Netherlands - Country Below Sea-Level - May 2001

Last Revised: $Revision: 1.28 $, $Date: 2005/01/10 21:51:32 $
Dutch Flag and not the French one like many think Kaaswinkel (Cheese shop) in the Cheese town Alkmaar Westernkerk in Amsterdam Boat in Friesland


"What are all this French flags about?" I was asked. Those flags with horizontal red-white-blue bars are Dutch flags, not French!" I answered. "Ooh, I thought the Dutch flag is black-red-yellow?" "No, that are Belgian or German flags!". Little is known about this small country, beside the fame for sex and drugs, due to the liberal politics. Although the Country is often called Holland, Holland is only the (two) province(s) in the west in which most of the Dutch live. From this province the Netherlands, as the country is called, derives it's reputation and image.

Kinderdijk, Gouda and Haarlem, Thursday 2001-05-24

Windmill in Kinderdijk
Amazingly almost half of the country lies below sea-level, up to six meters near Amsterdam. The water determine the unique impression you get that makes up the Netherlands. Water is the source of living in the Netherlands and a method of transport since centuries. Water brought wealth to the Netherlands, water is omnipresent. A country criss-crossed by channels, were you go still today (e.g. Friesland) shopping or out with a boat.
But water is also the threat of the Netherlands. Approx. the red area in the map above is below three meters over sea level and would be under water if there were no dijks (dikes) to protect the country. Dikes are probably

Windmill in Kinderdijk Windmill in Kinderdijk Bird House near Kinderdijk

older then 1000 years. To gain land the Dutch constructed polders. They build dijks made of stones and sand where that was necessary (figure 1). A area protected by dijks is called polder. To get the water out and gain land windmills were places on the dijks to pump out the water. In order to keep the polders dry from ground and rain water the windmills where used constantly (figure 2). Each polder has a team (still today) which constantly keeps the dijks in shape, and residents of a polder pay a polder tax for this work. In 1839 the first polder was dried by steam pump. Large polders were created in Purmer (1620), Beemster (1612), Schermer (1635), and Wormer (1626). Even the name the Netherlands means "low land". img/polder-after.gif

Kaaswinkel (Cheese shop) in the Cheese town Gouda Townhall in Gouda Bird These Tulips in a shop are tho only one we have seen

Luckily we had nice weather and one main attraction was to see the famous Dutch tulip fields? They start blooming in April the guide book said, so in May I can see them for sure I thought. There is even a tourist garden for Tulips near Leiden called Keukenhof. As all tulips appeared to be harvested, I thought that at least there they will have some. But that was an error. The Keukenhof was closed. What a disappointment!
Gouda is a historic town with a nice market and an old town hall. It is famous for producing the Gouda-cheese. You can get it on the market and in the cheese shops. Some other specialty includes some Dutch cookies and Klompen as the wooden shoes are called

Amsterdam, Friday 2001-05-25

The historic building of the central train station in Amsterdam Tram in Amsterdam With over one million bicycles Amsterdam is the world capital of bikes Near Rembrandplain

Famous for its beautiful channels scenery, beautiful houses build in the Golden Century as well as the liberal drugs and sex policies, Amsterdam attracts different groups people.
Western kerk

Water is everywhere present and dominant in Amsterdam. If you see Coffee Shops are those which legal sell drugs. In contrast cafes and coffee houses are what you expect.
The historic building Scenery with the famous Grachten (Channels) There are 2500 house boats in Amsterdam Scenery with the famous Grachten (Channels)

There is only one natural river in Amsterdam called Amstel. Around 1000 A.D. Amsterdam was first mentioned. One problem was that most of the Netherlands is below sea level. People start settling and then build a dam to stop flooding by the tide and to start making use of the land for farming. The name was then AmstelDam and turned later to Amsterdam. In the 13th century the town retrieved Town-rights. The 16th century was a blooming period, where science technology and economy grew and is famous s the golden century.

The historic building Scenery with the famous Grachten (Channels) The famous Rijksmuseeum Leitseplein - a place with many Cafes at the end of the shopping street Leitsegracht

Klompen are shoes completely made from one piece of wood. There main origin is Netherlands, were they are still worn today for garden work.
They were worn by poor people, especially those that had to do heavy and dirty work: farmers, construction worker, street cleaner, garden and forest worker, smiths, fishers, chemical factory workers and also house wives.

The historic building in Prinzengracht Bridge Scenery with the famous Grachten (Channels) Western kerk

About 100km of channels, called Grachten, where build and 1200 bridges. In the Prinzengracht are combineed ware- and living houses. The famous Western Church is also located here. Usually houses are six meter wide, some half of that. The beautiful roofs where shaped as bell-, stair- triangular shape. They all have a bar at the roof to move furniture in as the steep stairs are to narrow.

Western kerk Dutch beer Scenery in Amsterdam Famous Magere Bruch (Skinny Bridge)

Friesland, Saturday 2001-05-26

We crossed the thirty kilometers of the Afsluitdijk that separates the North-sea and the Ijssel-meer. 70 years ago the Ijssel-meer was called Zuiderzee and was part of the North-sea. It was very dangers as it was sea in the middle of the Netherlands with tides. The need for more land and the flooding disaster from 1916 initiated a bold plan: To cut of the Zuiderzee from the North-sea. The work started in 1927 and finished in 1932 which broad recognition for this technical wonder to the Netherlands. The driving force behind was engineer and minster Cornelis Lely. After the separation the Zuiderzee was called Ijssel-meer and two large polders where created: the Noordoostpolder and the Flevopolder.

When one comes to Friesland the most amazing impression observing the sailboats crossing through the green fields behind the grassing cows. Friesland consists of water. It lies beyond sea level and is criss crossed by channels to drain the land. They also serve as infrastructure. There are more waterways then roads and even young kids using boats.

Afsluitdijk separates the North-sea and the Ijssel-meer Willow scenery with sail boasts Willow scenery with sail boasts It is not the African town of Ouagadougou but the Dutch village Oudega

You go shopping by boat - and you go out by boat. The statements "Without water Friesland would be flat, bald and mostly cold" in a newspaper catched my attention.

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