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Archive for netherlands

Christmas Underground

By Linda Tancs

You might think that if you’ve seen one Christmas market in Europe, then you’ve seen them all. If so, then you probably haven’t been to Valkenburg in the Netherlands. In addition to its overground festivities, the town offers underground enchantment in its marlstone caves with stalls, lights and almost 100 feet of miniature villages. Wrapped in Christmas spirit from top to bottom (literally), the city styles itself Christmas Town. You can experience the fun from mid-November to early January. If you visit on a weekday, then you’ll experience less crowding.

Serenity in Schiermonnikoog

By Linda Tancs

Car-free and carefree. Those might be the best attributes to describe Schiermonnikoog, the smallest inhabited island of the Dutch Wadden Sea islands. The entire locale is a national park, a place teeming with beaches, dunes, forests, tidal marshes, lakes and tidal flats along with hundreds of plant and bird species. It boasts the widest sandbar in Europe (the Rif) as well as the oldest house in the North Sea islands and a whale jaw over three feet high. It owes at least part of its tourism to Klozum, a costume festival that takes place on December 5 each year. You get there via ferry from the port of Lauwersoog in the Dutch province of Groningen.


To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

A Dutch Hansa Town

By Linda Tancs

The Dutch Hanseatic towns are seven towns along the IJssel River, part of the Hanseatic (Hansa) League, a once powerful confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in northwestern and central Europe. One of those towns is Kampen, a charming place boasting its mercantile roots with historic warehouses and a fish market near the old town hall that has been doing business since the 14th century. It even hosts a replica of the medieval merchant ship De Kamper Hanze Kogge. Once the site of a prosperous tobacco industry, De Olifant is the only brand still produced in the factory on Voorstraat. Take the Kamperlijntje train from Zwolle, just nine miles away.

Peat and Reed in the Netherlands

By Linda Tancs

Thanks to human hands cutting peat and reed, the largest lowland bog in Northwest Europe was formed. That area now comprises Weerribben-Wieden National Park in the Netherlands. It’s a unique landscape brimming with lakes, reedlands, marsh and bogs. Some species are even dependent on the bogs for survival, such as water soldiers, water lilies and round-leaved sundew. The park also houses almost the entire Dutch population of the large copper butterfly and the Norfolk damselfly. The best way to explore the park is by boat. Electric boats, rowboats and canoes can be rented in Giethoorn and other places in the park. Be on the lookout for rare animals that live there, like otters and black terns.

An Antique Planetarium

By Linda Tancs

Nowadays it’s not unusual to find a model solar system hanging from the walls of a classroom. But it certainly would’ve been a spectacle in the 1700s to build an accurate model right in one’s living room. That’s what amateur astronomer Eise Eisinga did in the northern Netherlands. Built between 1774 and 1781 in a Franeker canal house, the working model represents the oldest operating planetarium in the world. His home, now known as the Eise Eisinga Planetarium, also offers a beautiful collection of astronomical instruments and a contemporary exhibition about our solar system and the universe.

Holland’s Highest Tower

By Linda Tancs

The Dutch city of Utrecht was built around the Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in Holland at 367 feet. Undoubtedly an iconic symbol for this centuries-old university town, the tower has survived violent storms, occupations by foreign powers and fires. Its 14 bells are still rung by hand in the “ringing attic.” No doubt you’ll hear them along the city’s beautiful canals with wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water.

The 2018 European Capitals of Culture

By Linda Tancs

Malta and Leeuwarden (Netherlands) share strong agricultural ties in the nature of potatoes. Maltese farmers grow potatoes from Leeuwarden seeds and send those crops to Leeuwarden. How appropriate, then, that Leeuwarden and Valletta (Malta) are the European Union’s 2018 Capitals of Culture. In a unique display of solidarity, the locales have joined in an effort called Poetry in Potato Bags. This initiative involves the sending of local poetry with the exchange of seeds and potatoes, enriching poetic dialogue between the two cultures. Look for many events to be held throughout the year in each city highlighting their social, cultural and economic assets.

Europe’s Offshore Ferris Wheel

By Linda Tancs

Scheveningen is Holland’s most famous seaside resort. Just 15 minutes away from The Hague city center, it boasts fabulous beaches, dining experiences and yearlong cultural events. Add to that Europe’s first Ferris wheel built over the sea: Skyview de Pier. Over 131 feet high, the wheel has 36 closed gondolas with air conditioning, including one VIP gondola with a glass bottom. Seating up to six people per gondola, the ride lasts 20 minutes and is open daily.

Dutch Blue and Orange

By Linda Tancs

Blue and orange embody the Dutch city of Delft. For instance, its blue earthenware has been a popular export for over 400 years. Royal Delft, established in 1653, is the last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century, and its prized pottery is still entirely hand-painted according to centuries-old tradition. The canal-ringed city in the western Netherlands is also the former seat of the royal House of Orange (named for a medieval province in southern France). One of the oldest royal families in the world, almost every deceased member of the family since William of Orange has been interred in the royal crypts at the New Church.

More Than Cheese

By Linda Tancs

Edam is a semi-hard cheese that originated in the Netherlands and put its namesake city on the map. But there’s more to this city than its cheese. In fact, shipbuilding is a prosperous part of its history, giving birth to Halve Maen (Half Moon). That was the ship assigned to Henry Hudson by the Dutch East India Company to chart a new route to Asia. Instead, bad weather found him charting the river in New York that now bears his name. Prized today for quaint shops and canals, it also boasts a fort with spectacular views of the wetlands. And, oh, about the cheese: the cheese market was the hub of the city in the Middle Ages where farmers brought their cheeses to be weighed, sold and exported all over the world. Re-enactments of the market’s hustle and bustle are held on Wednesdays during the summer from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Look for signage to Kaasmarkt.

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