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The Netherlands (Holland)

April 11th, 2024

The Netherlands, informally called Holland, is a country located in northwestern Europe with overseas territories in the Caribbean (the countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten). The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces; it borders Germany to the east and Belgium to the south, with a North Sea coastline to the north and west. It shares maritime borders with the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium. The official language is Dutch, with West Frisian as a secondary official language in the province of Friesland. Dutch, English, and Papiamento are official in the Caribbean territories.

Netherlands literally means “lower countries” in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with 26% situated below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as “polders” polders, are the result of land reclamation that began in the 14th century.  In 1588, the Netherlands entered a unique era of political, economic, and cultural greatness, ranked among the most powerful and influential in Europe and the world; this period is known as the Dutch Golden Age. During this time, its trading companies, the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, established colonies and trading posts all over the world.

It is the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products by value, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, inventiveness.  Amsterdam is the country’s most populous city and the nominal capital, though the primary national political institutions are located in the Hague.

The Netherlands has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848. The country has a tradition of the separation of citizens into groups by religion and political beliefs and a long record of social tolerance, having legalised prostitution and euthanasia, along with maintaining a liberal drug policy. The Netherlands allowed women’s suffrage in 1919 and was the first country to legalise same-sex marraige in 2001. The  Port of Rotterdam is the busiest in Europe. The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurzone, G10, NATO and more as well as being a part of the Schengen Area. It hosts intergovernment organizatons and international courts, , many of which are in The Hague.

The current design originates as a variant of the late 16th century orange-white-blue Prinsenvlag (“Prince’s Flag”), evolving in the early 17th century as the red-white-blue Statenvlag (“States Flag”), the naval flag of the States-General of the Dutch Republic, making the Dutch flag the oldest tricolour flag in continuous use. As a flag that symbolizes the transformation from monarchy to republic, it has inspired both the derivative Russian flag, and after the French Revolution in 1789, the vertically striped French tricolour; both flags in turn influenced many other tricolours. 

The Dutch flag is full of symbolism. Each band of colour in the Dutch flag holds some symbolism for the country. The red band symbolizes bravery, strength, valor, and hardiness; the white band, peace and honesty; and the blue band,  vigilance, truth, loyalty, perseverance, and justice. (The early flag with the orange stripe, explains the orange colour of Dutch teams.) 

Diesel price:   €1.53 and up a litre; about $6.19 a gallon

Currency: The Euro

EU plate Letters:  NL

Beer: Heineken

We crossed the border that morning in the rain (surprise, surprise – not!).  We got to a campground by lunch time and hunkered down for the afternoon.  This place offers power, water, dumping, Wi-Fi, toilets and free showers – all for €18 for the two of us.

We are in farm country and there are some cute small ponies:
Fran went for a walk when it stopped raining along the bike paths and saw swans, herons and ducks, goats, and more small ponies.

She also saw a tank barrier from WWII:

In the late afternoon we went over to the café/bar and had a Heineken – not our favourite beer, but hey, we’re in its birthplace country now.

On Doug’s walk he saw evidence that there were mammoths in this area at one time (all the signage was in Dutch).

We had a quiet night and it stayed dry.  Friday morning the sky began to clear and it definitely warmed up (at least for a few days….).  We left the campground mid-morning and made our first stop at Doorwerth Castle – it had been on some list we used a long time ago and although we have been skipping most castles lately, it was on the route and we thought, what the heck?

This is a medieval castle on the Rhine River, originally probably wooden.  It is first mentioned in 1260 when it was besieged and burned to the ground, after which it was rebuilt in stone. During the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries the castle was enlarged and again a century later.  Doorwerth Castle reached its largest form just after the middle of the 16th century under the 15th Lord of Dorenweerd. He made the castle and the group of buildings on the bailey into a unity and adjusted them for more space and comfort. By 1560 Doorwerth Castle had almost reached its present appearance. Around 1637 the bailey was rebuilt to its present appearance and a dike was built around the castle to protect it from flooding of the river Rhine.

This was about a fifteen minute stop.

For more photos of our entry into Holland, click  here .

We started the drive to the west side of Amsterdam where there was a large campground outside the low emissions zone.

Enroute we looked into going to Keukenhof and you must reserve.  Seeing as today is Friday we thought it might be less busy than going on Sunday (we had plans for Saturday) but the first opening was not until 3:30.  We booked it and the parking and found a McDonald’s nearby to spend some time online before our time slot.

Fran researched a few “tulip routes” for us to also drive by this weekend and later south of Rotterdam.

We arrived at Keukenhof about 2:45pm and were allowed to park, no problem.  Doug went to ask one of the attendants if we had to wait until our 3:30 reserved time and they said no, so off we went, had our tickets scanned and we were in.

Seeing fields of tulips in Holland has been on Fran’s bucket list; while daisies are her favourite flower, tulips are in the top five for sure.

Tulips originated in Central Asia, and were first cultivated in Iran (Persia) as early as the 10th century. They belong to the lily family.  It was in the 16th century that tulips were imported to Holland from the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkiye). Just a few years after arriving in Holland, tulips became the most sought-after commodity in the entire Netherlands.  

At the time, tulip bulbs were worth more than gold and were sold for 10 times what a commoner made in a year. Needless to say, the time period was appropriately named “tulip mania.”  Though they certainly don’t outweigh gold anymore, the Netherlands is still one of the largest exporters of tulips in the world. Today, roughly 60% of the country’s land is used for agriculture or horticulture, with much of that land dedicated to growing bulbs. And it’s a good thing because in 2014 the Netherlands exported more than 2 billion tulips worldwide.

While the Dutch certainly enjoy sharing Holland tulips with the rest of the world, they also make sure to keep enough for themselves. Each year, usually at the end of March, Keukenhof holds more than 800 different varieties of tulips and a total of 7 million bulbs. Needless to say, it has been called the most beautiful spring garden in the world.

Keukenhof is a huge spring garden/park with thousands of tulip patches – alongside the park you can see the rows and rows of them in various colours.   It is ONLY open for 6-8 weeks a year in season. There are more than just tulips – you can find daffodils and hyacinth as well – basically spring garden flowers but naturally, the majority is tulips in every possible colour and many multi coloured ones. The combinations planted in the lots are so beautiful.

Inside the gardens, you stroll along pathways with many of these patches, mostly tulip, but a lot of daffodils and hyacinths.  It’s amazing how many different colours and kinds of tulips there are.

Fran took SO SO many photos, so here are just a few and for more check  here.

We strolled around the park for over an hour.   Kudos to Doug for tolerating walking through flower gardens for that long!

It took us a while to get out of the parking lot when we left to get to tonight’s RV park.  They route the traffic out of the lot in the opposite direction to what we wanted so we had find a different way around.

More tulip info:

As soon as tulips are full bloomed, it is necessary to remove the flower. In this way, the energy from the tulip no longer goes to the flower, but that energy flows back to the flower bulb, which in this way can grow and multiply better. 

When the tulip bulb is ripe enough, the tulip grower starts taking the bulbs out of the ground, “grubbing up.” This happens always between mid-June and the end of July. The harvested bulbs are driven to the shed and will be dried and cleaned. The tulip grower also removes the young bulbs from the bigger bulbs. That cleaning is called “peeling”. The large bulbs, if sold abroad, are washed so that no bacteria or fungi are left behind.  The smaller balls are stored, so that they can be planted in the ground again when autumn falls. The tulip grower has gained a lot of experience over the years and has created the ideal climate in his shed in which the tulip bulb is best preserved.

A frequently asked question is where then do the tulips come from the flower shop if they do not come from the flower fields?  Most of the tulips in the flower shop come from nurseries. The tulips in greenhouses are grown in four weeks from flower bulb to tulip for sale.

Today we did pass through one tunnel – yes in the flattest country we’ve ever been in, and there was a tunnel!

We also drove on the widest dual carriageway we’ve driven on in Europe – it was six lanes in both directions.

Sidebar on land reclamation: 

Land reclamation in the Netherlands has a long history. As early as in the 14th century, the first reclaimed land had been settled. Much of the modern land reclamation has been done as a part of the Zuiderzee Works since 1919.  According to a 2007 study by Calvin College Michigan (USA), about 65% of the country would be under water at high tide if it were not for the existence and the country’s use of dikes, dunes and pumps. Land reclamation in the 20th century added an additional 1,650 sq km / 640 sq mi to the country’s land area. Of the country’s population, 21% lives in the 26% of the land located below mean sea level.

The engineers of the Netherlands became noted for developing techniques to drain wetlands and make them usable for agriculture and other development. This is illustrated by the saying: “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands”.

This reclamation of marshes and fenland, has resulted in some 3,000 “polders” nationwide. About one-half of the total surface area of polders in northwest Europe is in the Netherlands. The first embankments in Europe were constructed in Roman times. The first polders were constructed in the 11th century. The oldest extant polder is the Achtermeer polder, from 1533.

A “polder” is a low-lying tract of land that forms an artificial hydrological entity, enclosed by embankments known as dikes. The three types of polder are:

  • Land reclaimed from a body of water, such as a lake or the seabed;
  • Flood plains separated from the sea or river by a dike; and
  • Marshes separated from the surrounding water by a dike and subsequently drained; these are also known as koogs, especially in Germany.

We left Minou at the RV park having arranged with the fellow yesterday that we could stay parked past check out time and walked over the train station where we caught a train into Central Amsterdam.  We purchased tickets online and upon getting to the main train station, the reader at the gate did not recognize our tickets to get through the exit turn styles!  Luckily although there was no staff around there was an “info / help” button to push and after explaining our situation, someone manually opened the turn styles for us.

As we’ve both been to Amsterdam before but not together (Fran went with her Mom in 1995 and Doug had a layover on his way to climb Kilimanjaro in 2012), we’d both seen some sights but not together.  Today was mostly about walking the city and enjoying the many canals.

The three main canals of Amsterdam (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht), were dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, and form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings.  There are 165 canals in Amsterdam. The total length combines comes to 75km! There are 1281 bridges that cross the canals in the city.

We did check out a Cheese Museum/Shop,

The flower market which was more about bulbs than flowers; we wanted to buy some bulbs for some friends back in the US and Canada, but were told that they had to be planted within 2-3 weeks so that time frame didn’t work.

We saw the Mint Tower:

A Heron trying to sneak into a restaurant:

The Skinny Bridge:

A walk through the Red Light District but saw nothing of note.

We Stopped for a cold drink at Plant Rock Bar sitting right beside a canal:

Walked through the Beurspassage:

Walked by a Condom shop:

Walked by a huge Lego shop:

Checked out the Weeping Tower:

The Royal Palace in the huge main square:

By 1:00 we’d more than walked our 10K steps and wandered over to the Movenpick Hotel to meet Fran’s friend, Alma, and her friend for lunch.  They had taken a tour to Keukenhof this morning and returned just before 1:30.  There is a small restaurant in the hotel where we had lunch together.  (They were on a Rhine River cruise from Switzerland that happened to end here in Amsterdam when we were going to be here.)

It was nice to catch up and see that Alma is keeping young by continuing to travel the world!

After lunch we caught the train back to Overveen to the rig; this time, Fran was able to get through the turn style using the credit she’d used to buy the tickets as again, the bar code would not work, and Doug just forced his way through as this afternoon, no one was answering the “info / help” line.

For the gallery of Amsterdam shots, check this out pics

Wild camping in The Netherlands is highly frowned up and there are fewer and fewer places to get away with it so we opted for a campground tonight outside The Hague which is another city we cannot drive into.

De Drie Morgen is quite large, has large sites with power and water, very good Wi-Fi and an ablution block with hot showers.  They also rent bikes.  We want to go into the city tomorrow that way.

We had a quiet but quite windy evening (the land is SO flat nothing stops the wind off the sea!).  The wind died down somewhat overnight and we awoke to a partly cloudy sky.  Doug did his run and later in the morning we rented bikes and cycled into The Hague.

The Hague is known as the home of international law and arbitration. The International Court of Justice, the main judicial arm of the United Nations, is in the city, as are the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Europol, and approximately 200 other international governmental organizations.

If we had taken an Uber into the city, we would have been paying about €40 each way; the bike rental cost us €25.  Took us about 90 minutes to get to the Peace Palace in the Hague partly due to bad directions in our app, head winds and Fran being slow – she cannot remember the last time she was on a bike this long.  Her butt was pretty happy to get off that seat when we arrived!

The weather was mostly sunny, cool but that was great for a bike ride.

We viewed the Peace Palace from the outside – being Sunday, there were no tours but we were fine viewing the building from the outside and seeing the displays in the Visitor’s Centre.

We then biked over to the main square for a bit before meeting Christine & Dave for lunch.  Christine and Dave are overlanders we met back in Costa Rica in 2017 and despite trying to get together twice in the States, have not seen each other since but have kept in touch.

We met at Knossos, a Greek restaurant and enjoy some tasty food – it was rather filling but yummy.

At 2:30 we said our goodbyes and returned to Minou at the campground – it took about 1.25 hours to get back and man, was Fran’s backside screaming – why can’t they make bike seats that are comfortable!!?!?

All in all it was worth it – we are glad that we got to do a cycle in the land of such a bicycle culture.

Everyone knows “Holland” to be a country of cyclists – there are millions of them and the infrastructure to support them is out of this world.  Cyclists ALWAYS have the right of way even over pedestrians!  Today, the Netherlands has more than 35,000 km of cycle paths; for context, the country’s road network is only 140,000 km.  The Dutch began this obsession in the 1970’s in the hopes of moving away from a car centric approach to safer and more livable cities.

Upon returning to Minou we had another quiet night and it was not so windy tonight so there was no rocking of the “house”.

There are several more shots of The Hague  here.

Monday morning after we got up, we showered (seemed luxurious – two showers in 24 hrs!)

We left and drove south to see the four of  the seven “euro bills” bridges south of Rotterdam.

The Eurobridges Spijkenisse, is an applied arts project in the city of Spijkenisse, in the province of South Holland.  The bridges on the back are not representative of real bridges but symbolize communication between the people of Europe and between Europe and the rest of the world.  The project was intended to make these bridges “come to life”. 

The bridges we saw are the ones that appear on the 5, 20, 100 and 200 euro bank notes.

We were fortunate that the forecasted rain changed from 8 am to 11 am and as we continued inland, we began to see tulip fields once again but could only get up close to a couple of them and, of course, you are not supposed to enter these fields as they are real farmers’ fields and this is a part of their livelihood – just like you would enter a field of corn or a cow pasture.

We got ourselves parked up for the night early so that we could have time to deal with placing ads to sell Minou as we should be back in France within the week.  It rained most of the afternoon so it was good to be indoors.  The place we parked was at a motorhome dealer lot where they have free parking and you can pay 50 cents per kilowatt hour for power, purchase 50L of water for 50 cents and dump your cassette for free.

It wasn’t fancy but it was level, had a 5G signal, was on pavement and it ndid the job for us.

The photos from our last couple of days are  here.

Today we passed through two tunnels; one was underwater.

We drove 410 km / 255 mi in The Netherlands.  We really enjoyed the lifestyle in this country but not the prices or the constant wind.  It would be cool to be here in winter to skate on the canals though…..

Fun Facts about the Netherlands:

  1. The Dutch are the healthiest in the world when it comes to their diet.
  2. The Dutch are the most physically active European country.
  3. The Dutch invented the first stock market in the world.
  4. There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people!
  5. The Dutch are indeed the tallest nation in the world.
  6. The Dutch produce around 6,000,000 souvenir clogs every year.
  7. Gin was invented by the Dutch and introduced to the Brits.
  8. The Dutch government plans to ban all new gas and diesel cars by 2030.
  9. The Dutch eat more licorice than any other country in the world.
  10. CDs, DVDs and Blue Ray were all invented in The Netherlands.


(featured photo above is from Google not ours)