Notes From the First Couple of Days


Sunday, June 2

Kingdom of the Netherlands

At 14,413 square miles, The Netherlands is roughly the size of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.  Much of the western region is either at or below sea level, with many tract of land - known as polders - reclaimed from the sea.  The eastern partof the country is above sea level, and is even punctuated by a few hills.

Amsterdam

Exciting, exuberant Amsterdam has so much to offer, including stylish bars and great shopping.  The city's liberal front belies a beautiful, historic and charming place - one that's easy to ge around by foot, bicycle or tram.  With hundreds of canals, connected by around 500 pretty bridges, and flowers everywhere you look, there's no other European cgi like it.

Amsterdam has more than 50 museums, including the Rijksmuseum on Jan Luijkenstraat with its magnificent collection of Rembrandt masterpieces and other works by the Dutch and Flemish masters.  The Van Gogh Museum at Museumplein  has the largest collection of works by Vincent Van Gogh.  Lovers of contemporary art head to The Stedelijk, also on Museumplein.  The other must-see is Anne Frank's House on Prinsengrachtwhee Anne and her family lived in hiding from the Nazis for more than two years.

Monday, June 3

Kinderdijk

In the words of the UNESCO organization: "The Kinderdijk-Elshout mill network is an outstanding man-made landscape that bears powerful testimony to human ingenuity and fortitude over nearly a millennium in draining and protecting an area by the development and application of hydraulic technology."

The Netherlands, of course, is famous for its windmills, with none so captivating as those you can explore at Kinderdijk, a village in the province of South Holland, about 15 kms east of Rotterdam.

Granted World Heritage Site status in 1997, the windmills of Kinderdijk are used to pump water from the polders using internal or external scoops into reservoirs on two levels.  At one time the were more than150 in the Alblasserwaard and Vijfheerenlanden areas; this ahead dropped to 78 in the 1870's.  Today the total is only 28, of which 16 are in the Kinderdijk area.

The eight mills that survive on De Neederwaard were all built in 1738.  They are bonnet mills (in which only the top section revolves with the wind), built from brick and with large sails that come within one foot of the ground, hence their name, "ground sailors."  Eight mills are also in place on De Overwaard; all date from 1740 (although on was reconstructed in the 1980s), and are of wooden construction.

The Rhine River

The Rhine is one of Europe's most important waterways, offering some of the most picturesque cruising.  At 820 miles long, it is Europe's longest river, rising in the Swiss Alps and flowing to the North Sea.  The Germans refer respectfully to their longest and most important river as "Father Rhine."

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