Saturday, February 22, 2014

Religion & Weather in the Netherlands

Christianity has had a strong impact on the Dutch where you find a combination of Roman Catholic and Protestantism. 

Advancing with the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Catholic Church began spreading through Europe in the first centuries after the death of Christ. By the seventh century  it arrived in the fertile valley of the Netherlands and was quickly adopted by the inhabitants.

Protestantism came in the sixteenth century with the ideas of Calvinist and Lutherans. These thought leaders found many followers among the Dutch nobility which led to conflict between the Protestants and Spanish controlled Catholics. The result was the Eighty Years War in the late 16th century and early 17th.

Eventually, William of Orange, the Protestant leader, advanced the Peace of Religion, a political move to get the Dutch to join forces against the Spanish oppressor. As a result, in 1648 the Dutch gained their independence from Spain.

Following independence the Protestants and Catholics of the Netherlands combined their efforts toward the common goal of advancing the Netherlands culturally, scientifically and economically to unprecedented heights. As a result, the Dutch prospered, the 17th century, the Golden Age for the Dutch.

Overtime the Dutch drifted away from organized religion toward a more secular society. By 2002 it has been estimated that 41% of the population is not affiliated with any religion and only 20% attend religious services - 31% claim to be Catholic and 20% claim membership in the Dutch Reformed Church.

A recent influx of Muslims looking for work, has led to a over half a million residents practicing the Muslim faith. There is a fairly large Jewish community, though it was significantly diminished during WWII and  people practicing other beliefs such as Humanists,  Buddhists and Hindus..

The peak tourist season goes from June to August, which is known for its hot, humid periods. While tourist flood into the museums, tulip gardens, and cheese farms, the best bet it the summer is to sit in a cafe next to the canals and sip wine of some of the special dutch aperitifs while making local friends. Remember the Dutch begin their holiday the last week in July so they may be sparse in August.

Spring is from mid-March through May. This time of the year, the daffodils bloom in April and tulips in May.  Easter is busy in Amsterdam, but if you can visit on April 30th you can share in  Koninginnedag, Queens Day, and share in a beautify spectacle.

Indian summer starts in early October and is a wonderful time to visit. Tourist volumes begin to drop off and the cities calm down. You can spend leisure time in the Museums and you are sure to find Dutch citizens in the local pubs, which get quite cozy as winter approaches. Prices also drop on accommodations and in small neighborhood restaurants.

Later, in Winter you will experience temperatures close to freezing with snow and ice storms; but, you can also experience the passion the Dutch have for ice skating. Speed skating is by far the top sport in the country. So, whenever you go to the Netherlands, you will find something interesting to do.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Language, Capitol & Currency in the Netherlands

Most people in the Netherlands speak Dutch. It is a West Germanic, Low Franconian language that originated in the Early Middle Ages (c. 470) and was standardized in the 16th century. 

There are also some recognized provincial languages and regional dialects, such as in the province of Fryslân (Friesland) the Frisian language (not a dialect!) is spoken. Except for the western provinces, The Foundation Dutch Dialects (Stichting Nederlandse Dialecten,) recognizes about 3 dialects per province.
Dutch is also spoken in Aruba, Brussels, Curacao, Flanders, Saint Martin and Suriname. Most Dutch people can also speak and understand English quite well.

Netherlands being the most densely populated country of the world has very interesting cities, beautifully preserved nature, and varied landscape, always fresh through the wind from the sea.

Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, stands on the estuary of the bay IJ that is a lake, formerly a bay, in the Dutch province of  North Holland and about 20 km from the North Sea coast. Throughout its 800-year history, Amsterdam has combined a hard-headed approach to commerce and business with a remarkable willingness to experiment with new ideas, from the Rationalism of Erasmus to the revolutionary Protestantism's of Luther, through the republicanism of the 17th century.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city which combines old world charm such as lovely homes on the canals built during Amsterdam's prosperous past, world renown museums to celebrate its greatest painters, and beautiful fields of tulips.  Amsterdam is one of Europe's great centers of visual Arts today.

The Netherlands or Holland?
Here is a little know fact, almost a secret. "What should I call it?  Holland or Netherlands?" Many people incorrectly call the Netherlands, "Holland." In fact, only the central part of the Netherlands is geographically named Holland. This part of the country consists now of two provinces Noord Holland (North Holland) and Zuid-Holland (South Holland). This is the region with important cities as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague (Den Haag), Delft, Leiden and Haarlem.

Today, the Euro is the coin of the realm in the Netherlands. However, it wasn't always the case. In the 17th century, the Dutch Guilder was the official currency of the Netherlands. Here is another piece of trivia. The name Guilder is an English translation of the Dutch name "gulden" which was an adjective which meant "golden."


    Following the worldwide recession, the Netherlands did not avoid the slowdown and unemployment has dropped. In addition, the OE-CD's strategic study points out that the working population is aging. As a result, the Netherlands is stimulating its economy through fundamental reforms to adapt labor institutions for an aging population, increased workforce mobility, and transition to long-term revitalization. This will pay enormous dividends in the future.