The Netherlands—often informally referred to as Holland—is a country in western Europe, and shares land borders with Germany in the east, and Belgium to the south. With the North Sea located on the northwest coast, The Netherlands shares maritime borders with the UK, Belgium, and Germany. In addition to the primary land mass, The Netherlands also includes three Caribbean islands, which together form part of the Lesser Antilles.
The Netherlands has a maritime climate characterised by cool summers and somewhat mild winters. During the warmer months temperatures range between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius. Winter temperatures average 0 to 19 degrees Celsius, with sub-zero temperatures in the peak of the season.
The Netherlands is perhaps best-known for the colourful masses of tulips that grow in long rows on tulip farms in the region of Noordoostpolder, and in the so-called bulb region around The Hague. Another iconic feature that dots the landscape are the country’s many windmills, which were originally built as a means of pumping water out of lakes and rivers to reclaim land for agricultural purposes, and to prevent flooding.
The Dutch are also famous for their cheeses, principally Edam and Gouda, two varieties that were developed many centuries ago and are among the world’s most popular cheeses. Both varieties were named after the towns in which they were first made, and cheeses are still sold in markets in both towns.
In the 1st century BCE, the Roman Empire colonised the region that is now The Netherlands, remaining there for around 300 years. As the Roman Empire declined, Germanic tribes began to invade these territories. By 800 CE the region was part of the Frankish Empire, under Charlemagne.
During the Middle Ages The Netherlands was particularly prosperous, trading with European, Asian, and African countries.
In the 16th century The Netherlands fell under Spanish rule, but resistance from the Dutch led to decades-long civil conflict. The country eventually proclaimed independence, becoming the Dutch Republic and establishing itself as a significant maritime power in the 17th century. This power declined in the next century as larger countries developed their own maritime empires, and The Netherlands declined in importance for a time
The newly-formed Kingdom of the Netherlands made economic gains in the 19th century, and after remaining neutral during World War I, was occupied by Germany in World War II. Rapid and sustained growth in the 20th century confirmed the country’s place in Europe and the world as a highly-developed and wealthy country.
The Netherlands is home to more than 10,000 plant species and over 24,000 species of animal. Native animals include wild boar, hares, foxes, and many species of rodents and mustelids such as weasels and martens, and the European mink.
The best-known flower of The Netherlands is the tulip, although this flower is not actually native to the area. There are many other flowers that proliferate in the countryside, including buttercups, daisies, and purple heather. Another common flower is marsh trefoil, which grows abundantly in the bogs and meadows of the national parks, along with juniper and orchids.
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