Dates of visit:
April 27, 2005 -
May 12, 2005

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Many windmills
 Manor houses
 Tulip Gardens
 North Sea coast
 Queen's Day
 Canal festivals
 The Hague
 Historic Churches
 Small Country
 Very Crowded

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North Holland, Groningen
and Overijssel Regions
Go to first page - City of Amsterdam
Go to third page - Gelderland, North Brabant and Zeeland Regions
Go to fourth page - South Holland Region
Go to fifth page - Keukenhof Gardens (South Holland Region)
        Map of Holland
        Travel route in Holland
        Introduction to North Holland Region
            Marken Fishing Village
            Location of Marken
            Zaanse Schans Windmills
            Location of Zaanse Schans
            Location of Schagen
        Introduction to Groningen Region
    Fraeylemaborg Castle
            Location of Fraeylemaborg
            Bourtange Fortress
            Location of Bourtange
            Ter Apel Monastery
            Location of Ter Apel
        Introduction to Overijssel Region
            Village of Giethoorn
            Location of Giethoorn
            Town of Steenwijk
            Location of Steenwijk
            Town of Staphorst
            Location of Staphorst
            Town of Ommen
            Location of Ommen

WindmillsAlthough North Hollandís landscape is mainly flat, it is by no means featureless. Low-lying polders, with windmills and grazing cows, give way to market gardens and colorful bulb fields. Around Amsterdam the land is more built-up, with lively towns and picturesque villages almost cheek by jowl.

North Holland has always been one of the most important areas of the Netherlands economically, due to its industry, fishing and commerce. The Zuiderzee ports played a major part in the voyages of the Dutch East India Company and their merchants became wealthy from the trade in exotic imports. They built splendid houses and filled them with expensive furniture and fine art, much of which has found its way into the province's leading museums.

This part of the country has learned to live with and profit from water. The province has it on three sides, with the unpredictable North Sea to the west and the vast IJsselmeer (formerly the Zuiderzee) to the east. Two major canals bisect the flat land in between; one connects Zaandam to Den Helder in the north, while the other, the important North Sea Canal, gives Amsterdam's busy port access to the North Sea at IJmuiden. Land reclamation, in which the Dutch excel, has been going on since the 14th century, and many historical island communities are now surrounded by dry land.


MarkenFor almost eight centuries, Marken was a fishing community that saw little change. The construction of a causeway link to the mainland in 1957 put an end to its isolation. The island, however, has kept its original atmosphere, retaining its wooden houses built on mounds and piles to guard against flooding. Het Paard Lighthouse is a famous landmark. Marker Museum, located in four smokehouses, gives a flavor of past and present life in Marken. There is also a cheese factory and clog-making workshop.

Marken Fishing Village
Marken Marken Marken

Zaanse Schans

Zaanse SchansThe Zaanse Schans is the tourist heart of the Zaan region. This neighborhood has typical Zaan houses, windmills and buildings. When it's windy, you will be able to see the windmills working. The products (oil, paint, mustard) are for sale. All the houses are built from timber, as stone houses would sink at once into the soft peat earth.

Zaanse Schans Windmills
Zaanse Schans Zaanse Schans Zaanse Schans
Town of Schagen
Schagen Schagen Schagen


FortressHollandís northernmost province is distinguished by its rich cultural history and unusual landscape, where you often see terps or small areas of elevated land. To the north and west it is bounded by the shallow Waddenzee and to the east by the Ems river estuary and the border with Germany.

The terps originated centuries ago, when the inhabitants of this region needed to protect themselves from high water levels. A solitary Romanesque church, visible for miles across the fens, sometimes crowns the elevated land. Elsewhere in the province you will see straight roads and canals, often evidence of reclaimed land. The region grew rich during the Middle Ages from agriculture and peat extraction, and the medieval port of Appingedam, nowadays a little town inland from the port of Delfzijl, was once a member of the powerful Hanseatic League.

Groningen province is also noted for its windmills, castles and moated manor houses and, in the east, for its restored fortified towns, such as picturesque Bourtange, which is right on the border with Germany. Conservation areas abound.

Groningen, the provincial capital, is proud of its glorious past and boasts a wealth of world-class museums, historic buildings and other attractions. A number of Dutch corporations have their headquarters in this thriving university city.

Fraeylemaborg Castle

FraeylemaborgFraeylemaborg is one of the most imposing castles of Groningen. It dates back to the Middle Ages. Three embrasures in the kitchen and the hall above it bear silent witness to the defensive functions the castle once had. In the 17th century, two side wings were added, and in the 18th century it was given its present form with the addition of the monumental main wing. The castle is surrounded by a double moat.

The extensive wooded park just beyond the castle is an interesting combination of the 18th-century Baroque garden style and the 19th-century English landscape gardens.

We pass over the Afsluitdijk Causeway (flood control) on way to the castle.

Afsluitdijk Causeway
Afsluitdijk Causeway Afsluitdijk Causeway Afsluitdijk Causeway
Fraeylemaborg Castle
Fraeylemaborg Fraeylemaborg Fraeylemaborg

Bourtange Fortress

Bourtange FortressRight at the German border is the magnificent fortified town of Bourtange, whose history dates back to 1580, when William of Orange ordered that a fortress with five bastions be built in the swampland at the German border. The defense works were continuously upgraded, until the fort gradually lost its defensive functions. It has now been painstakingly restored to its 18th-century appearance. Museum "De Baracquen" exhibits artefacts excavated in the fort. The charming town itself lies within a star-shaped labyrinth of moats.

Bourtange Fortress
Bourtange Fortress Bourtange Fortress Bourtange Fortress
Bourtange Fortress Bourtange Fortress Bourtange Fortress

Ter Apel Monastery

Ter ApelIn Ter Apel, situated in the Westerwolde region between Drenthe and Germany, is a 1465 monastery of the same name. In 1933, the monastery was thoroughly restored and now functions as a museum devoted to ecclesiastic art and religious history. The fragrant herb garden located in the cloisters contains a collection of nutrient-rich herbs such as birthwort and common rue.

Ter Apel Monastery
Ter Apel Ter Apel Ter Apel


GiethoornVerijssel, a province in the east of Holland, has many areas of natural beauty and lovely old towns. In a sense it is a province of two halves, divided by the heathland and woods of the Sallandse Heuvelrug near Nijverdal, which separate the eastern district of Twente from the rest of the province.

This division is noticeable in many ways. The two halves differ in their spoken dialect, and they each have their own cultural traditions. There are also religious differences, with Twente being mainly Catholic while the rest of the province is strictly Protestant. Twente, with its larger towns, has a more modern appearance, and Enschede, for example, is livelier than western towns like Zwolle and Deventer.

Overijssel's numerous unique museums and attractions highlight local history and printing, tobacco, salt and farmhouses, as well as traditional costumes, tin soldiers, Dutch painting and modern art.

Apart from these activities, however, the principal attraction in Overijssel is the countryside, which is ideal for walking, hiking and touring by bicycle. In places like Giethoorn you can tour the rivers, lakes and canals by boat, while the Weerribben wetlands in the northwest offer opportunities for nature rambles and watersports.


GiethoornIf any village were to be given the title "prettiest village in Holland", quaint Giethoom would be the one. This well-deserved accolade is due to the village's picturesque canals, which are flanked by numerous farmhouse-style buildings. Many of these buildings now contain interesting, if small, museums. The village of Giethoorn can be easily explored both by boat and by bicycle. Founded in 1230 by religious refugees, the village's distinctive form came about from peatcutting, eventually resulting in the formation of ponds and lakes. The small canals were used for transporting peat. The Town of Steenwijk is just down the road.

Village of Giethoorn
Village of Giethoorn Village of Giethoorn Village of Giethoorn
Village of Giethoorn Village of Giethoorn Village of Giethoorn
Town of Steenwijk
Town of Steenwijk Town of Steenwijk Town of Steenwijk


Staphorst is known throughout Holland as a stronghold of strict Christian beliefs. It was where the Gereformeerde Bond (reformed union), one of the strictest embodiments of Protestantism, ruled within the Dutch Reformed Church. The lovely old farmhouses, painted in a characteristic green and blue, are often monumental buildings.

The townspeople continue to wear traditional dress, a custom that has practically vanished elsewhere in the country. Throughout Staphorst you will see women, especially elderly women, wearing the blue and black outfits.

Town of Staphorst
Village of Staphorst Village of Staphorst Town of Staphorst


The district of Ommen lies in stunningly beautiful countryside extending from the town to nearby villages and hamlets. One-third of its total area of 18,000 ha (44,500 acres) is covered by nature reserves and forests.

Town of Ommen
Town of Ommen Town of Ommen Town of Ommen

Text extracted from guide book "Holland" published by Eyewitness Travel Guides,
DK Publishing, New York, Copyright 2005, Web site ... www.dk.com
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