NEDERLAND, THE LOW LANDS
Perseverance and Dutch engineering created much of the Netherlands of today. Influenced by north winds, tidal waters, and sand dunes, the Netherlands is an engineering marvel. A system of canals link waterways to the North Sea; dikes and dams hold back the sea to create more arable land and fresh-water lakes. Much of the Netherlands of today is at or below sea level.
God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.Dutch proverb
Postcard photos come to life in this storybook land, which upon first glance appears caught in time. Ubiquitous bicycles traverse over picturesque canals; antique windmills dot ever-present waterways; colorful tulips covering fields in spring. Taking a further look, beyond its well-preserved history, we were struck by the Dutch progressive modernity. Known for its quaint characteristics, the Netherlands is also known for tolerance.
The constitutional monarchy of the Netherlands is divided into 12 official provinces (4 regional divisions). Beginning in Amsterdam during our trip to Northwestern Europe, we explored three of the provinces of West Netherlands—North Holland, South Holland, Utrecht—and then traveled through Breda in North Brabant of South Netherlands on our way to Belgium.
Much of the Netherlands is navigable using alternative modes of transportation—train, tram, boat, ferry, bicycle, foot—that commonly eliminate the need for a car. We utilized efficient, convenient and well-operated Dutch trains to travel between cities, and trams within each city. However, most of our time traversing cities and villages was spent on foot, which allowed us to take in the scenery.