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Nederlandse versie updated  04-01-2008
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development

The kingdom of the Netherlands is comprised of a large river delta, hydrografically comparable with Bangladesh. The northwestern area consists of swampy peat. The rivers Rhine and the Maas flow here into the always restless and ever changing North Sea. More than half of the land is below sea level. About one thousand years ago the North Sea broke through and devided Friesland in the north. The western part of Friesland is still called west-Friesland, but belongs now to the province of Noord Holland. The new created deep bay became the Zuiderzee. Much later in 1932 this sea was closed off from the North Sea by the man-made barrier dam called afsluitdijk, creating the IJsselmeer. The habitants built dykes against the never-ending threats from the sea and the rivers. Especially the combination of the high spring tides and westerly gales were and can still be dangerous. In February 1953 a storm raved the southwestern part of the Netherlands. Also due to the poor conditions of the dykes a large area flooded. To prevent this from happening again a complex of locks, dams and dykes were built in the southwest called the Delta works starting in 1954 until the late 80-ties. There are interesting maps of the early Netherlands, as around 800 and in 1579 and 1811.

Some people starting to doubt whether the Delta works or the dams and dykes in de rest of the country are strong enough to withstand floods. Were there enough considerations for additional factors like settling of the peat and therefore sinking of the reclaimed ground? There is more rainfall and the sea level rises more than expected in 1953 through climate changes. The outcome of such a disaster will be much bigger because of the citification of the threatened areas.

In the first half of the 15th century, during the time of duke Philips the Good, the term De Nederlanden (the Low Lands) was used as an indication for the several little states and cities in and around the river delta formed by the Rhine, Maas and Scheldt. It covered an area similar to present-day Benelux, formed by 17 regions. In the beginning it was the aristocracy and the church who had the most power, but slowly the cities with their merchants, regents and the upcoming middle class demand and get some influence. Since 1464 the Staten Generaal were holding session; a meeting of the region States to arrange the yearly payments towards their landlord. In 1548 the Low Lands became an administrative unity. The region Staten however kept their large independence: the Staten Generaal only did foreign politics. In 1579 the southern regions formed an union, the Union of Atrecht (or Arras) and, as reaction on this, the northern regions united as the Union of Utrecht. This is the foundation of the constitution of the later Republic. In 1587 these two northern Low Lands united and named itself the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (also called the Republic of the Seven Provinces). But it was not much more than a meeting of representatives from independent provinces who went their own way. Of them the provinces of Holland and Zeeland were the most powerful. With the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the prince of Orange-Nassau claimed a larger area to rule over than he got, but he settled with it and the entire Low Land- area became united as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, ruled in the form of a constitutional monarchy by the House of Orange. This family history goes back until the early fifteenth century.

In 1830 the Belgium (Flemish) part broke away and became autonomous. In 1839 the western (French speaking) part of Luxembourg joined Belgium, while the remaining part went further as the sovereign and autonomous grand duchy Luxembourg.

For the last four generations the royal rulers are women:
After the death in 1890 of king Willem II (the second king of this young kingdom) his wife queen Emma rules for eight years until their daughter is old enough to take over: queen Wilhelmina who will reign for 50 years and experiences two world wars. Recently she is chosen by the Dutch "Historisch Nieuwsblad" as the most important woman of this century. Shortly after World War II her only child queen Juliana takes over and is confronted with our roaring 60's. At the moment we have queen Beatrix (Trix for friends) who is famous for her hats with rather wide rims. Her son, Willem Alexander, a bit chubbyish, tall, blond boyman, maybe will make the change of sex. He is also the groom in the 020202 wedding.
They all have their stories we are not really allow to know.

For historical dates see my links on  Dutch heritage.

 

what's in a Name

Some centuries ago the north-west part of what is now called The Netherlands was covered with trees. That's where the name Holland comes from: holt-land or holtzland (pushcar) which means woodland. In the 16th and 17th century this part was of the most political and economic importance. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Kingdom of the Netherlands established itself in 1815. In total there are twelve provinces, the two in the north-western part are called North-Holland and South-Holland. The official name of the whole country is Nederland (Low Land); in English the Netherlands; in French les Pays Bas and in German die Niederlande. It is in fact wrong to do so but the names The Netherlands and Holland are used interchangeable, even by the Dutch themselves. Just like Nederlanders and Hollanders (literally: people from the still existing provinces of Nord and South Holland).

Our language is about thirteen centuries old and is called Nederlands, or in English Dutch, once wrongly taken from Dietsch or Deutsch which in the Middle Ages meant the language of the people, as opposed to Latin, the language of religion and learning. The name Deutch (German) is now the name of the language of Deutschland (Germany).

The 16 million inhabitants speak Dutch, which is also spoken in the north of Belgium (called Vlaams or Flemish). In the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and Surinam is this language spoken on a small scale. In South Africa is spoken Afrikaans, which originated from Dutch. There is also the (still living) language called Fries, spoken in the north-east of our country.

Our country is completely flat with the exception of the bit hilly middle eastern part: Veluwe (Arnhem-Apeldoorn) and around Nijmegen. And the bit more hilly southern eastern appendix around Maastricht. Some of our land is called polder land which is land mostly reclaimed from sea or lake and lays under sealevel, for example our main airport Schiphol. Where the name Schiphol comes from, is not really clear. The northwestern part is citified and is called the Randstad with the large cities of Amsterdam (capital and largest city), royal Den Haag (seats the government and most embassies), picturesque Haarlem and naval Rotterdam (biggest world port). The center of our country is the pleasant canal-city of Utrecht.

As of all places I would like to mention the city of Helmond: it comes regularly in the news (good and bad) and it has the very distinctive language 'Helluhmonds'. The original inhabitants are known as Kattenmeppers (cat slappers), named after their (former?) habit of eating cats instead of rabbits for X-mas. To show he sells rabbits and no cats the poulterer leaves the feet on the corpus. Helmond was the first town in the Netherlands to put, after the Volendam fire disaster, little plates up with the maximum number of customers allowed in cafe's. And a large part of the African people walk around in colorful dresses, made in the Vlisco factory in Helmond.

For other cities look at the list of  all the Dutch towns.

Together with our southern neighbouring countries Belgium and Luxembourg we form the socalled (not that very usefull) Benelux.

 

Government

"Ask not what you can do for your country,
  ask what your country can do for you!"

Since 1815 our country has a socalled (paradoxical sounding) Constitutional Monarchy with a Parliamentary System or Representation of the people which goes back until 1588.

A brief explanation of how our country is being ruled.
Not all of the following links are in English.
Extensive information in English can be found on llrx.com.

The government is formed by our queen (being the head of state) and the ministers. The head of state is immune and the ministers take the responsibility. The Cabinet consists of all the ministers and state secretaries. They are not a member of the Lower House. The Lower House has 150 members who are directly chosen by the citizens. The Upper House (or Senate) has 75 members, indirectly chosen. The Parlement (or States General) consist of the Upper and Lower Houses. However only in Dutch, the last website gives a clear explanation under the link regering - organisatie - samenvatting.

There are five High Councils of State, known as the Lower House (Tweede Kamer) to control the government and to legislate; the Upper House (Eerste Kamer) to control the government and to pass or adopt the bills; the Court of Audit investigates whether Dutch public funds are collected and spent regularly and effectively; The National Ombudsman is there for complaints against the government. And there is our Council of State who gives advice on bills and international agreements to the head of state. This is also the highest court for disputes between the citizen and his government. The state councillors are appointed for life by the queen, on recommendation of the minister of Foreign Affairs.

We are free to vote on the party of our choice. After the elections there is a socalled Kabinetsformatie healt: a couple of political parties who in total form a majority, will negotiate with each other. Each of them will drop some points of their election program and they formulate a coalition agreement. If it doesn't work out, it is tried again with another party coalition. The direction is in the hands of a socalled (in)formateur who is of course appointed by the queen. Finally, all the ministerial posts will be divided among the members of this new formed cabinet. So it doesn't mean that the biggest party automatically becomes a of the cabinet. Beside that the parties who form the cabinet just might drop those election points which determined the choice of voting.

Our latest long sitting Prime Minister is Wim Kok (1994 to 2002), leader of the purple cabinet. He is the one who successfully has beaten the Dutch millennium bug, and also tried using a mouse as a tv remote on national tv. He is also the one who gave the word poldermodel a new, international known meaning. The Dutch government resigned in April 2002 due to the Srebrenica issue. During the following election campain politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by a left-extremist environmentalist.

The government is situated in 's-Gravenhage (The Hague) while Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city. The queen's palace is in Amsterdam (on the Dam), but she doesn't live in it. Her home is, among many others, Paleis Huis ten Bosch, and her workspot is Paleis Noordeinde, both in The Hague.

On February 2nd 2002, crownprince Willem Alexander and Máxima Zorreguieta got married. The festivities were held in Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands.
Take a look at my  photo report.

We basically have a socialist government, which means that everyone has a basic income (plus holiday money), health ensurance and a roof over their head. This all is resulting in a lower crime rate, no doubt. A workweek consist of max 40 hours, 36 is common. We strive for 32, we have 4 weeks (paid) holidays, and the part-time market is booming.
Interesting present information will be found on the website of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

óne poopie means
oranje in cage
locked up for life










 

Pim Fortuyn

On May 6th, 2002, Pim Fortuyn (1948) was murdered. The Dutch political party leader of the party carrying his own name. A dandy-looking, rather tall professor in the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. A non-conformist and romantic who was open about his homosexuality. Loved by men and women. For many he was the answer to the Dutch backroom politics. He feld himself moving somewhere between the CDA (center christian party) and VVD (liberals).
Take a look at the photo serie of the memorials around the Dam in Amsterdam.



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