1. The Territorial Plan, from Holland to the Netherlands.

To speak of the Netherlands is to speak of territorial planning. Even her recent official name change has to do with this. Formerly (and still today) known as the Netherlands, this country did not mind spending money to change its name and brand because they are convinced that it is worth it. But why?

There is a fundamental reason that we will comment at the end of this article. But first you have to know two things. The first is that Holland is a historical region that is within the Netherlands and that is divided in turn into two provinces: North Holland (Noord-Holland) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland). In these regions are the two most important cities in the Netherlands, Amsterdam in the North of Holland and Rotterdam in the South of the Netherlands. How do you stay? Perhaps you have been calling a country all your life by the name of one of the 12 regions that make it up ...

The second thing you should know is that the Netherlands (in Dutch Neder-landen), owes its name to the fact that a quarter of its territory is below sea level. This is the most characteristic geographical factor, key to understanding its territory, its society, its economy and also the brand of its new denomination.

While in other countries and regions, be next to the sea has given them a climatic and also an economic advantage, throughout history, the habitants of the Netherlands have had to challenge the sea to prevent flooding of their lands and cities. To do this, dams were built at the mouths of rivers and mills to overcome the waters and drain the land. But this was not enough, despite the levees there were several natural catastrophes caused by floods, the most recent one was in 1953, where more than 1,800 people died.

So... over time, the Dutch took up the famous saying "if you can't beat the enemy, join him." They stopped building too high levees that did not fulfill their function well if times of sea-level growth came, and which did not benefit the landscape aspect of the country either. And they let the sea in. In this way, the cities and towns throughout the territory were filled with canals at the same time that they were gaining ground through polders. Water is today the great friend of the Netherlands.

Typical landscape of the Netherlands: polder with farm house, road, canal and mill.

2. Gaining ground in the sea: planning for polders.

But what are polders? Polders are tracts of land reclaimed from the sea. Through the construction of containment dikes, the water of the sea is prevented from entering or that of the rivers is diverted by channeling it and through the many mills that are seen throughout this territory, the level of water in the channels as their flow varies.

Polders have existed since the 12th century in the center and south of the country, but the largest are recently built and are located in the north. And what difference is there between them? Well, in the oldest cities are built, such as Amsterdam, and in the current ones they have only been reserved for cultivation areas and related buildings such as farms. This is a clear example of territorial planning in the Netherlands, since in the event of floods, flood areas do not affect cities as much and in addition many lands can be expropriated by the State if necessary. (You never know, with this climate change ...)

Planning plays an important role in this territory due to the need and experience of historical events, and also the study of climate change is essential. If currently due to the increase in global warming, the melting of the poles and glaciers increase the sea level, the Netherlands must be very alert to possible problems. That is also why cities are studied and planned accordingly. A great example of this is the city of Rotterdam, which has parks, squares and garages that can be flooded in the event of a tragedy without affecting homes or communication routes. Simply admirable.

Netherlands - Polders

Territory that is below sea level, and that would be flooded.

The cities of the Netherlands are famous for their bicycles and their house boats, existing throughout the country. Its citizens take advantage of a territory that is flat, there are hardly any mountains, and that is furrowed with channels both in the cities and in the rural environment. As for rural areas, the Dutch have become accustomed and welcomed the water factor in their lives. The channels are means of transport and also leisure areas.

Its agriculture is one of the most exporting in the world, since it is highly modernized and based on two pillars: research and technology. The university plays a fundamental role in the importance that this country gives to agriculture, since it is connected with agrarian companies, not only offering high quality education to future farmers, but also internships for its students, who are highly prepared.

But it is also that there is a network of companies that manufacture all kinds of innovative and technological products for companies and workers in this sector. We are talking about agricultural machinery, irrigation systems, greenhouses ... there are even floating farms projects!

This agro-industrial area is known as Food Valley. In this way, the Netherlands not only exports farm products such as milk and derivatives, such as its famous cheeses. They also export all that machinery and technology to other countries around the world.
And we must not forget the impressive fields of colored tulips that adorn the surface of the country. The Dutch have managed to specialize and be leaders in a different market. They are the largest exporters of flowers and plants, and export 88% of the world's tulips. This peculiarity not only makes tulip a tourist mark of the Netherlands, but an industry is generated around it again based on research and development of new species of flowers and plants.

Tulipanes Holanda
Tulip field (Holland)

3. The Geography of Randstad.

The Randstad (from rand = "edge" and stad = "city"), is the main urban belt in the Netherlands. It is made up of the metropolitan areas of Amsterdam and Rotterdam (north and south, respectively), the city of The Hague to the west, and the city of Utrecht to the east. Between them, and following this circular belt, an urban continuum grows through other small cities close to each other that act largely as dormitory cities. And in the center of that belt, there is a space called the "Green Heart", more depopulated and rural.

The four main cities of Randstad are the economic, cultural, administrative and industrial centers of the Netherlands. And through the Rhin Valley, they are connected to the rest of the cities of the so-called Blue Banana, the great european urban, industrial and economic conurbation that continues through Germany and reaches Northern Italy.

However, the growth of these large cities creates a territorial conflict in the Randstad, since it causes pressure on the other intermediate cities that, on the contrary, do not want to become overcrowded and want to remain independent, that is, not to be absorbed and thus lose their quality of life. In addition, the Green Heart area, where it is difficult to build due to its shaky soil, in recent years its agricultural activity has increased, which is no longer a merely natural space.

The country's capital is Amsterdam, it has Schipol airport, the country's main airport, and it is mainly a tourist city. It is the most populated city and also has an important port.

The second most populated city in the country is Rotterdam. Its port is one of the main ports in Europe, an old industrial city and currently modern and innovative.

And the third largest city is The Hague. This city is located in the central-western part of the country halfway between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and its function is mainly administrative, here for example is one of the several headquarters that the UN has in the world. It is also the seat of the government and the Dutch monarchy, although it is not the capital.

In addition to these four cities, Ransdtad is made up of 116 small cities, thus forming a metropolitan region that covers an area of ​​5129 km², with a total population of 6.5 million inhabitants and a population density of 1,277 inhabitants. / km².


4. The Territorial Marketing Strategy. 

But we return to Amsterdam to explain another reason that was left to mention at the beginning of this article for the change of name of the country. Until today, "Holland" was known as the country of prostitution and marijuana, and that is why it has been decided to change its image starting with the name. In addition, there is also a territorial marketing strategy to avoid mass tourism, which is one of the problems of today.

As of 2020, the Netherlands wants to stop promoting itself in other continents such as Asia, from which more and more tourists arrive, in addition to those who come from all over the world, especially to visit Amsterdam. This tourist overcrowding sometimes causes problems of noise, dirt and agglomerations that significantly affect the quality of life of its inhabitants.

In this way, the aim is to promote more sustainable and local tourism, which is not only focused on leisure tourism in Amsterdam. One of the interesting options that are booming, are bicycle touring and river tourism, such as cycling, kayaking or cruising through the extensive network of navigable channels and rivers that the country has.

But... will they get all this? My bet is yes, since unlike in other countries, here there is not an excessive dependence on the tourism sector and... it does not need it either. Because... curiously, a leading company in this sector is also a world leader thanks to new technologies. That company is Dutch and is based in Amsterdam. Yes, we are talking about Booking.

And above all, because the Netherlands is an example of experience and good practices in territorial planning.

Amsterdam Netherlands

5. A small country, which was a great empire.

When the Romans arrived in the Netherlands, these lands were inhabited by various Celtic and Germanic peoples, including the Frisians, of Germanic origin, who settled along the entire north coast. Today, part of that territory is the present Friesland, which enjoys greater autonomy within the country, and which has its own language.

South of the Rhine River, the Romans settled, founding cities like Utrecht. Later, with the migrations of the Germanic peoples and the gradual dismantling of the Roman Empire, the Saxons arrived from the East and the Franks from the South, becoming along with the Frisians the three main peoples that inhabited these lands at the beginning of the Age Half.

Thus, three languages ​​are currently spoken in the Netherlands. In addition to Dutch (with its different dialects across the country) and Frisian in Friesland, the Lower Saxon (a dialect of German) is spoken in the northeast.

For many years, this territory was under the rule of the Carolingian Empire first, and the Holy Roman Empire later. For this reason, the population that lived in what are now the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg did not have their own nationality, but identified with their city or county within the Empire.

But nationalist movements began to emerge in a context of influences from large nations that were shaping up like France, to the South and Germany to the East. And above all, from the formation of the Spanish Netherlands by Carlos V, a native of the Belgian city of Ghent and heir to part of the Empire. Thus, the territories of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, would form their own state belonging to the Spanish crown and staying away from French and German influences.
However, with the reign of Felipe II, king of Spain, who had no longer been born in this territory, the cultural differences were accentuated. In addition, the Calvinist Protestant movements triumphed in the northern part, while the southern part remained Catholic. So, after the 80 years war, the northern part that was self-managing, ended up becoming independent and forming the Republic of the 7 Netherlands, also known as the United Provinces. The southern part, Belgium and Luxembourg, remained faithful to the Spanish crown.

After its independence, the seven provinces that made up the Netherlands became sailing peoples, cartographers, merchants and colonizers. They established coastal settlements in North America, South America, South Africa (where Afrikaans, a mixture of Dutch and African dialects are spoken today) and the East Indies (what is now Indonesia). Furthermore, New Zealand is named after one of the regions of the Netherlands and Australia was named New Holland by cartographers from that region.

One of those possessions in North America was the Island of Manhattan... yes, the same one that is today in the heart of New York City! Exactly, the Dutch founded New York, but they called it New Amsterdam, as the capital of their colony called Nieuw Nederland (New Netherlands). A curious detail is that the Dutch bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape indigenous population for a modest price of 24 US dollars ... Later it would pass into English hands.

Imperio neerlandés
Domains of the Dutch Empire

The History of the Netherlands was full of conflictive times, with internal and external disputes. The Dutch had war disputes over their colonies, especially with Portugal and England, and with France at the time of Napoleon. In addition, many of its cities were completely razed by the Germans during World War II. Rotterdam, for example, had to be rebuilt almost from scratch.

But despite all the historical and geographical obstacles of this small territory, today it is an independent country that continue competing, as it did in the past, with the great states. We also see that in the king of sports, soccer... from the famous "mechanical orange" that almost won two world championships, to the current team, with players from countries such as Suriname or the Netherlands Antilles, who were part of of that important empire.

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