mistakes and missing subjects on this website
  • On this website I ( a Dutchman myself) find some mistakes. Do you speak English = Spreekt U Engels? ( not: Spreekt U het Engels?). Please = Alstublieft ( to an adult) or: Alsjeblieft ( to a youth or child or good friend) The word "alstublieft" also means: here you are ( when an object is handed over). Goodbye or: See you = Tot ziens! ( Vaarwel means: Farewell, and is common in Dutch Shakespeare translations only). More useful words: Help! = Help! ; Ik word bestolen! = I am being robbed! ; de kaart = the map; het kaartje = the ticket; gesloten = closed; geopend = open; verboden toegang (or: geen toegang) = no entry (allowed); de VVV= the Tourist Office; het ontbijt = the breakfast; de lunch = the lunch; het diner = the dinner. de eenpersoonskamer, tweepersoonskamer = the single, double bedroom. Opruiming, or: Uitverkoop ( in Belgium: Solden) = sale ( cheap selling in shops).
  • This website contains very little information about other Dutch cities than Amsterdam and Groningen. Foreign tourists, interested in museums should visit also: the Boymans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam; the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem; the Mauritshuis Museum , the Gemeentemuseum and the museum Panorama Mesdag in The Hague; the museum Kr
  • The most interesting zoos are in Emmen, Drente (Noorder dierenpark); Blijdorp ( Rotterdam near central station); Artis (Amsterdam, east of the centre); Antwerpen, Belgium ( behind the Central Station); Rhenen, between Utrecht and Arnhem (Ouwehand); Burgers Zoo north of Arnhem; Apenheul in Apeldoorn ( only monkeys); Amersfoort ( smaller, but still nice); Plankendaal in Belgium, south of Antwerp; Gaia in Kerkrade, Limburg, 20 km from Maastricht.
  • Mind, that Holland = the provinces North and South Holland. This is actually only 1/6th of the surface of the Netherlands. And Flaunders (Vlaanderen, the Dutch speaking half of Belgium) is 3 times as big as the provinces West and east Flaunders.
  • Absolute highligts for tourists visiting Belgium are the historic cities of Bruges (Brugge), Ghent (Gent) and Antwerp (Antwerpen). Of course, the capital Brussels ( Brussel, French: Bruxelles) with its 1 million inhabitants the greatest city in the BeNeLux countries, is worth a visit as well. Interesting for its 1st World War memorials is Ypres (Ieper). Smaller, but still nice (in the Flemish half) are Lier, Mechelen (French: Malines) , Oudenaarde, Leuven with its university, and the 2000 years old city of Tongeren, west of Maastricht. Museums of the great Flemish painters like Rubens are in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent
  • Who likes to visit old cathedrals and other churches should visit the: St Jan (St. John) in Den Bosch; the Onze Lieve Vrouwe ( Our Lady) in Antwerp; the St. Servaas in Maastricht; the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft ( where deceased members of the Dutch Royal Family are buried); St. Gudula in Brussels; St Bavo in Haarlem; St. Bavo in Ghent; Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Picturesque, originally religious quarters are the begijnhoven (beguinages), especially in Bruges, Lier, Leuven ,(B) Breda and Amsterdam (NL). Mind, that the Haarlem Begijnhof is a red light district! So called Hofjes "small courts" are small streets with small , picturesque houses built between 1600-1850. Ask the local VVV (tourist office!) Most Hofjes are in Leiden, Haarlem,and Amsterdam. Some others in Alkmaar, Delft, Dordrecht, Utrecht, Groningen. The Hofjes were built as social institutions for elderly people and widows. They were donated in the wills of rich Dutchmen. The idea came from the Fugger family, that had a Hofje (Die Fuggerei) built at Nuremberg, Germany.
  • Who visits Brussels should be aware of the tension between Dutch/Flemish speaking people (Vlamingen) and French speaking people (Wallons). The best thing to do is just ask : Do you speak English? Many Flemish, however, are ready to speak French to foreign tourists. In Flaunders, French is taught in elementary and secondary schools. In Wallonie, the French speaking part, including some quarters of Brussels, no foreign languages are taught but some English in secondary schools. Avoid discussions about language and history before World war 1, when visiting Belgium!!
    In the 19th and early 20th century, the Flemish speaking people had to speak French in the army, in contacts with officials, in court and police offices, in university, in trains and buses, etc. which lead to many political instabilities and even uproars. Even now, the issue of: where is Flemish/Dutch, and where is French the official language, causes many political problems in Belgium.
  • Londoners, who use public transport like underground and bus, know the Oyster card, a chip-card that can be "filled" with a credit to be debited for bus, train and underground fares. Who wants to use the train, bus, tramway etc. in the Netherlands should know, that the Dutch authorities and public transport (Openbaar Vervoer) firms have introduced the so-called OV-chipkaart (OV = PT, Public Transport; chipkaart = chip card) or Public Traffic Smartcard. Foreign tourists will need such a card as well, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam subways, tramways and buses now already, in the rest of the country in the next few years. For foreigners, special one-day chipcards are available. The smartcard replacing train and bus tickets unfortunately causes a raise in the costs of a ride by subway, tramway or bus (not by train). See the website of the Dutch Railways: http://www.nshispeed.nl/en/buying-train-tickets/travelling-with-ovchipkaart
  • A very exciting way to travel through the Netherlands and Flaunders is riding by bicycle (in Dutch: fiets). Nowhere else in the world, there are as many bicycle lanes (fietspaden) per square mile as in the Netherlands. You can take your bicycle with you in many trains (you need an extra ticket for it). The country hardly has hills over 100 metres. Rain and wind, however, can cause some problems. Many parts of the Low Countries have bicycle routes (fietsroutes), that were put together by the regional VVVs (Tourist Boards), enabling the cyclists to see the most beautiful landscapes in the neighbo(u)rhood. The length of such tracks is between 10 and 100 km. Sometimes, there is the service that you can stay overnight at a camping-site or small hotel, which takes your luggage to the hotel or camping site at the end of the next stage. On the countryside, there are "fietsknooppunten", bicycle junctions, each having a different number, where is a small map of the surroundings indicating the other "knooppunten". The cycling routes tell you e.g. to ride from "knooppunt" 80 to nr. 81, then south to nr. 82, then east to nr. 79, etc. When yo are near such a junction, you will see a small sign indicating this:
  • There is an important cultural difference between Belgium and the Netherlands. First, the religious tradition: Belgium is a (moderately) catholic country, like France, Spain and Italy. The Netherlands, especially the northern part, fought from 1568 to 1684 (the 80-year war) to liberate itself from Spanish, Catholic oppression. Protestantism of the Calvinist teaching , a bit like it is in Scotland, is the main religion in most parts of the Netherlands. In a few places, like Staphorst, Spakenburg and the Veluwe region, the Sundays are only for going to church and visiting relatives. In most regions, however, the doctrine is not so strict. A protestant minister is called in Dutch: dominee, many of which are women. In some liberal churches, even gay people, men or women, can be dominees! In the Dutch provinces Brabant and Limburg, and in the Twente and Achterhoek regions near the German border, Catholicism is the religion as it was in the Middle Ages.
    Another cultural difference between Belgium and the Netherlands is the cuisine. Belgians like to eat fine food in a restaurant and are willing to pay for it. In Holland, the "haute cuisine" is a tradition just for businessmen, who can deduct 73,5% of the bill of such meals as business expenses, and rich people. Ordinary people go to the Chinese restaurant (a heritage if the period that Indonesia was a Dutch colony), places like Mc Donalds or snack-bars. Both Dutch and Flemish like to eat "patat"or "friet", potato chips in the form of a short pencil, and drink beer. Belgium is famous for its great variety in beers. Even the Dutch often drink a Belgian beer. A typical Dutch luncheon dish is the "uitsmijter", two slices of bread, covered with ham or cheese and with two fried eggs. A croque monsieur or tosti is a fried cheese sandwich. The Dutch use to dine at 18.00-19.00 hours, the Belgians somewhat later. Coffee and tea are popular beverages. Many shopping women go at 10.30 or 15.30 to bakery shops, not unlike the Konditoreien in Germany, to have coffee or tea with some pastry (koffie/ thee met gebak).
  • If you drive in your car through the Netherlands, Keep RIGHT!! ( as in the rest of the continent). The maximum speed in the Netherlands is 100 or 120 km/h on motorways (autosnelwegen), and mostly 80 km/h on other roads outside the built-up area. Inside the built-up area, indicated by a blue sign indicating the name of the city or village you are entering, the maximum speed is 50 km/h, and in so-called Woonerven ( residential areas) 30 km/h. Small country roads have a speed maximum of 60. Many roads have roundabouts or so-called "verkeersdrempels", traffic thresholds, enforcing motorists to drive slowly. Driving a car when you are drunken or "stoned" by drugs, is a CRIME, which may bring you into prison or cost you a fine of thousands of euros!
  • As to the PHRASES: the Dutch word: tevreden means: satisfied, pleased. hello! = : Hallo! Good morning, good afternoon, good evening , good night = goedemorgen, goede middag, goedenavond, goede nacht. Ik houd van.... means: I love.... or: I like...... . A cell phone = een mobieltje, een gsm. To text = sms'en.
    The Dutch (more then the Flemish) are not ashamed when they use curses or swear words. They dislike, however, using Dutch curses by foreign guests.
    Here follow two Dutch words you will often hear in the Netherlands, please don't follow our bad habit by using them as well ! Maybe the webmaster of this website will delete this text; but cursing frequently is an unpleasant part of our culture you should be informed about, and of which I, a Dutchman myself, are ashamed). "KUT", pronounced a bit like English cut, is a swear word indicating the lower body parts of a woman that should ever be covered, except when a women needs to be naked. Godverdomme , is the Dutch curse meaning: God damn. Please, never use these words when visiting the Netherlands!

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