Netherlands: Welcome to Holland
Welcome to Holland
I read in my guidebook that 26% of the Netherlands lies below sea level – meaning the land actually sits lower than the level of the ocean’s surface.
The name ‘Netherlands’ means ‘low countries.’ It is located at the point where several of Europe’s large rivers empty into the sea. This means that much of the land was full of marshes and twisting rivers. People have settled here for thousands of years because these rivers create very fertile soil. However, these same rivers and high sea-tides often brought flooding.
For over 2,000 years the Dutch have been building dikes and dams to control these waters, and, in the process, drained marshes to create farmland. In fact, 17% of the country is actually man-made! This is why there are almost no hills. (More on this a little later in our journey.)
Like many other countries in Europe, the history of the Netherlands is one of changing borders and rule by foreign empires. The first settlers of this area were ancient tribes. In 50 BCE, the Roman Empire took control of the southern part of the Netherlands and ruled for 500 years. Control then passed to various royal families. Finally, after a long and bloody war, the Dutch gained independence in 1648.