Hook of Holland to Amsterdam

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Hook of Holland to Amsterdam

Hook of Holland  This is a busy port, especially for Channel boats from England. But it's also a resort, sometimes called "Rotterdam-by-the-Sea." This port-resort arrangement is typical of the Dutch and Belgian coasts: with large populations and little land, the seacoast has two "jobs" to do: handle shipping, and provide recreation for summer tourists. But the Dutch are so tidy that they manage to conceal the dock works from the resort beaches.

The new "Europort" is a huge new dock area being built on the other side of the New Waterway, on the island of Rozenburg. Begun in 1958, it boasts huge docks, oil refineries, and shipyards which will make it one of the most modern ports in Europe when it's done.

(COURIER: Little of interest happens until you reach the Hague, so use this short stretch of the road to talk about "Holland vs. the Sea," which is part of your Road Commentary Manual.)

The Hague  This is the third largest Dutch city, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Population: 600,000, the size of Boston proper.

Holland's Two Capitals: The Hague is Holland's political capital, the seat of the Dutch Parliament. Amsterdam is the royal capital, official residence of Queen Juliana, and the cultural capital — a city that draws almost as many tourists as London.

"Europe's largest village": This is what people call the Hague because of the foreign embassy and diplomats. It doesn't look like a capital, being small, yet it has been pumped up into a large city by all the foreigners.

Dykes: The Hague is protected from the sea by dunes and costal dykes, which rise up at the edge of town. It has its own seaside resort, the suburb of Scheveningen, located a few feet higher in altitude.

The Name: "The Hague" (Haag in Dutch) means "hedge" and comes from 'S Gravenhage, or "Counts' Hedge." The town goes back to a castle built (1248) by a count, William II, Count of Holland, and this castle presumably had a hedge on the grounds.

The Hague as Political Football: Warfare has been a way of life for the city. The original settlement grew up around a castle. Thus protected, the cloth trade flourished. But in the 16th century, Holland was plagued by religious persecution by the Spanish conquerors. The Hague, without walls, was taken first by the Spanish, then by the Dutch, and back and forth several times. Shortly afterwards, the city prospered again, as nobles built townhouses and patronized artists and artisans. The city became the political capital in 1580, when the ruling body, called the Estates-General, settled there. In the 17th century, the Hague became the intellectual center of Holland: famous theological debates, schools, and artists' colonies. Urban development occurred in the 19th century, as its seaside location and quiet streets attracted residents.

The Hague continues to be a busy cultural center: the Resident Orchestra is one of Europe's major symphony orchestras. Many international organizations are based in the Hague: International Court of Justice, International Academy of Law, the Court of Arbitration, etc.

World War II took its toll. There was little bombing, but the Germans built their Atlantic Wall next to the city: blockhouses, shelters, bunkers, etc., and this destroyed the lovely woods between the Hague and the sea. The last winter of the war (1944-45) was one of the worst in history. The remainder of the woods was cut down for firewood; even the paving planks of the streets were torn up and burned. One air raid (March 3, 1945) destroyed much of the NE part of town, with its old houses. After the war, intense (and costly) rebuilding brought the old building back to life. The Dutch know the value of their heritage.

Restaurants: The Hague is known for its exotic restaurants, which serve cuisines of many countries. Reason: in the days of the Dutch colonial empire, colonial officials, plantation owners, etc., would spend their leave-time in the Hague, or retire here. They wanted a "taste of home." Today you can get Indonesian and Chinese food as easily as Dutch food.

Walloon population in the Hague: one of the largest in Holland. Walloons are French-speaking Dutch citizens, of Celtic rather than Germanic ancestry. Many of them are Protestant rather than Catholic, and the Walloon Church in the Hague is the largest of all in Holland.

(COURIER: After the Hague, you'll be on the Autobahn, heading for Leiden and Amsterdam. Use this time to give a brief historical sketch of the country, consulting the notes in this manual.)

Leiden (You may have to interrupt your historical sketch of Holland as this town goes by.) Population: 100,000 and growing. Situated amidst large polders. It's popular for tourists, because it is quieter than Amsterdam, and because "Old Holland" is present everywhere along its picturesque canals.

A Wise Choice: Leiden is an old city. The name comes from the Latin Lugdunum Batavborum, which was located to the west of the modern city. During the period of Spanish rule, Leiden managed to hold out against a Spanish siege (1574) — gaining glory for the Dutch. The Dutch count, William the Silent, expressed the nation's gratitude by offering Leiden a choice of two rewards: exemption from taxes, or a university (which would be the first in Holland). The city chose the university. Its intellectual fame spread all over Europe: in theology, book publishing, painting, Leiden was unequalled. On October 3 every year, a celebration in Leiden commemorates the lifting of the Spanish siege in 1574. Rembrandt was born in Leiden in 1606. The pilgrims, driven from England, lived in Leiden between 1609 and 1620 before setting sail for the New World.

(COURIER: Proceed to "Holland: People and Manners," and after that you should be ready for your Introduction to Amsterdam.)

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