DK Eyewitness Travel – £17.99
Like The Netherlands itself, this Eyewitness Travel Guide packs a considerable punch. Vibrant and concise, colourful yet invitingly dense, its 480 pages really do make for what can best be described as treasure trove reading.
That I’m half Dutch, may admittedly have had some bearing upon my persuasion, although (it might be argued) I could quite as easily have leant the other way and been more robust in my critique. But to be perfectly honest, I found The Netherlands almost un-put-down-able.
Perhaps this is so because the very nature of The Netherlands is almost impossible to depict in one single volume. From the country’s more than turbulent and influential history (‘’God may have created the earth, but the Dutch created The Netherlands’’), to the far reaching influence upon the ever-changing world of art via the Dutch Masters (Rembrandt Van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer and of course, Vincent Van Gogh to name but four), from Calvinism (‘’strict living and industriousness became ingrained in the character of Calvinists as well as of Catholics and agnostics and was instrumental in the country’s prosperity during the Golden Age’’) to Colonialism (in Asia, Africa and America), nigh everything of note is touched upon in this book’s section, ‘The History of The Netherlands’ – including a Modern Timeline of the country between the years 1910-2010 – before the nation’s capital of Amsterdam is introduced on page 60.
From here on in, the fun and frolics truly begin.
Apart from all the world renowned obvious stuff (no-where on the planet does the term ‘sex and drugs and rock’n’roll’ more aptly apply than Amsterdam), also included are the finest canals and waterways: from the Brouwersgracht to the Bloemgracht, the Prinsengracht to the Leidsegracht, the Keizersgracht to the Reguliersgracht, and of course the river which lends the capital its name, the Amstel. All are clearly depicted, deciphered and clearly ear-marked on the most helpful of maps.
Likewise the city’s numerous popular Museums such as the Rijksmuseum (which one really needs to a) start queuing for at around six in the morning and b) allow the entire day, if not two, in order to view all the truly magnificent art that’s on display), Stadelijk Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Joods Historisch Museum and of course, the Anne Frank Huis.
Again, like the aforementioned canals and waterways, all are clearly introduced and depicted upon a selection of maps, making for an all round mini-tour of the city within the excellently displayed pages of the Amsterdam section alone. Also included within the over a hundred or so pages, is a Street Finder amid six relatively detailed pages of maps.
The remainder of The Netherlands is as equally compelling, and consists of all the remaining cities (Utrecht and Groningen have their own sections, while The Hague and Rotterdam fall within the area of South Holland) and regions of the country; all of which are imaginatively described and colour-coded, not to mention wonderfully photographed.
Suffice to say, there’s oodles of Practical Information, a number of Directories, and countless pages on Travellers’ Needs (which includes Where to Stay, Where to Eat, Shopping in The Netherlands, as well as Entertainment and a brief phrase book). So in all, this Eyewitness Travel Guide really is the literary dog’s under-carriage if you’re planning a trip to the home of my childhood.
It tells it as it needs to be told, and is as informative as it is entertaining as it enlightening.