Impressions of the Netherlands
It's commonly said in English that Hollanders are the inhabitants of the Netherlands and they speak Dutch, which in Dutch translation means that Nederlanders are the inhabitants of Nederland and they speak Nederlands. Isn't this less confusing than the English way? Moreover, it is also more accurate, because Holland is just one of the regions of the country, be it the most densely populated one, and also the one where important pages of history were written, in terms of scientific discovery, artistic creation, religious reformation, exploration of other continents, etc. After having kicked out the Spanish Habsburg occupants in the 1570s, these Northern provinces of the so-called Lower Countries did indeed live a unique period of prosperity, power and world trade involvement reaching well into Latin America, Africa and the Far East: the Golden Age of the 17th century, uplifting the status of the country to a prime global player and enriching almost all Dutch city centres with mansions of merchant families, public buildings and impressing infrastructure. Infrastructure for water management, by the way, they have always been in need of very dearly in this land near the North Sea, where a hill of 30 metres (including its broadcast antenna), is called a mountain, where a quarter of national territory is situated under sea level and another 30 percent needs the protection of dikes and dams to avoid frequent flooding by the sea. In the North Sea flood of 1953 more than 1,500 square kilometres of land were flooded, at a cost of over 2,500 human lives. So, if climate change and rising seas are an acute issue for the entire planet, in the Netherlands the matter hits home just a bit more sharply than anywhere else in Europe. In the meantime, behind the spectacular dikes and dams lies a wonderful flat country of canals and rural polder landscapes, iconic windmills and picturesque seaside towns associated with world-renowned cheese markets, but also of a refreshingly strong drive for modernity in urban architecture and organisation, like for instance in Rotterdam and other city cores. Or, how maintaining traditions and old ways can go hand in hand with resolute openness to the progression of modernity.