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Dec 12, 2013

Netherlands, the Kuttanadu in the West

Prakash Kollat
image The ‘Netherlands’ means “Low Country” in Dutch as half of its surface area is less than 1 meter above sea level. A liberal country with social tolerance in its drug policy, prostitution, euthanasia performed legally since 2002 and recognition of gay community by legalizing same sex marriage since 2001. A charming state with her purity in Nature with rivers, flowers and trees. after some purchase from the busy Oxford Street, London, we departed to Harwich International Port of UK for our onward journey to the Nederland (the Dutch land), the country with highest per capita income in the world. At 7 pm we boarded the Stenaline Cruise . We took 12 hours to reach the destination. Travel on board in the international cruise was amazing and the cruise had lot to offer us on board starting from a great choice of food with a mini bar and a mini casino to duty free shops where we could spend last few pounds we had. The cruising experience through the English channel was one of its kind for all of us. We tried spending some time at the deck resisting the chilly wind but I guess it is only the English blood who can defy the wind. The next day morning we alighted the cruise at Netherlands and the city welcomed us with cold calm weather. We proceeded our journey in a luxury bus. It was drizzling with cold waves. Streets were almost empty but each sight was worth a post card. As the land is below the sea level and flat, water logging is controlled by canal system here. The roads are well kept with flowering trees along the lane. Tile roofed small houses are seen everywhere and each has a charm of its own. All houses are having canal system to control floods  and they are not separated with compound walls. It is known as land of rivers or canals. During the historic times, the country was experiencing heavy floods and this was controlled by introducing the canal system  and wind mills to pump the water. One of the interesting facts we came to know during our visit was that this country has at least 15,000 km of cycle tracks and almost every Dutch person has a bicycle. Every lane has a separate area identified for bicyclist and pedestrians and it’s disrespectful for a person to walk through the bicycle lane.   The boats are their next source of transport

 

By enjoying the natures beauty, well designed roads, canals and gardens we arrived at the Hague, the seat of the Government, the head quarters of International Law of Justice. There, we visited the world’s, largest miniature park constructed by Fernando de Ercilla Ayestram in 1955 called the “Madurodam”.  The  Madurodam miniature Park was named after George Maduro, a Jewish Law student who died in 1945 fighting with Nazi, the German invaders. His parents donated the fund for the Madurodam project. The park is the miniature of Netherland city, Amsterdam. The park clearly envisages how a city is to be created and what type of facilities is to be provided to the public. . It is worth seeing and provides a guidance and insight for the people of our Country how to have a self contained city.On spending nearly 2 hours in the park, enjoying the replica of a city, like railway station, aerodrome, ship channels, shopping malls, gardens, Dam etc we moved to Denmark, a village area. Denmark famous for cheese, dairy products and wooden shoes. The main occupation of the people is in agricultural activities. Livestock is one of their prime activities. It is very interesting to note that how they prepare cheese which can be stored years together. The cheese is very hard and we cannot break as easily as in India. Unlike in India, the buttermilk after taking out of the cheese is being given back to cows. Varieties of cows are grown there with proper nursing and the cow sheds are clean & tidy. The cheese is being exported to the other parts of the world. 

The wooden shoes, rarely seen in other parts of the world are a peculiar product of Denmark. The shoes are using for working in the agricultural fields, as the fields are always marshy. Rivers were flowing with full of cold waters and people were moving by rowing through the rivers and a mode of transportation. By afternoon, we travelled towards Amsterdam, the capital of Netherland. We got down at the central railway station around 2pm and had our lunch & started to explore the city. The city is the financial capital and having the oldest stock exchange of the world. The city is surrounded with canals and travel in glass top boats were very enjoyable. The crowded street, Amstel railway station, Rembrandt Tower, the head quarters of the Philip electronic company, ING Bank, Annie Frank House, Red light district, Museums and other heritage building are worth to see. Like our Thattukada, there too having street shops with quick food. However it seemed neat and clean without any dust.

 

Annie Frank house Museum is located on prime center of the canal. The lane No 265, where Annie Frank hide for 2 years in a shelf from the German invaders (Nazis) during Second World War by writing the Nazis’ atrocities. Finally she was caught and killed by the Nazis. Later the writing published as “the dairy of a young girl”. In her memory a museum was opened where the diary and the shelf are displayed.

 It is to be noted that the entrance of almost all the houses are narrow and widows are very large in size. The household articles, furniture etc are being taken through the widows to inside the house. It is learned that, in the early times if the doors were large, the occupant had to pay heavy tax and to avoid it the entrance of the house was made as narrow. But the practice is still going on there and all the buildings are unique in construction except the modern ones.

The red light district, infamous part of the city just 10 minutes walk from the main railway station, is another place of tourist attraction. Back to 14thcentury when sailors arrived and they were in need of female company. The place, the Red Street, was full of sex shops, brothels, gay bars, cinemas, hotels and museums. The area is having around 250 windows in red curtains and red light with sexy girls with eye popping dresses. A tolerant community where freedom is highly valuable.

Many of the Dutuch still have a utilitarian approach to eating, two slices of brown bread, a slice of cheese and a glass of buttermilk as standard lunch. It is true that meat and two vegetable curries are considered the holy trinity of their cooking. The people of the Netherland are using high varieties of vegetables in their food. As in India, the use of Potato in abundance in every dishes. Visitors has to eat their way through, with one too many bowls of pea soup so thick with spoon can be found everywhere. The meals are with leafy green salads and cold cooked vegetables dressed in olive oil and garden herbs or edible flowers with plenty of wine. Warm fishes and meat dishes, savory pies and pastries followed. The meal use to end with preserves, cheese, nuts and sweet pastries with sweet spiced wine.

The Government protects their subjects with, free education, Pension, free medical care. The insurance are mandatory and taken care by govt. Taxes are high in rate, ranging from 52% to 60%. Availability of employment are high and the only one European country does not affect by the economic crisis.

Julies Caesar, found the low lying Holland inhabited by the Nervi, Frisi tribes in a bad living conditions. Almost half of the country’s areas were below the sea level. The reclamation of the land from the sea through dikes had started after that. Now all drainage reaches to the North Sea and principle rivers, namely Rhine, Meuse and Schelde, which starts from other countries.   We had two hours journey in the boats through the canals enjoying the different parts of the city in the midst of the cold wave. By evening we left to Belgium by the same luxury bus and reached at Mechelen, the city of Diamond in Belgium. We had our dinner from one Gujarati Hotel, near State Bank of India Branch. The Netherlands is a land of beauty and charm, worth to see and experience!!