OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of the Netherlands
POPULATION: 15,800,000 (463 per km²)
AREA: 41,160 km²
COASTLINE: 451 km
LOCATION: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany
STATES: 12 provinces; Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, Zuid-Holland
EXTERNAL DEPENDANT AREAS: Aruba, Netherlands Antilles
INDEPENDENCE: 1579 (from Spain)
CAPITAL CITY: Amsterdam
SEAT OF GOVERNMENT: The Hague
OTHER CHIEF CITIES: Rotterdam (the largest port of Europe), Utrecht, Groningen, Eindhoven, Haarlem, Maastricht, Tilburg, S'Hertogenbosch, Venlo, Nijmegen, Leeuwarden, Delft, Gouda
NATIONAL COLOURS: Orange
NATIONAL ANTHEM: "Wilhelmus van Nassouwe"
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
"William of Nassau"
William of Nassau am I,
of Germanic descent;
You, my God and Lord, are
my shield, on You I rely.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Netherlandic (Dutch), Frisian
Netherlands guilder, gulden, or florin (f.) = 100 cents
HEAD OF STATE: Queen Beatrix van Oranje Nassau
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT: Prime Minister
CLIMATE: Temperate, marine climate with cool summers and mild winters. The average maximum temperature ranges from about 4°C in January to an average maximum of 20-21°C in July and August. Rain is pretty common at any time of the year and winters can be very cold and wet with the possibility of snow. Average minimums in Winter are around -1 to 0°C. Strong Northerly winds are also frequent in Autumn and Winter.
GEOGRAPHY: The Netherlands is bordered by Germany in the east, Belgium in the south, and the North Sea to the north and west. One fifth of the country is below sea level and large areas have been reclaimed from the sea. These areas, known as polders, are very fertile and excellent for agriculture. The land is mostly flat but south in the province of Limburg, you will find hilly areas. Canals and rivers flow throughout the country and it is not unusual to see large ships sitting higher than you. There are also small pockets of forest throughout the country, the largest being in Arnhem. There are large lakes in the north and centre of the country, and fabulous coastal dunes. The Netherlands is located at the mouth of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas, and Schelde). The name Nederland means low land or country and much of the land of the Netherlands was brought downstream by the rivers, with some being pushed into ridges by glaciers. There is a saying, "God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland" because without the human intervention and incredible hydro-engineering of the Dutch, half of the country would now be under the North Sea. The Dutch have managed to reclaim 550,000 acres of land from the sea just in the past century while the Delta Project in Zeeland (thirty years in the making) is a storm control system that is unequelled in the world.
TIME: GMT + 1 (GMT from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in
ELECTRICITY: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. 2-pin European-style plugs are in use.
THINGS TO DO IF YOU VISIT THE NETHERLANDS: Everyone enjoys a visit to the red light districts but be warned to leave your camera at home, tourists and their cameras have been known to end up in the canals. Keukenhof, the spring tulip gardens, are definitely worth a visit in May. They have the most wonderful displays and colours and a photographer would be in heaven here. Amsterdam is the wonderful place that people dream it will be but there are so many historic and charming cities in Holland that are also worth a visit if you have the time. Visit one of the cheese markets like Alkmaar, these are very interesting. Another interesting part of Dutch culture to explore is a working windmill. These are usually open to tourists on the first Saturday of every month. Go Dutch and rent a bicycle for the day and take a ride through the wonderful countryside. Visit the Delta Expo in Zeeland with all the information on the Dutch fight against the sea and how they have learned to protect themselves from the flooding. Check out one or both of the Van Gogh museums (Kroller Muller in Arnhem or the one in Amsterdam) and visit Burgers Zoo which is a wonderful new and different zoo.