Of course, the Netherlands, which is also known as Holland, has much to offer. After the country gained its independence from Spain in the 17th century, it became the leading commercial nation and maritime power in the world. The delightful historic streets of Amsterdam and many other cities are reminders of that glorious period, called the Golden Age. Increasing prosperity in the 17th century resulted in a cultural and intellectual boom, the fruits of which are still enjoyed today. Every year, tourists from around the world flock to the Dutch museums to admire paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and many other old Dutch masters.
Struggle against the sea
Foreigners immediately associate the Netherlands with its age-old struggle against the sea. They simply cannot get over the fact that most half of the country lies below sea level. Much of this low-lying land has been wrested from the sea by a process of land reclamation dating back to the 12th century. The Dutch are generally acknowledged as Masters of Water Management. A visit to the Low Countries offers a unique opportunity to see for yourself how the Dutch have actually pulled it off: from the age-old windmills to the ultramodern sea-defences.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. Prince William of Orange, who founded the House of Orange, played a pivotal role in the country’s struggle for independence. The present-day monarch, King Willem-Alexander, is well-loved and respected by the seventeen million Dutch citizens.
Despite its small size, the Netherlands has developed into an economic powerhouse over the past decades. The country ranks among the top exporters of agricultural produce. As you would expect, it is even the world’s biggest exporter of flowers and bulbs. The chemical industry, financial services, manufacturing, tourism, transportation (Rotterdam is one of the world’s biggest ports) and trade are also strong pillars of the economy.