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Wednesday 13th December
Netherlands Information - Page 1
Geography
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is in Western Europe, bordered by the North Sea, Belgium and Germany. The West Frisian Islands, off the coast of North Holland, and islands of the "Dutch Antilles", in the Caribbean, are part of the Kingdom.

The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland and Zuid-Holland.

Amsterdam is the capital city and an important port; the government of the Netherlands is situated in The Hague. Rotterdam is a major city and one of the world's leading ports.

Most of the country is low-lying with a significant proportion of the Netherlands below sea level. Dykes (dams) have been built along the coast and the land drained. In the north the former Zuider Zee, separated from the North Sea by an eighteen mile long dyke, forms a lake called the IJsselmeer. Rivers include the Rhine (Waal and Lek) and the Maas or Meuse.

The climate is temperate with cool summers and mild winters.

Environment
As a low-lying country the Netherlands has waged a long struggle against the sea. Hydraulic engineering has played a huge part in protection against flooding and reclamation of land.

Over forty-five regions are listed by Ramsar as Wetlands of International Importance. De Biesbosch, Weerribben and Waddenzee, on the Ramsar list, are also National Parks. Wadden Sea (Waddenzee), an area of coastal wetlands and dune systems, is a UNESCO MAB Biosphere Reserve.

The wetlands are the habitat of many species of birds such as Bewick's Swan, Great Cormorant, Grey Plover, Redshank and Spoonbill.

Architecture
Over ten thousand buildings in the Netherlands are on the preservation register. In Noord-Holland traditional wooden houses can be seen in Marken (painted green and white) and in the eel-fishing village of Volendam.

In the seventeenth century Amsterdam was Europe's wealthiest trading city. Its golden era saw the development of town planning in the capital. Houses were built along the rings of city canals, the wealthiest merchants living in the city centre. Houses were narrow and high as there was a tax on the width of the buildings. Stepped gables were popular. Expensive spices and goods were kept on the top floors of merchants' houses and hoists with pulley and tackle were used to move goods through the windows.

A development in the Netherlands is the construction of wooden and aluminium floating houses. The buildings are constructed on concrete pontoons and anchored to land. As half on the country's land is below sea-level, with some areas prone to flooding, this may provide a solution to the provision of living space.

Population
The population of the Netherlands was estimated at 16,645,313 in 2008.

Languages
Dutch and Frisian are official languages. English is widely used.

Religion
Over thirty percent of the people are Roman Catholic and twenty percent are Protestant. Over five percent are Muslim.

Food
Dairy products play an important part in Dutch cooking. Milk, butter and cheese are consumed in large quantities together with eggs, sausages and ham. These are accompanied by a variety of breads.

Popular dishes are Dutch pea soup, meatballs, raw herring, smoked eel, and chips with mayonnaise. The Netherlands' colonial past is reflected in the availability of Indonesian food.

Desserts include pancakes and apple pie, both served with cream. Pastries are readily available in the shops together with chocolates and Dutch liquorice.

Beer is the traditional alcoholic drink of the Netherlands.

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