The Netherlands

I’m excited to give you a tour around my own country this time!

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a small country in Europe. It’s also known as Holland, but Holland is only a small part of the Netherlands. The picture on the left shows the Netherlands and only the yellow part is Holland. The country is divided in 12 provinces. The youngest province is called Flevoland, this is reclaimed land after closing the Zuiderzee. A big part of the Netherlands is below sea level. The picture on the right shows the areas that would be flooded without dikes.

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I’m getting a little confused with the lingo about ancient Netherlands, but if I understand it correct the oldest found human remains date from 248.000 BC. People have been living here for a long, long time. The first reports about this part of the world are related to the roman empire. At that time the Netherlands didn’t exists and it was populated by 3 tribes: Franken, Saksen and Friezen. Charlemange sort of united these tribes and he introduced christianity into this part of the world. We’re now around 800 after christ and the first steps towards modern Netherlands are now taken, but it would take until 1815 to have an official Kingdom of the Netherlands. In those 1000 years there have been vikings, british and french rulers, epidemics, wars and floods. If you like to read more about it’s history please go here.

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During the 17th century the dutch where doing great at trading, science, war and art. Famous dutch painters of that era are Rembrand and Vermeer. Anthon van Leeuwenhoek was the founder of microbiology. The trading was done by the VOC and WIC. The focus of VOC was Asia, the WIC focused on countries around the Atlantic ocean. As like many other european countries the dutch couldn’t just sail the oceans and trade with the local inhabitants, they had to colonize it. This part of my nations history still feeds public debate. Maybe I tell a little more about that later.

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Since 2013 Willem Alexander is king of the Netherlands (his mother Beatrix retired). The tasks of our king/queen are mostly ceremonial, but until 2012 the queen appointed the (elected) government. The king/queen also has to approve all changes of law. Queen Juliana (who reigned from 1948-1980) refused to sign once, but this is the only time the royal didn’t approve the government. Our king/queen is mostly busy with connections with other countries (diplomatic and economic) and they are very important in uniting the dutch people. We are a blunt nation with people that speak their mind and opinons are very divided, but we all (well, most of us) love our royals (and the dutch soccer team, even when they suck).

Elections are held every 4 years, unless the cabinet falls apart. There are 285 official politic parties known in the Netherlands, 98 of them have runned or are running in national election. (285 parties, I said it, we are a divided country) You understand it never happens 1 party gets enough votes to be the government, so coalitions are formed. Since 2000 until now there should be 4 coalitions (according to every 4 years an election) but we’ve had 7.

Dutch food is plain and easy, with a lot of potatoes. But it will give you a lot of energy to continue working. I choose this dish because of the funny name: Naked behinds on the grass.

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You need: potatoes, french beans and canned white beans, some milk and pepper/salt as pleased. Peel potatoes and boil them for 20-30 minutes (add salt in water if you like) then smash them with a little milk (add some pepper if you like). Cut french beans in small pieces and boil them for 15 minutes, add white beans after 10 minutes. Mix mashed potatoes with beans and your meal is ready to eat. Combine this with some dutch meatballs and you have a traditional dutch plate.

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In 1916 there was a huge flood that killed 51 people and affected the cities Amsterdam and Rotterdam. This wasn’t the first flood and would not be the last, the Zuiderzee was claiming land and wouldn’t stop doing so by itself. Because of this flood it was decided to create the Afsluitdijk. This Dike would turn an inland sea into a fresh water lake. In 1953 another flood came over the Netherlands. This time not from the sea in the north, but in the west. 1836 people died within this flood. Also the UK an Belgium where strucked by this flood. This flood is still in our collective memory, also because many survivors are still living today. (My mother can remember sitting on top of a roof waiting to be rescued, she was wearing a new red jacket and was worried it would get dirty, kids…) This flood was the start of building the Deltawerken. It closes the sea from the land in the south/west area. Here you can find a video on youtube on how those huge and impressive barriers are build.

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I live in Dordrecht and above is a map of my city from 1650. The city has grown a little since then and my house would be somewhere behind the word DORT. It’s a very old city. It was founded in 1220 on a piece of earth where 3 rivers joined and it was possible to cross the rivers here. It became an important trading city between 1600-1800. In the old centre are still many buildings from that era. Many painters lived in Dordrecht (Ary Scheffer was even born here). Today you will find many galleries here, art still is important for the city. During the summer you find all sort of art and food events, but also the biggest book market of the country and an almost magical steam machine event.

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Dordrecht played a important part in how christianity is lived in the Netherlands. The “Canons of Dort” where written here in 1618/1619 and these rules are still used in the reformed church. In those days the reformed church was the biggest religion in the Netherlands, now that’s catholic. (50% of the nation has no religion, 23% catholic, 10% reformed, 5% islam and 6% other).

It’s a city you have to learn to love. Yes we do have all these gorgeous buildings, but at first sight the city seems to be run-down. The shopping centre has many empty buildings and could use some paint. But leave that mainstreet and start wandering around and you will find so many beautiful sightings, special stores and unique restaurants/bars.

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Many of the old buildings have a plaque or some other sort of interesting detail. The naked boy above comes with a story. Long time ago 3 brothers lived in Dordrecht, they where very competitive with each other. The made a bed about who could build the most scandalous house. 1 came up with this naked boy, 1 with a mermaid with naked breasts and the thirth was that much scandalous the house was broken down by the villagers and no one mentioned what it was. The boy still can be found in the city. In 1897 he was covered up to be decent when the queen visited.

 

 

 

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