Much of this country might be below sea level, but when it comes to interesting cultural activities, unique tourist attractions and creative cuisine, Holland certainly punches above its weight
OFFICIALLY, Holland is not the same as the Netherlands. Historically, wealthy counts ruled the two western provinces, North Holland and South Holland (as they exist today), and together they formed Holland.
As it was prestigious to be from that region, people from the rest of the Netherlands started calling themselves “Hollanders”, and so gradually everyone came from “Holland”. Nowadays, both terms are used to denote the same country, though many Dutch cringe at the sound of “Holland”, as they believe it to sound boorish.
For the sake of descriptive ease, “Holland” here means the same as “the Netherlands”.
In Holland, people speak Dutch, which people from South Africa will understand because of the historical link between the countries.
To some, however, it will sound as if the Dutch are suffering from a slight speech impediment. Not to worry; some Dutch feel exactly the same way about Afrikaans.
Most people in Holland, however, will speak a fair amount of English, which makes travelling around the country a piece of cake.
Holland is so much more than windmills, tulips, cheese and cowfilled fields that are “zo plat als een dubbeltje” (as flat as the original coin, now worth 5 eurocents). In fact, it is amazing how such a small country has so many great places to discover and enjoy.
One of Holland’s top sights is, of course, Amsterdam – a compact, canal-filled city with a snug atmosphere. Littered with leafy trees and stray bikes, Amsterdam is a fantastic city to explore by canal boat, bike, or on foot.
From Central Station, meander along the restaurant- and store-lined Damrak to the Dam (Dam Square) to admire the World War ll monument: the palace ( where King WillemAlexander kissed his Argentinian bride on the balcony not long ago); the Bijenkorf (famous department store), and buskers and pigeons.
Dip into the Kalverstraat (the most expensive shopping street on the Dutch monopoly board) and gradually make your way to other top- notch sights such as the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank Museum and the Leidseplein.
Have a relaxing pot of tea at Het Blauwe Theehuis (The Blue Tea House) in the middle of Het Vondelpark; the home of green picnic fields, a fountain, an open- air theatre and rollerblading fanatics.
At night, one could always take a quick look around the notorious Red Light District, where women are illuminated in the windows of half-hidden gentlemen’s clubs and secret corridors.
Wade through wafts of marijuana escaping from the countless shops that don’t sell just coffee, and past those with endless supplies of intriguing adult toys.
Amsterdam, though, is only one of the many places to visit and soak up some Dutch culture. For about R500, you can hop on a bus and drive through the countryside to see Volendam and Marken, two tradi-