The mild winters and temperate summers of the Netherlands (aka Holland) are mirrored in the mild manners and temperate attitudes of its people. Here laws regarding recreational drugs and prostitution are far more lenient than most countries. One might imagine that such supple moral perspectives might lead to chaos, but to the contrary, the Netherlands is an efficient, clean and polite nation.
Bordering the North Sea, nestled between Belgium to the West and Germany to the East, the Netherlands flat terrain makes it ideal for touring by bike. Twenty seven percent of these lowlands are polders, reclaimed waterways created by man-made dykes that hold back the sea. Netherlanders have been building dykes for over 2000 years, and these structures have become synonymous with the culture, as have the windmills that were originally used to pump water from the polders. Amsterdam, the capital, is a compact, orderly center of culture and amusement. From the Van Gogh museum to the cannabis cafes, the Anne Frank house, to the red light district, its attractions careen between the reverent and the decadent. The Hague and Rotterdam are other major urban centers, while the tranquil countryside beckons with its ubiquitous tapestry of tulips.