The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a country located in northwestern Europe. It is a small country that packs a punch especially when it comes to interesting facts and tidbits. For instance, did you know that the first stock market in the world was started in the Netherlands? With so much to learn about this fascinating country, here are some of the most interesting facts about the Netherlands.
7 of the Most Interesting Facts About The Netherlands
1. The Netherlands is the most low-lying country in Europe
“The Netherlands” translates as “lower countries” and with 26% of the country sitting below sea level, the Netherlands, therefore, is the most low-lying country in Europe. Some 50% of its land is just one metre above sea level and 60% of the population lives five metres below sea level. The lowest point is Zuidplaspolder, which is 6.7 metres below sea level. The country’s highest point is 322.5 metres above sea level. The Dutch are experts on water management and dredging. They use a system of windmills, dikes and polders to prevent flooding.
2. The Dutch turned carrots orange
For hundreds of years, carrots were either yellow, white or purple. Then the Dutch, in the 17th-century, started cultivating orange varieties of carrots as a tribute to William of Orange. King Billy led the Netherland’s war of independence and he is credited as the country’s founding father. Or that’s how the legend goes… Some academics dispute this story.
3. Gin was invented in the Netherlands
Gin (or jenever) was invented in the Netherlands in the 16th-century. It was used for medicinal purposes to treat stomach ache, gout and gallstones. Juniper was added for flavour and medicinal properties. Apparently, the British were introduced to the drink by the Dutch during the Thirty Years’ War. The term ‘Dutch Courage’ came from the Dutch drinking gin before heading off into battle.
4. The Netherland has over 1,000 windmills
Windmills are a symbol of Dutch ingenuity as the windmill helped the country overcome its struggle with water. Basically, windmills were used to pump water out of the lowlands. This water was put back into the rivers beyond the dikes. This enabled the land to be reclaimed, farmed and inhabited. Windmills have been used in the Netherlands since around 1200 AD, although these windmills were used to grind grains. During the 19th-century there were around 9,000 windmills but today there are roughly 1,200 left. The windmills at Kinderdijk are a UNESCO-listed heritage site.
5. There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands
There are around 17.5 million people living in the Netherlands, however, there are approximately 23 million bicycles. Therefore, with 1.3 bicycles per inhabitant, there are more bikes than people. The Dutch also carry out the most journeys by bike, therefore they also cycle the most in the world. To encourage cycling and accommodate all the cyclists, there are over 20,000km of fietspaden (bicycle paths). This contributes to the other fun fact about the Dutch; they are the most physically active population in Europe.
6. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage
The Netherlands has led the way in terms of opening up marriage for same-sex couples. On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. As the clock struck midnight on that date, the major of Amsterdam married four same-sex couples, this was the world’s first gay wedding.
7. The Netherlands is the world’s biggest flower grower and exporter
For over 200 years, the Netherlands has been the epicentre of the global trade in cut flowers. The country grows around 77% of all flower bulbs worldwide and the sector accounts for about 5% of the country’s GDP. The Aalsmeer Flower Auction is the largest of its kind in the world. Flowers are also one of the Netherland’s biggest tourist attractions. Each year, from the end of March until mid-May, tourists come to view the flower fields in full bloom, especially those in Haarlem. Many also visit Keukenhof, aka, the Garden of Europe, which is one of the world’s largest flower gardens.