throw on their crops to prevent the invasion of mice. The symbolic mouse is seen in a number of events during carnival such as the mouse catchers reception and the mice rally. The final event of carnival is the haring happen which, on Ash Wednesday, is the eating of raw herrings distributed around the town.
The first event on the carnival calendar is the announcing of the Prince of Carnival. This is a major event and is kept top secret until the announcement. The appointed Prince of Carnival will attend countless receptions, functions, dinners, parties, etc over the month or so of carnival with his wife who would have been crowned the Princess. The Prince wears his crown and thick heavy robe to all the functions, many of which are with Princes from the surrounding towns and villages.
As you can see, carnival is very big in these two provinces and it is one part of the Dutch culture which will entertain no end.