By Susan Thompson
With the end of the school year fast approaching, many of us are beginning to think about summer vacation. If you’re hankering for something a little different than one more trip to the beach, consider visiting Holland this summer. Yes, that’s right, Holland! A popular tourist destination, Holland is home to some of the best cities Europe has to offer. Rich in history, boasting beautiful waterways, lush agricultural lands, friendly people and a temperate climate, Holland is a jewel beckoning to be examined.
Visitors to Holland may hear a variety of dialects, but the main language spoken is standard Dutch. English is widely spoken in Holland and taught in the schools. The Dutch are a no-nonsense, businesslike people. They will shake your hand upon meeting you, explain who they are and thereafter call you by your first name. The formality of titles and last names is absent in Dutch culture.
To the Dutch, food is the fuel that drives the day. They like to eat. The Dutch diet is traditionally a ‘meat and potatoes’ fare with spices rarely making an appearance. The Dutch have a sweet tooth and like their chocolate, sprinkled and spread on bread and biscuits. While in Holland, be sure to include in a bit of the national addiction to ‘Drop’, which is sweetish liquorice eaten in large quantities by young and old. And don’t miss the small snack bars that dot Holland. For a coin or two you can put your hand through a little window and choose from a variety of popular Dutch snacks such as raw herring and stroopwafel, a small cookie made of two waffles with a dreamy caramel syrup filling.
The cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Haarlem and Dordrecht make up the five-star attraction list for any visit to Holland. A great place to begin is in the city of Amsterdam, the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Make sure to visit the Dutch National Museum, with artwork dating to the time of King Napoleon, and an exhaustive list of collections encompassing oriental art, sculpture and handicrafts, Dutch history artwork and artifacts, and prints including Rembrandt’s etchings.
The Municipal Museum is a must see with its modern collection of 19th and 20th century Dutch and French paintings, followed by the Van Gogh Museum which houses the largest collection of Van Gogh artwork in the world along with work by his contemporaries.
The Royal Palace on the Dam, home to the Netherlands’ Queen when she is in the city, is an impressive landmark whose classic architecture houses apartments lavishly and magnificently decorated and furnished in beautiful period pieces to delight visitors. A short distance away, visitors will find the gorgeous 70 acre park Keukenhof, once part of an estate and now a welcoming combination of shops, restaurants, exhibits and the popular yearly open-air flower show considered the largest in the world, with over 700 different varieties of tulips to delight the eye.
Next stop on your itinerary should be The Hague, the seat of Dutch government and the third largest city in the Netherlands. Situated near numerous popular seaside resorts and host to a bevy of annual festivals and events, particularly during the summer months, The Hague also boasts mansions and castles, Gothic churches, museums, and palaces.
Rotterdam, now considered the largest port city in the world, is a popular destination on the southern arm of the Rhine. Rich in historic sites, this city also offers the modern Euromast, a 607 foot tower with two restaurants and observation decks at the site of the Maas Tunnel, a mile long pedestrian tunnel under the Maas River which links city with suburbs.
For those wanting to experience a typical Dutch town, Haarlem is the perfect stop. On the coast between Amsterdam and the North Sea, Haarlem was home to many artists in the 17th century, and a school of architecture, which yielded its many charming, gabled old homes. Today Haarlem is considered a cultural center and home to research, education, and engineering institutes. It’s also an industrial center for shipbuilding and coach-building, railroad workshops, printers and the food industry.
Rounding out the list of ‘must see’ places is the town of Dordrecht, just a short trip southeast of Rotterdam. Its picturesque location along two branches of the Rhine makes it a favorite for vacationers and tourists. The Church of Our Lady and with its carillon of 49 bells and impressive vaulted stone works offers panoramic views from its tower.
Lace up your walking shoes, be prepared to enjoy lots of good food, and settle in to enjoy Holland, its fun-loving people, cities, country sides, rich history and agreeable climate. You’re sure to return home with pictures of tulips and windmills, and a hankering for a handful of stroopwafels.