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Alkmaar, the Netherlands - 13th June 2008

By: Eryah

Hello!

Today we asked Eva to tell us everything she know about Alkmaar and the Netherlands. She told us some funny stories!

Alkmaar is above all Holland's cheese town. During the season from the first Friday of April to the first Friday of September a traditional cheese market is being held here on Friday mornings between 10 and 12.30. The cheeses are sold by dealers on a clap of hands. Thereupon the 400 year old cheese porters' guild goes into action, carrying the cheese off on barrows after the lot has been weighed at the Waag (the official scales). In the Waaggebouw - in which the scales are housed - a cheese museum that tells everything about dairy farming has been established.
Cheese has been weighed in Alkmaar since 1635.

Alkmaar is historical with around 400 monuments. The Waag, dating back in its earliest form to the 14th century, the 16th century town-hall, Grote St. Laurens Church and the many courtyards, facades and canals give the town an ambience all of its own. With the past as a setting, the town has a modern stock of shops offering a wide choice. Besides the predominantly small shops in the old centre, the Noorder Arcade with large scale shopping facilities stands by the side of the Noord Holland Canal.

Alkmaar is the biggest town in the region. Relaxation can also be found in the Geestmerambacht recreational area close by.
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The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland]) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the Caribbean. The Netherlands is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy, located in Western Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east.

The Netherlands is often called Holland. This is formally incorrect as North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only two of the country's twelve provinces. As a matter of fact, many Dutch people colloquially use Holland as a synecdoche, being well aware of the widespread use of this name. For more on this and other naming issues see terminology of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying and densely populated country. It is popularly known for its traditional windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), delftware and gouda pottery, for its bicycles, its dikes and surge barriers, and, on the other hand, traditional values and civil virtues such as its classic social tolerance. But primarily, the Netherlands is a modern, advanced and open society. An old parliamentary democracy, the country is more recently known for its rather liberal policies toward recreational drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia. The Netherlands is also one of the most densely cabled countries in the world; its internet connection rate is 87.8%, the 2nd highest in the world.

The Netherlands has an international outlook; among other affiliations the country is a founding member of the European Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, and has signed the Kyoto protocol. Along with Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands is one of three member nations of the Benelux economic union. The country is host to five international(ised) courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. All of these courts (except the Special Tribunal for Lebanon), as well as the EU's criminal intelligence agency (Europol), are situated in The Hague, which has led to the city being referred to as "the world's legal capital."

A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is its flatness. Hilly landscapes can be found only in the south-eastern tip of the country on the foothills of the Ardennes, the central part and where the glaciers pushed up several hilly ridges such as the Hondsrug in Drenthe, the stuwwallen (push moraines) near Arnhem and Nijmegen, Salland, Twente and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.



Religion
Main article: Religion in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the more secular countries in the Western Europe, with only 39% being religiously affiliated (31% for those aged under 35), although 62% are believers (but 40% of those not in the traditional sense). Fewer than 20% visit church regularly .

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 34% of Dutch citizens responded that "they believe there is a god", whereas 37% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force".

In 1950, before the secularisation of Europe, and the large settlement of non-Europeans in the Netherlands, most Dutch citizens identified themselves as Christians. In 1950, out of a total population of almost 13 million, a total of 7,261,000 belonged to Protestant denominations, 3,703,000 belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, and 1,641,000 had no acknowledged religion.

However, Christian schools are still funded by the government, but the same applies for schools founded on other religions, nowadays Islam in particular. While all schools must meet strict quality criteria, from 1917 the freedom of schools is a basic principle in The Netherlands.

Three political parties in the Dutch parliament (CDA, ChristianUnion and SGP) base their policy on the Christian belief system.


Culture
Erasmus (14661536).The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. The 17th century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, was the age of the "Dutch Masters", such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruysdael and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist. Han van Meegeren was an infamous Dutch art forger.

The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza. All of Descartes' major work was done in the Netherlands. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (16291695) discovered Saturn's moon Titan and invented the pendulum clock. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope.

In the Dutch Golden Age, literature flourished as well, with Joost van den Vondel and P.C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the bad treatment of the natives in Dutch colonies. Important 20th century authors include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard (van het) Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl was published after she died in The Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major languages.

Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found in Huis ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Holland Village is being built in Shenyang, China.

Windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, cheese and Delftware pottery are among the items associated with the Netherlands.
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Big hugs Dottie

* Posted Jun 14, 2008, 1:44 pm [Quote] Go to the top of the page


 

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