Netherlands Pictures, Holland
The Netherlands vs Holland
The correct term for this country is the Netherlands (Nederland in the Dutch language means low lands), or more formally ‘The Kingdom of the Netherlands’ (which includes Aruba and the Dutch Antilles).
The reason for the Netherlands/Holland confusion is that the two most important of the country’s twelve provinces – historically the most powerful and still hosting the most important Dutch cities of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam – are called North and South Holland; those were the places that made the country great and those were the places everyone talked about.
Even the Dutch people (aka Nederlanders) call their country Holland from time to time, including at international soccer games.
The origin of the Dutch name/language is a combination of German deutsch and Dutch dietsch meaning language of the common people – as opposed to the Latin language that the posh folk spoke in medieval times.
Biking or inline skating
A typical bike overload beside Keizergracht in Amsterdam. Photo by Lies-Thru-a-Lens
Holland is one of the most cycle friendly countries on the planet as the land is almost flat, about 85 % of Dutch people travel regularly by bikes and most of the time bikes have priority over other vehicles.
There are said to be more bikes than inhabitants (16 million) in the Netherlands. It has about 17, 000 km (including 20 long distance routes totalling 6, 000km) of well-marked cycling paths/lanes and every local VVV will provide appropriate information.
Commercial cycling packages/tours are frequently on offer, too. Detailed cycle maps are available at book stores. Netherlands Railways are cycle friendly as bikes can be carried on trains or rented/ parked/ repaired or even bought at more than 100 stations throughout the country. Check out bike-rental vouchers at the station.
Try the windmill trail, the flower bulb trail, North Sea and Wadden Sea, long coastal routes or riding white bikes in Hoge Veluwe National Park.
Hotels in Holland tend to be expensive and the better value ones are booked up well in advance, especially in Amsterdam and Haarlem, so reserve your room ahead during busy times such as during the Orange Festival at the end of April, during the Easter holidays and in the summertime.
Weather conditions can change rapidly and dramatically in the Netherlands so always carry warm/cool and wet gear with you on your Dutch trip.
Worst: Winters are cool, December-February, but when winds start to whistle across the flatlands, the chill factor freezes your blood and bicycles are not on the menu du jour – a warm, dry taxi will do nicely. However, if you’re visiting for purely urban life and wrap up well then winter can be interesting and is naturally less touristy.
Spring and Autumn involve a lot of rain so grey skies sometimes seem to be Holland’s default setting.