Wednesday, March 2, 2011



33,939 sq km (13,104 sq miles).
15,517,000 (1996).
457.2 per sq km.
Amsterdam., Seat of Government: The Hague.
724,096 (1994)., 445,279 (1994).
The Netherlands shares borders to the south with Belgium and to the east with Germany, while the North Sea lies to the north and west. Large areas of The Netherlands have been reclaimed from the sea and consequently one-fifth of the country lies below sea level. The country is flat and level and is criss-crossed by rivers and canals. Areas reclaimed from the sea, known as polders, are extremely fertile. The landscape is broken by the forest of Arnhem, the bulb fields in the west, the lakes of the central and northern areas, and coastal dunes that are among the most impressive in Europe.
Consitutional monarchy since 1848. Head of State: Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard since 1980. Head of Government: Prime Minister, elected for a four-year term. Wim Kok (Partij van de Arbeid - Labour Party) si nce 1994.
Dutch is the official language. English, German and French are widely spoken foreign languages.
38% Roman Catholic, 30% Protestant; 26% do not profess any religion.
GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
220 volts AC, 50Hz. 2-pin European-style plugs are in use.
Telephone: Full IDD is available. Country code: 31 (followed by 20 for Amsterdam, 10 for Rotterdam and 70 for The Hague). Outgoing international code: 00. Telephone information is given in French, English and German. The cheap rate is from 2000-0800 Monday to Friday. Calls can be made from public booths or post offices. Most booths only accept cards, which can be bought at post offices, VVV offices, and shops displaying the PTT-telephone card poster; and sometimes coins (25 cent, G1 and G2.5). Fax: Services are widely available and are also provided by some hotels. Telegram: Facilities are available at all main post offices; telegrams can also be sent directly from telephone kiosks. Post: Stamps are available from all post offices as well as from tobacconists and kiosks selling postcards and souvenirs. Mail within Europe takes approximately five days. Post offices are open 0900-1730 Monday to Friday. Some post offices in major towns are also open on late shopping nights (Thursday or Friday night) and 1000-1300 Saturday. There are all-night post offices in Amsterdam (Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, behind the Royal Palace) and Rotterdam (Coolsingel). Press: The main newspapers are De Telegraaf, De Volkskrant, Het Algemeen Dagblad and NRC Handelsblad (an evening paper). Foreign newspapers are widely available. Amsterdam was founded at the end of the thirteenth century, by the side of a dam on the river Amstel, hence its name, a derivative of the original Amsteldam. From the very beginning, Amsterdam and water were inextricably linked. The first inhabitants settled here owing to the prevalence of fresh water in the area. Exemption from paying tolls on Dutch waterways enabled the locals to make a living from fishing and trade, with the city's wealth reaching a peak in the Golden Age of the seventeenth century. The city's intimate relationship with water is no longer so dramatic, but visitors are likely to notice the water within minutes of arrival. In total, there are now 160 canals, measuring 75.5km (47 miles) in length and covering an area of 171 hectares (423 acres). Of course, visitors are just as likely to encounter water in the form of rain: a near constant in Amsterdam. The oldest part of the city is Nieuwmarkt. Around it lie the first canals - Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht - which were built to protect the city against invasion. Later, when Amsterdam became Europe's leading trade centre (with links to 625 foreign harbours), the canals were useful transport paths. Ocean-going ships would dock in the harbour and smaller boats would carry the goods to the warehouses along the canals. The prosperity of the Golden Age was accompanied by a political and religious tolerance that was unprecedented at the time. As a result, Amsterdam became a magnet for those who had been driven from their own countries; Flemish, Walloon and French Protestants, and Jewish merchants from Spain, Portugal and Central Europe flocked to the city. That tolerant stance continues into the present day; certain 'coffee shops' are allowed to sell soft drugs and the thriving sex industry is legal, with prostitutes paying taxes along with city bankers. But although Amsterdam is famous worldwide for its liberal attitudes, they do not play an overbearing part in the life of the city. Much more dominant is Amsterdam's cultural life. The city, once home to great artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, boasts around 42 museums (including the well-known Rijksmuseum), 41 art galleries, 65 concert halls and theatres - all this in a city centre that is so compact it can be crossed on foot in less than an hour. Dutch architecture is also impressive. While many of the houses are narrow-fronted merchants' homes fronted by traditional Dutch ornamented gables and dating back to the seventeenth century, there are also some stunning twentieth-century buildings. Architects such as H P Berlage (De Beurs, the commodity exchange), Michel de Klerk (the 'Amsterdam School' of architecture) and Aldo van Eyck have earned Amsterdam an international reputation for modern masterpieces.


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