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The Netherlands covers an area of about 41,500 sq. km. (~16,000 sq. mi.) with a population of ~16 million (about the same as Florida, USA). A significant portion of the land is below sea level and has been reclaimed by an intricate system of dikes,
 dams, and pumps (windmills). Often called Holland, the country's official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Holland comprises but two (North Holland and South Holland) of the 13 Dutch provinces.

Locator Map for the Netherlands

Click on any picture to enlarge it.

   Map Overview of Our Tour of the Netherlands

Here is an approximate overview mapping our trip through the Netherlands. We started in Amsterdam and made a clock-wise circuit ending back at Amsterdam.

No review of the Netherlands would be complete without windmills, the ancient machines used to pump water, saw wood, and to grind grains.

Holland Windmills   Holland Windmills

Cheeses in Holland   Making Cheese in Zaanse Schans

One of the best-known products of Holland is cheese. Here, we are in
 a store in Amsterdam. We also visited a cheese factory in the town of Zaanse Schans, northwest of Amsterdam.
"making cheese"  "waxing cheese" "Holland cheese" "Dutch Cheese" "Netherlands cheese"   "selling cheese"  "cheese store" "Holland cheese store"  "hand made cheese"  

Holland is a fairly flat country, and, as such, is conducive to bicycle riding. There are so many bicycles that they have their own lanes (see below) and their own parking lots.
 
bike parking  "bicycle parking lot" 

I doubt that there is any other country in the world with such a density of bicycles and bicycle facilities.

Bicycle Parking Lot in Amsterdam
Separate traffic lights for bicycles and pedestrians There are separate lanes and traffic signals for pedestrians, bicycles, and automotive vehicles all over the Netherlands. In this photo (taken in Arnhem) the pedestrian light is RED and the bicycle light is YELLOW. Note that the bike lane has a lower set of lights for those close-up.
"traffic signal for bicycles"    
Amsterdam is the capitol city of the Netherlands, but not the seat of its government (the Hague). It is a delightful mixture of old and new architectures, canals, and beautiful canal houses.
 
"Amsterdam canal houses"   "Netherlands canal houses"   "Holland canal houses"    
Dam Square, the Heart of Amsterdam
Canal Houses in Amsterdam   Glass Canal Tour Boats in Amsterdam There are many beautiful houses along the hundreds of kilometers of canals as seen from the many glass tour boats (right). The boats a very low so as to be able to go under the very low canal bridges.
Aside from canals and bicycles, Amsterdam is known for its Red Light district. This T-shirt (L) commemorates that thought ["Good girls go to heaven - bad girls go to Amsterdam"], (R) a photo of the Red Light District with actual red lights.
 
Amsterdam "Red Light District"  humorous T-Shirt  
T-shirt expressing another Amsterdam sentiment   Amsterdam's Famous Red Light District
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum Amsterdam has a world-class museum, the Rijksmuseum (National Museum) containing famous Dutch painters including Rembrandt, Vermeer (pictured on entrance), and Van Gogh (below).
Featured in the Rijksmuseum's collection is Van Gogh's self portrait. (Non-flash photography is permitted in the museum.)  
Amsterdam museum Van Gogh Art Museum
Van Gough Self Portrait
Rembrandt - The Night Watch Also in the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt's "The Night Watch", perhaps his most famous painting. It is an official group portrait of the civic guard painted in 1642. The main figures are Captain Frans Banning Cocq (in the red sash) and Lieutenant Wilhelm van Ruytenburch (next to the Captain).
 Amsterdam museum Rembrandt Art Museum
We visited the foundry of the world famous Royal Delft Porcelain. There, we found two other versions of Rembrandt's "Night Watch", both in porcelain tiles: a full mural, and a tiled painting. Compare these porcelain versions to the original, above. Entryway to the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory   A Porcelain Mural of Rembrandt's "The Night Watch"

A Porcelain Painting of Rembrandt's "The Night Watch"

The Euromast 'donut', the car that rides up and down the mast.   Closer view of the observation deck, Euromast Tower, Rotterdam

Detail of the Garden at the Euromast Tower

Here is a look at the observation ride on the Euromast Tower. The 'donut' (left) holds about 30 people and rises from the observation deck (middle) to the top of the mast. There it begins to rotate and slowly corkscrews back down to the starting point. The ride is similar to a spaceship launch. On the right is a picture of the sculptured garden around the Euromast Tower. We took this picture from the top of the lift and the shadow line in the center is from the tower.
Left: This is a view of Rotterdam's Erasmus Bridge (called "the Swan") from the Euromast Tower. Right: Jerrold Patz on "the  Swan Bridge" (Erasmus Bridge) in Rotterdam. 
 picture Jerrold Patz  "Jerrold Patz"
Rotterdam's Erasmus Bridge   Jerrold Patz on Rotterdam's Swan Bridge
Royal Palace Het Loo This is the Royal Palace Het Loo  in the Gelderland Province, a former hunting lodge for the kings and queens of the Netherlands.
Het Loo contains an incredible formal garden. These detail photos show Naimah and one of the two zodiac globe fountains. Naimah in the Het Loo Formal Garden   Formal Gardens of Het Loo

Detail from Het Loo's Formal Garden

Peace Palace, the Hague The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and the International Court of Justice. This is the Peace Palace which arbitrates non-criminal issues between countries.
 tourist attraction
This is the statue of Justice inside the Peace Palace portico. Unlike the usual portrayal of 'Justice' as a blindfolded woman with a sword in one hand and a balance scale in the other, this one is wide eyed (so that Justice can stare into the litigants), has no sword (force is not required among civilized people) and is a balance of a female top and a male bottom.
 The stained glass windows depict scenes of law and justice.
Statue of Justice in the Peace Palace, the Hague
Jerrold Patz & Naimah Zakaria on the Barrier Dam, Zuiderzee, Netherlands We are standing on part of the 19 mile long Barrier Dam which separates the ocean (left) from what was an inland sea, the Zuiderzee. Since completion of the dam in 1932, the Zuiderzee has been cut off from the North Sea and has become fresh water. It has been renamed Ijsselmeer (inside lake). Notice the difference in the water levels; the Ijsselmeer (like much of Holland) is below sea level.
picture Jerrold Patz Naimah
"Jerrold Patz"  
We spent an afternoon in picturesque Vollendam, north and west of Amsterdam. Vollendam Harbor   Vollendam Street Scene
Picturesqe Canal in Sloten A street scene from the picturesque village of Sloten.
Jerry and Naimah "trying on" a big wooden shoe. A big wooden shoe
Naimah trying on wooden shoes Naimah trying on a pair of wooden shoes (alone).
The Aalsmeer Flower Market is a bit west of Amsterdam. The connected buildings are larger than 10 soccer fields and are almost fully automated with trams and trains. Almost 70% of all of the cut flowers shipped in the world originate in Holland. Aalsmeer Flower Market
Trading room at the Aalsmeer Flower Market This is a view of the trading area. The brokers sit on bleachers (left) and watch the 'big board', a stock market type auction board. A "Dutch Auction" [starting at a high price and going lower until someone buys] is conducted as each cart of flowers is presented. The two clocks are for two separate markets.
In addition to cut flowers, almost everyone is familiar with Holland bulbs.
picture "bulbs" "Holland Bulbs" "Dutch bulbs" "flower bulbs"       
Bulbs from Holland
Delta Project in Waterland, Netherlands   The Hydraulic Doors of the Delta Project Dam This is a portion of the Delta Project Dam in Zeeland, the southwestern province. Begun in 1953 after a savage North Sea storm killed over 1800 people, the project was completed in 1986. It was the world's largest undertaking in hydraulic engineering. The North Sea is to the left. Windmills use the constant winds to generate electricity. On the right is a close-up of the hydraulic doors of the dam.
We had lunch (raw herring, see below) in this beautiful town Veere in  Zeeland. Note the vintage VW Karman Ghia parked on the left. Picturesqe Village Veere
Eating Raw Herring at a Small Food Stall Here we are, lunching on the local cuisine: raw, salted herring. You eat it by holding the tail and then scraping the flesh from the bones with your teeth. With some sauce, it was actually pretty tasty.
A thatched roofed farmhouse in Staphorst (Overijssel province, east-central Netherlands), a rustic village whose inhabitants still live according to strict Calvinist principles.
[Thanks to Hai-Ping for sharing her photo which was better than ours.]
A Thatched-Roofed House in Staphorst
Souvenir Photo of Jerrold Patz & Naimah Zakaria from Zaanse Schans  No trip would be complete without some kind of souvenir photo. This one was from the village of Zaanse Schans.
 picture Jerrold Patz Naimah
"Jerrold Patz"  

 

No matter how far we travel, there is always a reminder of home. Here at the Amsterdam Central Station is a sign for the Wall Drug Store, 4502 miles away in Wall, South Dakota, USA. These signs are common in the American west. Amsterdam sign for the Wall Drug Store in the USA
Additional pictures of Amsterdam are available here.

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