Hip Travel Guides: Dutch History

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The Guilder is History

The famous Dutch guilder, is now an historic relic. As of January 28th, 2002, the guilder is no longer legal tender in the Netherlands, having been replaced by the Euro. Anyone having guilders can still change them into Euros for a fee at banks in Holland (2.50 Euros). After Dec. 31st, 2002, coins will only be accepted at the Dutch National Bank, whereas other banks will still take notes. Holland was the fastest European country to adopt the Euro and within just a few days 90% of transactions were taking place with the new Euro. I found many shopkeepers relucant or even refusing to take guilders after the first week. The Euro is now the legal currency throughout Western Europe, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Belgium, Portugal. Notably holding out on joining in the Euro fun are Britain, Denmark and Sweden. The European Union is hoping the strength of the Euro will put Europe on a par with America economically, and that the Euro will stabilize at parity with the US dollar. Currently it's going in the US $0.86-$0.91 range. Tourists appreciate the Euro as they don't have to convert currencies each time they visit another country. Although many people are finding the coins confusing at first.

Posted by on Thursday, January 31 @ 09:54:30 UTC (4849 reads)
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The Colonies

The Dutch were great explorers and navigators and were first to visit and establish colonies in places like Indonesia (the Dutch East Indies), Suriname, Caribbean islands like St. Martaan (half-french), Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire, New Amsterdam (New York City, and part of NY State). Like most colonialists of the time, the Dutch established colonies around the world to buy and sell raw materials, spices, even slaves.

This rape of natural resources and the trade in human cargo were typical of the time, and led to enomous profits for the Dutch. They also specialized in some of the more addictive substances like cocoa, tobacco, and opium. They wrapped their cargo in hemp fibers to keep it dry on the long ocean voyages. The Dutch word "droog" means dry and supposedly this is the origin of the English word "drug". In fact it is the Dutch who taught the Taiwanese Chinese to smoke opium with tobacco, which they later decided to smoke straight.

However, unlike most imperialists, the Dutch didn't try to impose their morality (religion) or social structure upon those peoples they traded with. Their influence over countries like Indonesia and the American colonies were limited.

Few people realize that the passengers who came to America on the Mayflower departed from Leiden, Holland. They were a group who originally moved from England to the Netherlands to enjoy more religious freedom. Perhaps they were a bit too puritanical for the English, and although the Dutch accepted them, they felt the Dutch were too liberal. When they made out for the new world, their ship floundered and they chartered a new ship, the Mayflower in England to make the famous sea journey and establish their new colony in Plymouth.

Note: Amsterdam's Golden Age wouldn't have occurred if not for the Dutch traders plying the seas with rare spices, slaves and highly addictive substances from their colonies.

Posted by on Friday, July 06 @ 07:15:43 UTC (6064 reads)
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The Golden Age

Once upon a time, the Dutch were the world's greatest seafarers and merchants. It was a time of great wealth, far flung colonies, huge trading ships and a powerful merchant class. During this period, Amsterdam was the center of commerce, finance, banking and guilds. Many fortunes were made importing the exotic resources of the new world and Asia. With colonies in Indonesia, the Caribbean, both North and South America, Dutch ships transported such expensive products as cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, tobacco, pepper, silk and slaves around the world. This wealth is still reflected in the beautiful houses that line the many canals in Amsterdam.

Note: The Dutch transformed the inexpensive goods from their far-flung colonies into great wealth back home, bringing about the Golden Age in Amsterdam.

Posted by on Friday, July 06 @ 06:43:30 UTC (6680 reads)
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World War II

The Dutch were victims of the Nazi regime during WWII as was most of Europe. The Dutch did not (and still don't) have much of an army to resist the onslaught of Hitler's military machine. Hitler was very succinct in dealing with the Dutch. He didn't want to waste his military muscle on the Dutch (he was saving that for elsewhere) so he demanded their surrender. When the Dutch refused, his bombers reduced the port city of Rotterdam to ashes. He again asked the Dutch to surrender. This time he warned them that Amsterdam would be next. The Dutch surrendered. But they didn't exactly give in to the Nazis.

Yes there were some collaborators, after all the Dutch viewed Germany as their ancestoral home (unbelievably, their national anthem still makes reference to their German heritage). But many fought back and others hid those being persecuted by the Nazis. Anne Frank was just one of thousands sheltered by the Dutch at great peril. Hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens (jews and others) were exterminated in German run concentration camps. Another 30,000 are estimated to have died of malnutrition in Holland because the Germans stole all the Dutch produce to feed their army. Tens of thousands more Dutch men were taken to Germany to work in factories for the war machine.

Although the Queen fled Holland to England (taking her vast fortune with her), most Dutch were loyal throughout the war, and many fought the Germans anyway they could. As a result the Dutch can still be seen harrassing Germans whenever possible by giving them wrong directions, pretending not to understand German, or just ignoring them.

Note: The bombing of Rotterdam, the forced labor of hundreds of thousands, and the death of many thousands more in concentration camps is something the Dutch remember all too well.

Posted by on Friday, July 06 @ 06:37:00 UTC (4783 reads)
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Calpe's Penyal de I'fac or Piñon de Ifach

Piñon de Ifach and Calpe's Port

Located between Valencia to the north, and Alicante to the south, the town of Calpe is dominated by the 332-meter tall "Piñon de Ifach," or the rock of Ifach. The rock itself juts out into the sea as imposingly as does the Rock of Gibraltar, and is a beautiful protected mountain wilderness area and park with several spectacular hiking trails and excellent rock-climbing.

Sometimes called the Penyal d'Ifac, this rock supposedly forms a triangle with the other big rock on the Iberian Peninsula, the Rock of Gibraltar and with a point in what is now Tunisia on the other side of the Mediterannean. This is where an ancient king ruled a sea-faring nation of early explorers. They used these points as navigational aids in their journeys. According to some, the name Ifach, or I'fac, descends from the name of this Tunisian king.

The huge rock is formed from Eocene and Mycene period calcareous material, joined to the mainland by a detritic isthmus. Here can be found over 400 species of native plants, 80 types of nesting birds, and numerous reptile and insect populations of note.

There's a nice Visitor Center in the park with interesting displays about the park's flora and fauna. Unfortunately all the text is in Spanish. Just below the Visitor Center there's a dirt parking lot where the trail up the rock begins. The path climbs along the southwest face of the rock offering excellent views above Calpe's port, the city & bay.

At the Visitor Center there is a nice picnic area for those not wanting to climb the almost 332 meter (1089 feet) high rock itself. If you are more adventurous bring good hiking shoes, and plenty of water to hike up the trail. Don't forget your camera! About two-thirds of the way up, there is a hand-carved tunnel made in 1918. This leads to the eastern side, and the more interesting part of the rock itself.

View of Calpe from Piñon de Ifach

Up on top there are several branching trails. One leads to the summit, with breathtaking views, and another to a former civil guard post. One could spend days exploring this interesting formation.

Posted by on Saturday, January 22 @ 12:17:02 UTC (8653 reads)
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: Parc de la Ciutadella

Parc de la Ciutadella Barcelona's Old Town grew around the features of La Rambla with it's wide avenue leading to the sea, the Barri Gotic with its winding streets, La Ribera and it's amazing mansions, and the Parc de la Ciutadella which features several huge, important museums of art and culture. The Parc de la Ciutadella has a long and interesting history. Originally this was a fortress designed in the shape of a star, in 1715 by Prosper Verboom (possibly a Dutchman?) for then King Felipe V. The Citadel was built to be used by his forces against the Bourbon kings. Following an 18 month seige, the fortress fell, and eventually became a hated symbol of oppression for the local Catalunyans under the Napoleonic regime - as a prison. Located here in the Parc de la Ciutadella are not only beautiful gardens and greenhouses but also the National Zoo, the Museu d'Art Modern with its fine examples of Catalunyan artists of all media, the Arc del Triomf - originally the main gate to the Universal Exhibition in 1888, the Homentage de Picasso - an odd glass cube in a pond with arcane objects decaying inside, and the Monument in Colors. The Catalunyans are so proud of their heritage, that often the average man will profess to you in casual conversation, that Catalan is definitely NOT a dialect of Spanish, and thus these great palaces of art here in Old Town Barcelona are proudly known as Catalunyan Museums of Art. In 1878, the so-called "enlightened" dictator General Prim destroyed the Citadel, and a statue was erected to him on the spot. Now a public garden and exhibition space, the buildings that inhabit the grounds and area are palaces of typical Spanish architecture, filled with art. In 1888 the park was used for the Universal Exhibition which is when many of the beautiful buildings were constructed. The gardens and fountain were designed way back when with the help of the then-young artist Antoni Gaudí. The centerpiece of the park however is the large lake with rowboats for rent. Popular even in January, the lake is a refuge from the city's heat in the middle of August - with trees around its shore offering cool shady spots.

Posted by on Sunday, January 19 @ 08:28:17 UTC (5774 reads)
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Parc de Montjuïc

Castell de Montjuïc on the top of the hill This large park and exhibition area lies at the foot of Barcelona occupying a big hill overlooking the harbor and city. On top of the hill is an old fort, Castell de Montjuïc, which contains a military museum, a good outdoor self-service cafe, lots of guns still facing out to sea, and some of the best views in the whole city.
Barcelona's Olympic Stadium & Telefonica Needle Further down the city side of Montjuïc are various museums including the Miro Foundation, the Palau Nacional (National Palace, now the Museum of Catalan Art), the art deco Olympic Stadium (designed in 1929, used during the 1992 Olympics), and many other smaller parks and gardens. I recommend taking the bus as far as the Castell, and walking down, unless you want to splurge on the Funicular.
Palau Nacional reflected in Font Mágica The Fonts Luminoses (Illuminated Fountains) are a beautiful sight on weekend evenings. They start at Plaza Espana and include the huge Font Mágica (Magic Fountain) at the foot of the Palau Nacional.
Barcelona Pavillion from 1929 World's Fair Nearby is the Pavelló Barcelona or Barcelona Pavillion a reconstruction of the German Pavillion from the 1929 World’s Fair designed by Mies van der Rohe. Huge slabs of marble and other stones, clean lines, water features and glass made this one structure very influential in modern architecture ever since. The Barcelona chairs also designed by van der Rohe are also on display.
View of Barcelona's coastline from Mirador de L'Alcalde Mirador de L'Alcalde is a lovely park overlooking Barcelona harbor. It has several nice features including water cascades and some lovely tile mosaics. Along the road you might also see the Sardana statue, carved by Josep Cañas in 1966, commemorating a traditional Catalan dance.
Cable cars are a fun way to get there! Getting There Metro: To Plaza d’Espana where you can either walkup, take escalators part of the way, or a get a bus. Or Paral-lel Metro station which connects to the Funicular Buses: PM (Parc de Montjuïc) goes most of the way to the top. 50 & 61 go as far as the Fundacio Joan Miro and the Funicular. Teleféric (Funicular/cable car). Starting down at Paral-lel there are several ways to get to the top of Montjuïc involving funiculars and cable cars. The cable cars have more limited hours, so check before you go for closing times.

Note: This large, wonderful park overlooks most of Barcelona as well as the coastline. It contains museums, an olympic stadium, a old fort and beautiful views.

Posted by on Wednesday, January 08 @ 11:42:59 UTC (9493 reads)
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Parc Güell

Antoni Gaudí designed this park around 1900, as a residential area surrounded by nature. Gaudí lived here while he worked on his many projects in Barcelona. Famed around the world, Park Güell incorporates Gaudí’s flamboyant style into a well-planned, well-used public space. Lush gardens, winding paths, fanciful buildings, open spaces, mosaic patterns, angular columns, colorful fountains all compete for your attention. The park is a photographer’s delight with so many vantage points, each yielding splendid views of the park’s attractions, and the city itself.
One of many unusual features in Parc Güell The Casa Museu de Gaudí is the house where Gaudí lived while working on his many projects he did not design it, however. It’s been turned into a museum, and can be visited most days. Hand-carved ornate woodwork, purple marble, and Gaudí’s own furniture are highlights of this museum. Surprisingly, Gaudí’s own bedroom, with a small single bed, and austere furnishings are a sharp contrast to his public works. Perhaps the man did most of his dreaming elsewhere… The main entrance to the park has a huge set of gates with two beautiful pavilions on either side. There’s also a set of escalators leading up to the park from the left side of the park. Otherwise it’s a leisurely climb thru the park’s ever changing marvels. A very popular attraction is the lizard fountain at the entrance. Kids love to play around it and parents and tourists are eager to take photos. Just above the entrance steps are a series of 86 Romanesque columns that were meant to be a market. When I was there a musician was playing classical Spanish guitar (Segovia) among them. The playing and the acoustics were perfect! The U shaped space above the columns, the Gran Plaça Circular, provides a lovely panorama of Barcelona. The undulating 152 meter bench along the edge is said to be the longest in the world. It's inlaid with brilliant mosaic patterns and makes a great place to rest your weary feet and absorb the views. There’s a self-service café for sandwiches and drinks overlooking the main plaza, surrounded by palm trees. A bookstore with books about Gaudí, postcards, maps and Barcelona guides is located in one of the two buildings at the front gate. Admission to the park is free! Don’t miss this, as it’s one of the most unique features of Barcelona. Address: Parc Güell - Carretera del Carmel, 08024 Barcelona
Tel: 93 210 3811
Fax: 93 284 6446 Metro: Valcarca
Bus: 116, 24, 25
Bring a map!

Note: Parc Güell is a must see for all visitors to Barcelona. This park, designed by Antoni Gaudí, abounds with fanciful creations and offers views over much of Barcelona.

Posted by on Saturday, January 04 @ 10:07:46 UTC (5345 reads)
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Tree Kangaroos

The elusive Tree Kangaroo is found in Australia’s Queensland, where they flourish in the lush tropical forests. There are two species, the Lumholz and Bennett’s Tree Kangaroos. The Lumholz is named after the Norwegian naturalist C. Lumholtz, and are also known as "Boongary" with a scientific name of Dendrolagus lumholtzi. The Bennett variety is known as Dendrolagus bennettianus, and is larger than the Lumholz. Eight other species of Tree Kangaroos are to be found in New Guinea.

Both varieties are about two feet tall, but their tails are often three feet long! The female bears one young kangaroo at a time, and carries it in her pouch like all marsupials. They are found sleeping in the branches of trees during the day, and become active at night, being nocturnal. Tree Kangaroos can leap as far as 15 meters (45 feet) from tree to tree. They do not hop about on the ground like regular Kangaroos - they walk.

Australia’s Tree Kangaroos thrive on a diet of leaves and fruits gathered high in the forest canopy. Their large stomachs can handle the massive quantities of leaves they must consume to survive.

There are far more Lumholz Tree Kangaroos, spread over a large area of the Wet Tropics. The Bennett variety is only found in a small area around the Daintree River in Queensland.

Posted by on Friday, September 30 @ 05:04:17 UTC (987 reads)
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The Cassowary Bird of Australia

According to the Wikipedia, the Southern Cassowary is the second-largest bird in Australia and the third-largest remaining bird in the world. Adult Southern Cassowaries are 1.5 to 1.8 m (5½ feet) tall and weigh about 60 kilograms (130 pounds). A reclusive forest dwelling flightless bird, they have a long sharp claw on each foot that can be used to rip out your guts if you get too close. There are historical references to Cassowaries killing humans, but they are shy creatures, and will seldom reveal themselves to the casual tourist.
Cassowaries are a protected species in Australia. This beautiful remnant of the dinosaur era has a bony plaque on their head that is used to push through jungle The females are notably larger in this so-called “keystone” species. That is because this bird eats and disperses a variety of seeds from trees and plants, maintaining the diversity of the rainforest.
Cassowaries eat fruits and berries, scattering the seeds far and wide in their shit. Equipped with razor-sharp claws on each foot, the Cassowary can run up to 52 kmh (32 mph) and jump up to 1.5 m (5 feet). They also swim quite well. In a reversal of the usual male-female role in nature, the female roams looking for a male to mate with once, lays her eggs, and moves on looking for another male. The female cassowary will lay three to eight large pale green-blue eggs. The male then incubates the eggs for two months until they hatch, and watches over the brown-striped chicks for nine months before he runs them off into the wild to forage for themselves.
Cassowary ChickEstimates of the current population of Cassowary range from 1500 to 2,500 birds. According to the Wet Tropics Management Authority, there are two separate populations of Australian cassowary - one in the Wet Tropics area from Mt Halifax/Paluma through to Cooktown, and the other on Cape York Peninsula in the McIlwraith and Iron Ranges, Jardine River area and the Eastern Dunes. The Australian cassowary is called the Southern Cassowary or sometimes the Double-wattled Cassowary.

Posted by on Thursday, September 22 @ 04:39:52 UTC (2532 reads)
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