Whenever I tell people in London that I'm Dutch, most of the time the response is "Ahhh, Amsterdam!" I am actually not from Amsterdam nor have I lived there and each time this happens it saddens me to realise that that so many visitors don't get further than the capital when they're visiting my country, despite the wealth of gorgeous cities, cultural highlights, fun attractions and other interesting things the Netherlands has to offer.
I want to change this with my new blog series I Love Holland, the one-stop blog-shop to some of the most interesting aspects of my country that are not Amsterdam (but, due to the small size of the Netherlands and the really good transport links, are still easy and swiftly accessible if you travel into the capital).
Holland ≠ NetherlandsHere is your first fun fact: Holland is not actually the same thing as the Netherlands, instead it encompasses North and South Holland, which are just two of our twelve provinces (though they are the ones where many of the big cities, jobs and our population are concentrated).
The reason I decided to call this blog series I Love Holland, rather than I Love The Netherlands, is because not only does Holland roll better of the tongue and is more internationally recognised, but this is also the literal translation of my favourite Dutch TV-show, which is doused in a love for the country, music, food, distinct mentality and quirky habits of Dutch people – all of which I want to enrich visitors' lived with with my new blog series.
A rich history of discovery, and other famous facesThe Netherlands might be a tiny country on the world map, but with 16 million inhabitants and a rich history of discovery and groundbreaking research (did you know CDs, DVDs, and wifi were invented by Dutch businesses?) it is filled to the brim with cultural, historic, natural and entertainment highlights that make it such a unique place to come back to time and time again and discover something entirely new on each visit.
Did you, for example, know that Emmen in the north used to be home to the biggest butterfly garden in Europe? Or that Kaatsheuvel houses a vast fairytale theme park dating back to the 1950s, making it one of the oldest amusement parks in the world? Sure, the history that can be found within the museums in Amsterdam is fascinating, but Rotterdam (which is just a short stop away by train) has a wealth of museums dedicated to specific topic areas, such as the school museum, tax museum and a maritime museum located on an actual ship!
As for famous faces, most people know the classics such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh (though not how to pronounce his last name), Piet Mondrian, Abel Tasman, Desiderius Erasmus and Dick Bruna (the creator of Miffy), but did you know that the TV adaptation of the massively popular Game of Thrones series boosts not one but two Dutch actors in prominent roles (Carice van Houten and Michiel Huisman play Melisandre and Daario Naharis respectively)? And then of course there are people such as director Paul Verhoeven, model Doutzes Kroes and many internationally successful football players, including the legendary Johan Cruyff.
And I haven't even started on the food yet... Chocolate sprinkles on bread called hagelslag, hutspot and stamppot in winter, and more variety of lunch meats, cheeses and desserts than I've been able to find in any other corner of the world on my travels. My mouth waters just thinking about them, and yes, I do come back to London after each family visit with half my suitcase filled with Dutch food staples to treasure and enjoy while overseas.