The Netherlands is a country located in Western Europe with a population of seventeen million. On the western coast of the Netherlands there is a region called Holland, but the name Holland is frequently used to refer to the whole country of the Netherlands. In Old English, the word "dutch" meant "people or nation", but the word "Dutch" came to be used for both the people and the language of the Netherlands.
The city of Amsterdam got its name because the city was built along a dam in the river Amstel. Amsterdam became an important European port during 17th century when the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds.
The Netherlands is a very low and flat country. One quarter of the land is below sea level, and only about half of the land is more than one meter above sea level. Dikes hold back the sea, and new land is created from soil that is dredged when new canals are made.
The Amsterdam Central rail station is a major national railway hub, which opened in 1889. The station is located next to the canals, tramways and bus lines that are an important part of the Amsterdam transit system.
If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, it is worthwhile getting a city tour where you can get on and off the bus to explore some of the most interesting places in the city. There are also canal tours.
The Royal Palace is used occasionally by the royal family. Police patrol the area, but Royal Guards with blue uniforms are on the grounds when the king or queen visit.
The weather in Amsterdam is almost always cloudy with some drizzle. Don't forget to take your umbrella. People who live in Amsterdam say that it rains almost every day.
The Rembrandt House Museum was at one time Rembrandt's home and workshop. Rembrandt lived and worked in this building for twenty years. The museum has been furnished to re-crate a seventeenth-century atmosphere. The museum has a collection of Rembrandt etchings and exhibitions about his contemporaries and students.
There are many interesting things to see in Amsterdam, such as a diamond factory, Anne Frank's house, which requires a 6 month wait for tickets, and museums that exhibit the works of Rembrandt, van Gogh and Vermeer.
The Old Church is Amsterdam's oldest building. It was founded around 1213 and consecrated in 1306. It became a Calvinist church after the Reformation in 1578. The church is located in what is now Amsterdam's red-light district.
The red-light district has shops that sell lingerie, costumes and toys for various fetishes. There are also establishments called "coffeeshops" that are licensed to sell cannabis products, including cookies and brownies. These shops display a green-and-white sign. Coffeeshops should not be confused with cafés or coffee houses (koffiehuis) which are the regular restaurants or bars.
There are many restaurants, bars and clubs in the red-light district. In the evening, some windows display scantily clad live models who tempt passers-by to have a good time after a hard day's work. Nobody raises an eyebrow and life goes on as usual.
The City of Gouda
Gouda is located about 74 kilometers south of Amsterdam. It is about an hour's drive away by car. Gouda, with a population of 72,338, is famous for its Gouda cheese and stroopwafels, which are two waffle cookies held together with caramel filling.
Many restaurants line the sidewalks along the town square. Unlike Amsterdam, Gouda seems more conservative and has fewer tourists.
Cheese, Cheese, Cheese!!! There are many cheese shops in Gouda. I did not see many customers, but the shops must sell a lot of cheese to be able to pay the rent.
Gouda has a 15th-century city hall and several historic churches. The world-famous Gouda cheese is still traded on the cheese market, which is set up along some of the famous landmarks.
The Hague is the capital of the province of South Holland with a population of more than one million. The city is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The Hague has the Dutch parliament and government, as well as the Supreme Court and the Council of State, but Amsterdam has been the capital of the Netherlands since 1814.
The train station in the Hague is a modern building that was completed in 1973. The previous train station was demolished after the new station was finished.
The Hague is a busy metropolis that attracts people from many corners of the world. On the streets you can see faces of multiple ethnicities. Shopping centers are crowded with people looking for bargains and the streets buzz with pedestrians, cars and tramways.
A Dutch delicacy is pickled herring with chopped raw onions. You can find it from vendors in many street corners. The shops have signs warning you to watch out for seagulls that may swoop down to steal your fish.
The Binnenhof is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, Netherlands. This is the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, the Ministry of General Affairs, and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
Zaanse Schans is an area located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) north of Amsterdam. During the 1950s and 1960s many old windmills were relocated to this area. The Zaans Museum, established in 1994, is located in the Zaanse Schans, and it displays windmills of different types. The windmills have been an inspiration for painters, such as Claude Monet.
The Zaans Museum occupies a large area and has shops that sell a variety of Dutch products, including cheese. The friendly employees give you samples of various cheeses and jams that are available for sale.