Getting To Know The Faces Of Holland


bikes


Holland‘s most recent campaign, “Faces of Holland,” allows travelers to get to know the iconic facets of the region. Here are the six “faces,” and how you can meet them for yourself.

Bicycles

Biking and Holland are almost synonymous. In fact, out of Holland’s 16 million inhabitants, 18 million own bicycles, which means there are more bikes than people. With a flat landscape and over 18,000 cycling paths, there are many opportunities to enjoy the active pursuit.

Renting Bicycles

Biking in Holland is safe and there are many marked routes, even in busy cities. In Amsterdam, a majority of bikes are old-fashioned, one-speed cycles with a back-pedal brake. You can get a biking map from the tourist office, which also gives information on safety, routes, repair shops and restricted areas. Major rental shops include Bike City, which use traditional bikes to disguise you as a local, Mike’s Bike Tours, which offers daily tours and rentals, and Damstraat Rent-a-Bike, one of the cheapest options.Amstel Gold Race

This race began in 1966, with the original organizers being sponsored by Amstel Gold. The brewing company has been a part of the event ever since. Generally, it’s held in April, with the best international professional teams riding from the market at Maastricht to the Cauberg in Valkenburg. The race is part of the UCI World Tour.

Limburgs Mooiste

Originally a touring version of the Amstel Gold Race, the event expanded into professional and family tours. Professional routes include two 60-mile tracks, one with more hills than the other, and a 93-mile challenge. The next event will be Sunday, May 26, 2013.

4Days Cycling the Achterhoek

At this annual cycling event, riders cycle distances of 16 to 37 miles in the Achterhoek past castles, windmills, forests and farmlands. The next event will be August 6 through 9, 2013.


cheese


Cheese

The Dutch love cheese. In fact, they eat about seven pounds of it each year per person. Holland is home to two famous cheese destinations, Gouda and Edam. Gouda, the city of cheese and stroopwafels, or syrup waffles, has earned an international reputation thanks to its rich gouda cheese. A visit to both places in the summer will allow you to see a traditional cheese market, with the delicacy being traded in the same way it was centuries ago. In Gouda, you can find the market on the square between ‘Waag’ and City Hall. In Edam, 18th century cheese warehouses sit along the canal, with the market being in Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square.

Even when it’s not summer, visitors can still enjoy Holland’s rich cheese culture. In Amsterdam, there are a plethora of cheese shops where you can go to sample a large variety of cheeses, which is one of the city’s top three exports. If you want many choices, head to L’Amuse, located on Stadionweg in the Oud Zuid neighborhood. With over 400 varieties, their cheeses are stored in climate-controlled facilities specific for each cheese. Additionally, Kaashandel Kef on Marnixstraat was the first to specialize in French cheese and is still well respected for their French and Dutch types. To taste cheeses from one of the most popular shops in the city, visit
Reypenaer Shop and Tasting Room on Singel. This small cheese company offers tastings and classes in their basement.

For another cheese experience, visit the Alkmaar Cheese Museum. Located on the second and third floors of the Alkmaar cheese-weighing house, visitors can learn about cheese making, its history and how it relates to the culture of Holland. Some exhibits include illustrating the contrasts between cheese making on a farm and in a factory, as well as historic portraits and life-sized costumes of North Holland 16th century dress. Guided tours are available throughout the year with a reservation.


portrait


Dutch Masters

Many influential and pioneering artists like Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals were Dutch, developing an international reputation in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Dutch Masters changed the art world with their brush strokes before, during and after the “golden era of painting.” Additionally, they positively affected the culture in the 17th century as trade grew and battles were won, allowing more people to afford art.

There are various museums located around Holland where you can see the works of these Dutch Masters. In Amsterdam, there’s the Rembrandt House Museum, which showcases works from the artist and gives free demonstrations on how Rembrandt made his etchings and prepared his paint. There’s also the Rijksmuseum, which features paintings from the Dutch Golden Age as well as Asian works, and the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, where you can learn about the artist’s life and see his art. Outside of Amsterdam, you can head to Delft to visit the Vermeer Centre and see the work of Johannes Vermeer. And in the Hague, you’ll find an expansive collection of Golden Age paintings in the Mauritshuis.


canals


Canals

Many Dutch cities, like Amersfoort, Alkmaar, Dordrecht, Leiden, Utrecht, Leeuwarden and Groningen, were built with canals as a focus. The most famous canal city in Holland is, of course Amsterdam, whose canal district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the city’s name is the “Venice of the North.” Along with simply strolling along these waterways, you can experience them in the following ways.

floating dutchmanRenting Boats

Renting boats and floating around the city, taking photos and enjoying a picnic.

The Floating Dutchman

The Floating Dutchman is a floating bus tour in Amsterdam (shown right), that starts at the airport Schiphol or the Amsterdam City Center, drives around the city then splashes into the water to continue the tour for 45 minutes through the canals.

The Houseboat Museum

Located in Amsterdam near the Anne Frank House, The Houseboat Museum was created by houseboat owner Vincent van Loon when he noticed how curious visitors were about his floating home. You can take a tour and learn about houseboat living and typical Dutch decor, purchase a gift in the shop or grab a coffee in the 1950s style Dutch-lounge.


tulips


Tulips

Holland is home to the world’s largest flower park, Keukenhof, where seven million tulips bloom annually. Their love of tulips runs deep, and there are numerous sites and events taking place each year to help locals and visitors experience it for themselves.

Amsterdam’s Floating Flower Market

Located in the Singel Canal, flowers are sold on floating barges. First held in 1862, the market is a symbol of the old days when plants were shipped and sold on boats. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is located in the Jordaan neighborhood and outlines the history of the tulip in the Netherlands. While small in size, visitors can learn interesting facts like how tulips were used as food during wartime and how the flower helped the Dutch economy during the mid-17th century.

Holland’s Botanical Gardens

There are many worthwhile botanical gardens throughout Holland showcasing their prized tulip. The oldest in the Netherlands is Horus Botanicus located in Leiden, which has been collecting and analyzing plants for over four centuries. There’s also Hortus Haren in Haren, which has 20 acres and 15 gardens of tulips, fruits, herbs, coffee bushes, cinnamon trees, Chinese gardens and more.

Events

There is an array of tulip events throughout Holland. “Get Into The Greenhouse” takes place the first weekend in April. This is when greenhouse owners allow visitors to learn about produce and flower cultivation, see demonstrations and take cooking classes. There’s also the annual Tulip Festival each spring in the Noordoostpolder, home the largest amount of tulips in the country. Attendees can hike, bike or take a wagon tour or a carriage ride through the flowers. In the winter, travelers can experience the Holland Flowers Festival and stroll through colorful gardens, learn about cultivation and be exposed to the latest trends in Dutch gardening.


windmills


Windmills

Windmills are a large part of Holland’s culture, with five of the world’s largest windmills being in the center of Schiedam in South Holland. They are over 130 feet high, and played a large roll in the production of gin. Additionally, in the village of Kinderdijk you can find a UNESCO Heritage-titled mill network of 19 polder draining windmills. Along with visiting these areas, you can experience windmill culture through:

Windmill And Beer At Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Brouwerij ‘t IJ in Amsterdam is a combination of windmill and brewery, as it sits in front of Molen de Gooyer windmill allowing visitors to experience Dutch culture in two different ways. The beer is 100% organic, and the tasting bar is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Originally built in 1725, Molen de Gooyer is one of six original windmills in Amsterdam still standing today.

Molen de Valk

Built in 1785, Molen de Valk in Leiden was made into a municipal museum in 1966, with exhibits on the milling process, books and tools from the last miller. The windmill is still in operation, and you can purchase flour onsite.

Celebrating National Mill Day

Each year on the second Saturday of May, the locals of Holland celebrate National Mill Day. This is when 600 watermills and windmills welcome the public to come learn more about this Dutch icon. Not surprisingly, many locals like to explore the mills by bike.

[Images via the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions]

Photo Of The Day: Turkish Tulips

Photo Of The Day - Turkish tulips

April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes. We’re getting plenty of rain this month in Turkey, but we’ve had flowers. April is the big month for tulips in Istanbul, and you can see them planted all over town as 11.5 million were planted for this year’s season. I took today’s photo at Emirgan Park, one of the prime viewing spots of the Istanbul Tulip Festival. There are over 100 varieties planted in Emirgan Park alone, many in interesting patterns like the nazar evil eye, a major symbol of Turkish superstition.

You probably associate tulips with Holland, but it was Ottoman Turks who first cultivated them and introduced them to the Dutch in the 17th century. Today, Turkey is trying to reclaim the flower, growing millions of tulips with a goal of becoming an exporter again by 2014. Along with fresh flowers, you can see the influence of the tulip in the shape of the Turkish tea glasses, and as legend has it, the shape of the sultan’s turbans.

Have a springtime photo to share with us? Add it to the Gadling Flickr pool for our next Photo of the Day.

Six Of The Most Scenic Train Trips In Europe

Forget flying around Europe. At 30,000 feet it’s impossible to truly experience the continent’s remarkable landscapes. Rather than being shuttled around in a plane that only allows a birds-eye view, train trips immerse travelers in the terrain. There’s a reason why trains are often thought of as the most romantic mode of transportation: riding the rails makes you feel more connected and in tune than air travel ever could. Instead of feeling like a chore, as flying often does, train travel can be an experience in itself. In fact, there are plenty of scenic train rides in Europe that are worth the trip just for the view. The following are top rated train trips, and from the rolling hills of England to the craggy Alps of Switzerland, each one offers travelers something different.

6. United Kingdom
London to Edinburgh
The rolling, green hills and moors that are often associated with Yorkshire make this one of the most scenic train trips in Europe. When entering the northern parts of England, travelers will catch glimpses of the rugged coastline along the North Sea. During the 4 1/2-hour train ride, English speakers will notice a distinct difference in passenger accents as the train gets closer to Scotland. Although the common language is English, it can be hard to decipher as the Scottish brogue gets thicker and thicker.

[Flickr photo via boutmuet]

5. Holland
Amsterdam to Groningen (best in April)
In Holland, the most scenic train trip isn’t necessarily about being on the right track; it’s actually all about timing. Travelers will want to hop onboard in spring – particularly in April – to see the blanket of colors that results when the famous Dutch tulips are in full bloom. On the two-hour route between Amsterdam and Groningen, travelers will also be able to spot plenty of windmills, another quintessential part of the Dutch landscape.


[Flickr photo by Amy Bonner]

4. Italy
Rome to Verona to Venice
Train trips don’t get much more romantic than the ride from Rome to Venice, especially if you make a stopover in Verona. The train ride starts in Rome, the enchanting “Eternal City,” and then makes its way through the Tuscan farmlands to Verona, a pleasant city famous as the setting for Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet.” Make a day of wandering around the city’s lovely corridors (pictured above) and passing some time in a local cafe or bar. Then head to Venice, Italy’s famed “Floating City,” that is by far one of the most romantic destinations in the world. The train approaches through Venice’s lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, and upon arrival you can hop on a gondola ride for two – what could be more romantic than that? Another scenic train trip in Italy is the route from Venice to Trieste. On this trip, the train hugs the coast of the Adriatic Sea until reaching Trieste, a charming destination with beautiful sea views and several cafes and pubs for you to spend your days and nights in.

Balconies in Verona, Italy [Photo by Libby Zay]

3. France
Montpellier to Nice
The train ride through southern France from Montpellier to Nice is another visually stunning trip. From Montpellier to Marseille, travelers will see the typical Provençal landscape of red-colored soil, tall cypress trees and expansive fields of lavender and olives. As the train gets closer to Nice, the coastal scenery along the Mediterranean Sea comes in to view. Note that if you have a France Rail Pass, it’s possible to break the ride up to spend some time exploring small Provençal towns, such as Aix-en-Provence, the famous home of Paul Cézanne, or Nimes, with its stunning Roman amphitheater that is second only to Rome’s Colosseum.

[Flickr photo by paularps]


2. Germany

Black Forest Railway
The Roman’s gave this thickly wooded and mountainous region in Germany the name Silva Nigra (i.e. “Black Forest“) because the dense growth of trees blocked out most of the light inside the forest. Experience the spectacular scenery on the Black Forest Railway, part of the German National Railway that connects Offenburg and Singen. The 93-mile-long route ascends (or descends, depending on which way you travel) more than 2,000 feet as it passes through 39 tunnels and over two viaducts. The section between Hornberg, Triberg, and St. Georgen is particularly pretty. The stretch is also popular with locals, who use it as part of their regular commute between the towns they live in and larger cities. Tourists, however, will probably think it looks straight out of a storybook – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Black Forest is the setting for the Brothers Grimm tale “Hansel and Gretel.” But don’t worry, you won’t need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to get back home.

Look closely for one of the viaducts trains along the Black Forest Railway pass over in Hornberg [Wikimedia photo by Prolineserver]



1. Switzerland
Wilhelm Tell Express (May to October only)
Switzerland is known for some of the most stunning scenery in all of Europe. This trip from Lucerne to Locarno connects two of the prettiest parts of the country, central Switzerland and the Italian-speaking Ticino region. While in Lucerne, travelers can opt to take a boat ride on a vintage paddle steamer where they can enjoy lunch or dinner. When the boat reaches Flüelen, step onto a panoramic train that will whisk you past lone cottages on pine-covered hills, glistening streams, cerulean lakes, vast valleys covered in green, and craggy, snow-covered peaks, as it makes its way to Ticino. If you get a chance, make a stop in the tiny town of Bellinzona, an easily walk-able place that is well worth a day trip in order to explore one of their three medieval castles. Switzerland has some of the most fantastic scenic train trips in Europe with the Golden Pass and Glacier-Express also offering awe-inspiring views through panoramic train windows.

[Photo by Libby Zay]

Keukenhof 2011 season opens March 25

keukenhof 2011

If you are visiting the Netherlands between March 25 and May 20, you may want to add the Keukenhof Gardens to your itinerary. The gardens are home the largest collection of tulips and other flowers in the world, and showcase the Dutch brilliance in horticulture.

The theme for this year is “Germany Land of Poets and Philosophers” and the opening will be performed by the wife of the German President, Mrs. Bettina Wulff.

The gardens are open daily from 8AM till 7:30PM and admission is EUR14.50 for adults and EUR7 for kids. For a small surcharge, you can order tickets online that include a bus ride from The Hague, Leiden or Schiphol.

[Photos courtesy Keukenhof.nl]

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World’s largest collection of tulips in bloom at Keukenhof in the Netherlands

Nowhere in the world will you find more tulips than at Keukenhof in the Netherlands. Keukenhof started in 1949 as a showcase for Dutch bulb growers to display their newest creations, and it has since then grown into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

This year, Keukenhof will open on March 18th, and will stay open until May 16th. In that short period of bloom, almost one million people will visit the 9 miles of pathways twisting around 4.5 million tulips in 2000 different varieties.

The theme for the 2010 season is “From Russia With Love”, and the official opening will be performed by Svetlana Medvedeva, wife of the President of the Russian Federation, in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands.

Keukenhof is conveniently located between Amsterdam and The Hague, making it a mere 30 minutes drive from both cities. Best of all, the drive to the town of Lisse (where Keukenhof is located) passes through some of the tulip fields the Netherlands is so popular for. If you are in the Netherlands this spring, a trip to Keukenhof is a “must do”.

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