Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is made up of 12 European provinces and three Caribbean islands (Aruba, Curaçao, St. Martin).  The Netherlands is often called "Holland" but North Holland and South Holland are just two of its 12 provinces.  The Netherlands, located on the North Sea, borders Germany and Belgium.  It is almost twice as big as New Jersey and is home to +16.8 million people.  Dutch is the official language.

The country is a constitutional monarchy.  Amsterdam is the capital but the seat of government is The Hague.  The Netherlands is a low-lying country with around 20% of the land located below sea level and 50% lying less than one meter (3 feet) above sea level.

In 1579, the Dutch United Provinces declared independence from SpainFrance occupied the land for 20 years before the Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815.  Belgium seceded in 1830 and became its own kingdom.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch became a major trading power with colonies and settlements in the Caribbean, North and South America, Africa and Asia.

The Netherlands was able to remain neutral in WWI but was occupied during WWII.  It was a founding member of NATO, the EU is a part of the Schengen zone.

It adopted the euro when the currency was launched in 1999.  The Dutch economy is the 6th largest in the Eurozone.  The Netherlands is one of the Czech Republic's main trading partners.

The country has long been known for its liberal policies on soft drugs, prostitution and euthanasia.  In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to allow same-sex marriage.  Here's a Rick Steves video I found on YouTube with gives a few details about legalized marijuana.

©Rick Steves

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