When getting in the Netherlands the first what catches you look is every piece of ground is carefully divided on squares by water channels. That’s weird and beautiful and apparently it’s paradise for ducks, gooses and swans. Closeness of the Northern Sea feels everywhere and it made the Dutch extremely inventive. Whoever came first (the Avar, the German, the Celt) on those lands were obliged to fight against the sea continually. They built channel banks, water mills to move waters, and won their land from the sea. They joke “God made the sea and the Dutch made the ground”. I’m used to call the land as Holland, but that’s a wrong name – Holland is one of provinces of the Netherlands and translation for the Netherlands is Lower Lands. In 14th century they were under rule of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and also king of Spain and that was kind of first prototype of Benelux. And during Charles’ son Philip II of Spain time - part of provinces rose against. So part provinces stayed true to Spain (Belgium and Luxemburg) and part (current the Netherlands) won their independency. It was the real center of European trade. Every citizen who had a house lived on the first floor, kept a workshop on second one and goods on third one. That’s why you still can find every building on channels in Amsterdam is inclined toward the water having hoisting sheave. That was used to ship goods.
Wining independency The Netherlands became Dutch Republic and Orange dynasty came to rule (that’s a branch of current royal dynasty Nassau of the kingdom). Since 17th century Dutch Republic becomes one of the leading economic powers in the world. They were the best on the sea and gained a lot of colonies. Particularly Henry Hudson founded a colony in North America and city New Amsterdam lately sold to Englishmen and known today as New York City. Dutch Golden age brought numerous art works and trends. I’ve just visited Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam and found it majestic. Rembrandt works all are astonishing and famous “The Night Watch” (that’s BTW a wrong name) is stunning. And yet, I’ve liked Hendrik Averamp’s “Winter landscape with skaters” (http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/formats/startFormat.jsp?id=avercamp&space=format_container&lang=en&deeplinkid=avercamp2&deeplinkspace=format_inzoomer). It’s so much humor in there, just be aware of details and you’ll find much more than one story. Yeah, that really delivers the mood of the event.
Getting to the Netherlands in spring, that’s worth to visit Keukenhof (http://www.keukenhof.nl/). The Netherlands is known for tulips since the Tulip mania time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania) and Keukenhof is the very place to visit to feel the influence on the land left since that. Just imagine about 7 million of flowers planted in the park every spring. This season is called “From Russia with love” and here are photos I shot http://picasaweb.google.com/web.sbelarus/Keukenhof#.
Modern Amsterdam as you know is a very special place. As natives say: “Rotterdam is to work, The Hague is to rule and Amsterdam is to party”. Now you can find everywhere Cafe shops and Smart shops to get what you are not allowed to do in any other part of the world. The Red Light District doesn’t need an introduction. Though I was amazed by huge line into Sex Theater.
In day time you can go to Amsterdam’s main squares Dam, The Jordaan, Museumlein, Rembrandplein, Leidseplein for sightseens. As for museums – I assume most popular ones are Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Nemo, and maybe Tulip museum. Also well-known are Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum, the first Sex museum, Vodka museum. Most popular streets are Kalverstraat, Leidsestraat, Beethovenstraat, PC Hoofstraat, The Nine Streets.
But as for me the most impressive is a night trip on a boat. Remember, you get into any place of the old city by water channels. So when you are traveling on a boat plus a guide tells you stories of all those ancient buildings (Rembrandt house, the house of one window, “The Great Russian embassy which Peter the First founded near The Red light district and so on) that’ s great. Here some pics from the city http://picasaweb.google.com/web.sbelarus/Amsterdam#