The Netherlands, often called Holland, lies north of Belgium and west of Germany. The country is remarkably flat and a substantial part of it is actually at or below sea level. In fact, parts of the country such as the province of Flevoland are actually man-made and have been reclaimed from the sea, which explains the boasting of the Dutch: “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands”. Just a few years ago, the Dutch completed the Delta Works, the world’s largest ever flood protection project. Over 10,250 miles of dykes were built to protect the country from flooding. This is why various sections of the Dutch coastline are greeted by a series of dams, canals, sluices and dykes.

Netherlands, however, is not all dams and canals. The true picture of Netherlands is an idyllic one – windmills, countryside farming, fields of tulips, and quaint villages. Add in a few other things the Dutch are known for – wooden shoes, cheese, bicycling, paintings, legalized prostitution and drugs, and liberalism – and you’ll get a more complete picture of this country.

Different people have different reasons for flocking to the Netherlands. Youths often enjoy the country’s open attitudes and its accessibility to soft drugs – what other country have “coffee shops” where marijuana can be purchased? Art enthusiasts are eager to lay their eyes on the precious works of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer. Cyclists might enjoy the flat terrain and the country’s biking culture. Music-lovers and party animals might also enjoy the various dance parades and music festivals that are held every year. Rotterdam, for example, is known for its annual Heineken Dance Parade held in the summer, the Metropolis Music Festival, and the North Sea Jazz Festival, the latter two are both held in July.

The popular tourist destinations in the Netherlands include Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, Utrecht Maastricht, Eindhoven, and Arnhem. Also popular is a group of towns near Amsterdam called Randstad or “Rim town”. This group includes the Hague, Haarlem, and Delft.