Peaks in endless lowlands
A handful of ideas where to go if you are here as businessman, businesswoman or tourist,
with some small explanation how it is possible that we are here.
Amsterdam International Airport Schiphol
About 50 million passengers a year make Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport one of the busiest European airports and a gateway to Europe. Many of these passengers continue their travel after a short stay in Amsterdam to other destinations.
Amsterdam with about 800.000 residents (the region contains 2,2 million inhabitants) is the largest and in cultural and financial/economic respect the most important city of the Netherlands. Despite its modest size Amsterdam is a real metropolis. Many banks and large and multinational enterprises are located here. Amsterdam is 10th in the world ranking list of most important business cities, ahead of much larger cities like Brussels, Berlin, Rome, Milan, Moscow. On the 2009 list of most attractive places to seat a business, the city occupies the 5th place among the large European cities.
Important factors to acquire such rankings are the nearness of the large international airport Schiphol, good infrastructure with great hotel room capacity, a modern subway, adequate railway systems and convenient highways in all directions, the RAI – one of the largest fair and congress/convention centers of this country – and a long historical background of trade and banking. Here in 1606 the first share certificates ever were issued by the VOC, the first global enterprise. The presence of a working population of which a firm number is higher educated is also stimulating.
The famous free-thinking and frank character of the city has a historic background in a long tradition of independence and tolerance towards newcomers and their ideas. Thinkers like Voltaire felt here the freedom to publish their writings. Because the Dutch originally were a reformed republic long before they became a kingdom in 1813, royal palaces have never been built nor were cathedrals. The rulers were traders and their palaces were houses along the famous canals.
The city as a whole with its almost 5000 historic buildings and canal side houses is a living museum, one of the largest on earth, integrated in a modern city. Enjoying Amsterdam is being there, walking around, shopping, going out to a theatre, a museum or café, debating. Amsterdam annually welcomes 4.5 million visitors from all quarters of the world.
The spiritual climate is warranted by a rich number of churches – a ‘forest of towers’ a poet called it – some among them are monumental. Occasionally but too few they weave a tissue of bell and carillon chiming over the old roofs, an authentic acoustic greet to all down there. The more intellectual part comes from two universities and a great number of high schools and academies, among them one for arts and one for film.
Nowhere in the country you will find so many museums. There are over eighty including – of course – a Sex museum, with over 500.000 visitors per year one of the most popular. The Van Gogh museum accommodates the largest collection of paintings and drawings of this artist. Most works from the famous Dutch School with painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer can be found in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. In another part of the old city you will find the Rembrandthuis where the greatest Dutch painter lived and worked. The Anne Frank-huis where young Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during the years of occupation, is drawing 1 million visitors per year.
The city has two large and numerous smaller theatres, music halls and many cinemas. Moreover it possesses the Concertgebouw, famous for his wonderful acoustics and home concert hall of the Royal Concertgebouworkest, commonly considered one of the very best orchestras in the world.
More than 4000 café’s, disco’s, clubs, eating houses and restaurants care for a dazzling nightlife.
One of the city’s world records is the parking tariff. It’s nowhere as high as it is here, but it won’t bother you as passenger of Van Dommelen Personal Car Services.
The Netherlands – the country that reclaimed itself from the North Sea – always maintained a hate-love relation with the water. It came from all sides: from the sea, from the large rivers, from the swampy soil, from the sky. The Dutch combated the water as simply as effectively by filling it up with sand. This delivered us great international fame in embanking sea and rivers, diking and impoldering. Because nature by return did the same as we – filling up our harbors and sea gates with sand – we also developed global reputation as dredgers.
Being a typical delta of some large European streams, not only the unruly North Sea, but also rivers Rhine and Maas (Meuse) are continuous threats. The Rhine is the largest and busiest river of Europe. On its way from the Swiss Alps and going through Germany it collects the waters of rivers like Moselle, Neckar, Main, Ruhr and many more before it flows out in the North Sea beyond Rotterdam. The river Maas comes from the Northeast of France and swells to a considerable stream thanks to the waters from the slopes of the Ardennes, the mountainous East region of Belgium. The river Scheldt also comes from France and Belgium where it waters the sea harbor of Antwerp before it finds its way out in its Westerschelde estuary in the South of the Netherlands.
Because of the low lie of the Netherlands – parts are as low as 7 meters below sea level – groundwater also is a problem. The country is studded with ditches, dikes and with windmills which allow groundwater to be pumped up and drained away.
Without these, parts of the country would simply have been guzzled by the boggy soil centuries ago. Mills, dikes and ditches are still decorative elements in the flat Dutch polder scenery, as can be seen everywhere in the Netherlands but especially at Kinderdijk and the Zaanse Schans.
The sea defense mainly exists of a zone of natural dunes along the North Sea. Where dunes are absent, artificial constructions like heavy sea dikes are made to prevent the water from retaking what it considers to be his. In the Southwestern province of Zeeland where aside of the Scheldt also the river Maas discharges in the North Sea, a number of deep inland penetrating sea arms are closed with a system of technical tours de force. These so-called Deltawerken allow the normal tidal movements but can be closed in case of heavy weather, thus maintaining the vulnerable ecosystem of the estuary, famous for its mussel beds. These impressive works are amply worth a visit by bus or coach and provided the Netherlands an international reputation.
In the North a sea arm is closed by the over 30 km long Afsluitdijk, keeping the North Sea offshore and creating a less threatening lake without tides, the IJsselmeer, of which greater parts are impoldered. This Afsluitdijk starts as a thin line in the sea, an occasional meeting with the horizon, birds, some shrimpers, until you finally reach the other side. A spatial experience on the boundary between salt and sweet water. A must see and feel to everybody.
Farther North is the Wadden Sea, divided from the North Sea by a ribbon of charming Wadden Isles. It is a shallow sea that extends along the coasts of Germany and Denmark. At low tide parts of it fall dry. It is considered the breeding ground of fish in the North Sea and a rest and food area for sea birds and seals. This is the largest nature reserve of the Netherlands.
The water wasn’t only a threat but also a source of income. Since medieval times merchants sailed the seas and rivers and made Holland a thriving nation of traders. You can see the prosperity of those days at the facades of premises in Amsterdam, as well as in old former harbor cities like Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Also numerous fishermen took advantage of the water. In the 14th century Dutch herring fishers invented the gutting of herring, a way of preparing the fish on open sea which kept it fresh so that the herring could be eaten ‘raw at the cart’, still the typical Dutch way of eating herring by simply let the raw fish sink in your throat. Picturesque fishing towns are a.o. Edam, Monnickendam and Volendam and the former isle of Marken, now connected to the mainland by a dike.
Aalsmeerse Flower Auction
With an annual turnover of more than € 4.5 billion the Aalsmeer flower auction is one of the largest in the world and the heart of the Dutch flower culture. Via nearby airport Schiphol lots of high-quality flowers, bulbs and pot plants travel to their new owners wherever on earth, others leave by truck to destinations throughout Europe anywhere. But they are not only Dutch grown. Also considerable lots of flowers, bulbs and plants from a.o. Israel, Africa and South America find their way along the auction clocks of Flora Holland to their new owners.
The ‘geest’ – the sandy soil between the dunes and the polder – behind the long line of dunes protecting North and South Holland against the sea, appeared excellently suitable for the cultivation of bulbs and cut flowers. When these start flowering a spectacular and exuberant colorful carpet of flowers is the result. This can best be seen in the Keukenhof, the park of an old castle near Lisse that acts as the showroom of Dutch flower culture. The whole park is an annually renewed flower exposition watched by millions of visitors from all parts of the world.
Rotterdam with 600.000 inhabitants (region 1.5 million) is the second city of the Netherlands. It’s centre was destroyed during WW II but rebuilt with much feeling for modern architecture. The city profile along the bank of the river Maas is the most beautiful skyline of the country.
Its favorable position at sea and river enabled Rotterdam to develop one of the world largest sea harbors and most important of Europe. The city is the first transit port of goods for Germany that is excellently accessible along railway, road and river Rhine. The next ‘R’ comes from the German Ruhrgebiet, one of the most important industrial zones of Europe, for which Rotterdam is main port. In the past decades the port of Rotterdam is further extended the traditional Dutch way: if there is no space, get it from the sea. So were the first and second Maasvlakte created by impoldering and made suitable for the transshipment of containers and other harbor activities. Rotterdam Europoort is one of the largest petro-chemical areas in the world.
The people from Rotterdam find their city a real workers city with an undisputable no-nonsense mentality. They might be right. It is the seat of numerous large companies like global player Unilever, Fortis, the insurance company Nationale Nederlanden and a number of firm harbor and off shore companies like Smit International with its tow boats.
Most famous of all people from Rotterdam is Desiderius Erasmus who was born here around 1466 and is commonly considered founder of humanism. No wonder that the Rotterdam Erasmus university is called after him. Besides there are three high schools, a conservatory and academies for architecture, arts and dance.
The concert hall De Doelen is the haven of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the cultural pride of the city. The building is also used as congress centre. There are 16 museums of which Boymans Van Beuningen is best known. This museum was awarded the national museum price 2010. Rotterdam Ahoy is one of the largest covered event halls of the Netherlands. It is used for fairs, sports events, concerts and congresses.
Rotterdam The Hague Airport is a regional airport and second in size and number of passengers of the country. From here many charters and business flights are launched.