Holland is a small country, but offers surprising number and variety of attractions and theme parks. It has an excellent road network to get you to your destination in no time and it has not got any tolls. There are three main ports in Holland, Vlissingen, Rotterdam, and the main destination from the UK, Hook of Holland. Over a third of Holland is below sea level. The density of the population and intensity of land use along with the flatness of the land forced the Dutch to be very conscious of environmental issues such as pollution and rising sea levels caused by global warming.
Holland s uniquely atmospheric capital, Amsterdam is the most popular destination, while the rest of the country, despite its accessibility, is comparatively untouched by tourism, although it has a lot to offer. Maastricht is one of the Netherland's oldest towns and has a lively international feel with its history stretching back to Roman times; Hoge Veluwe is the country's largest national park and home to the wonderful Kröller-Müller Museum; The Randstad (ring city) translates as 'Urban Agglomeration' and is Holland s most densely populated region, spreading in a circle from Amsterdam, Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, Haarlem, Leiden and Delft; The Hague is a stately home of the government with fine museums and easy beach access; Groningen in the north is a busy cultural centre; the area's most spectacular sight is the bulb fields near Leiden, which explode into colour between March and May; Keukenhof, south of Haarlem, is the world's largest garden.
The Netherlands is associated with many famous painters starting with Hieronymus Bosch, with his 15th-century religious works charged with fear, distorted creatures and agonised people; Rembrandt, with his use of light and shadow, created shimmering religious scenes and led the historic artists of the Golden Age, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer, the contemporary masters of portraiture and daily life scenes; Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) who spent much of his life in Belgium and France, but is very much claimed by the Dutch as one of their own, with his early works the dour Potato Eaters, painted in his homeland, but the later impressionistic works were greatly influenced by French artists; Piet Mondriaan who introduced cubic De Stijl movement; the 20th century saw the perplexing designs of Maurits Escher.
The Dutch offer delightful dairy products and superb sweet snacks with heavy and meaty traditional Dutch cuisine. There are international options of Indonesian, Chinese, Surinamese, Turkish and Italian cuisine. The national fast food is patat (chips). Beer is the staple drink, served cool and with a big head of froth.
The Netherland's early history is linked with Belgium and Luxembourg; the three were known as the 'Low Countries' until the 16th century, when the present-day Netherlands' boundaries were roughly drawn and the region's northern provinces united to fight the Catholic Spanish rulers, Holland became synonymous with the independent country after Spaniards were expelled in 1648.
Amsterdam came onto the European stage in what was the province of Holland's most glorified period: the Golden Age from about 1580 to about 1740. In 1795 the French invaded and Napoleon appointed his younger brother Louis as king. Soon, when French occupation came to an end, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, incorporating Belgium and Luxembourg, was born. The first king, King William I of Orange, was crowned in 1814, and the House of Orange rules to this day. In 1830 the Belgians rebelled and became independent; Luxembourg did the same soon after.
The Netherlands' modern history saw the country lapsing from global prominence into comfortable obscurity; it began to put into place innovative social programs, many of which survive today. The Netherlands was able to stay neutral through WWI but couldn't exercise the same privilege in WWII. The Germans invaded in May 1940, obliterating much of the centre of Rotterdam in a bombing blitz four days later. The Netherlands is a staunch supporter of the European Union; it has adopted the euro, and further integration is taken for granted by most Dutch people.