Hip Guide to Amsterdam

Dutch History

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 As of January 28th, 2002, the guilder is no longer legal tender in the Netherlands, having been replaced by the Euro.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.

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.

The Golden Age

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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.

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.