In a world of rising sea levels (a particular danger for famously low lying Florida), eyes sometimes turn to The Netherlands (also called Holland) in Europe. Highly-than-land-sea-levels are nothing new for them. Around a third of the nation is below sea level - including their main city of Amsterdam and many of their other main population centers.
The Netherlands is a country famous for its Red-Light District, Amsterdam, Windmills, bicycles, Tulips, and for being below sea level. There are many reasons why the Netherlands is a perfect bucket list destination and one that everyone should visit while in the Netherlands.
Much of The Netherlands Is Under Sea Level
The lowest point in the Netherlands is 22 feet (6.7 meters) below sea level (the highest point is only a thousand feet above sea level). Indeed the Netherlands is a very, very flat country.
- Lowest Point: 22 feet (6.7 meters) Below Sea Level
- Third: Of The Country Is Below Sea Level
- Amsterdam: Is Below Sea Level (And Many Of Their Other Cities)
Sometimes foreigners ask the Dutch if they are worried about rising sea levels seeing that their country is already undersea level. Often they just shrug it off and say they will build higher dikes.
" In some areas, [the dike network] is so dense that those living in the vicinity must necessarily have close ties with it, whether consciously or not. For the Dutch, dikes are simply part of life."
The Dutch Have A Long History Of Land Reclamation
Over the last few hundred years, the Netherlands has actually been getting larger. For hundreds of years, they have been building a massive system of berms called "dikes". These earthen berms can be seen all over the country and they hold back the waters that would otherwise flood much of the country. They are part of a complex system of dikes, pumps, and sand dunes along the coast to keep the country above water.
- Dikes: The Berms or Dams That Hold Back The Seas
This is one of the most sophisticated anti-flood systems in place anywhere in the world. The country is so flat, that in parts of it, the only rise one will come across while cycling (and everyone cycles there), are crossing the dikes.
- Bicycles: The Netherlands Has 17 Million People and 23 Million Bicycles
- Windmills: The Iconic Windmills Once Pumped The Water Out
In the past, the Dutch used windmills to pump out the water, today there is a very complicated system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations that keep the low-lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture.
The Massive Dike Network Across The Netherlands
Dikes are berms. They are man-made structures that defend against natural forces mostly water. In the past, the Netherlands experiences frequent flooding but that risk has markedly reduced over the years as they have built up their flood control networks.
The dike network is massive and extends for over 22,000 kilometers or 13.6 miles (including dikes that do not serve as flood defenses) according to Dutch Dikes. Some of the dikes are obsolete and have been superseded by newer dikes leaving them without a function today. But still, that amount is remarkable when one considers that the whole Dutch coastline is only some 880 kilometers or 550 miles long.
- Dike Network: 22,000 Kilometers or 13.6 miles
- Coastline Length: 880 Kilometers or 550 miles Long
Still, around two-thirds of the country is vulnerable to flooding - and these areas include some of the most densely populated areas of an already densely populated country. This is a very high priority and the Dutch have plenty of experience in keeping the country dry. Dikes, dams, and floodgates protect against storm surges from the sea while river dikes prevent flooding from rivers like the major European rivers the Rhine and the Meuse.
The Netherlands has much more on offer than just its unique system of keeping its head above water. The little country has other world-class attractions full of wonderful art museums, as well as charming old canals and pleasant, tidy bike lanes. And of course, one can visit the famous (or infamous?) red-light district of Amsterdam. In fact, perhaps most of the places one is likely to visit in the Netherlands are likely to be under sea level.
Perhaps the least best (sic) attraction in the Netherlands is the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam - the self-styled worst hotel in the world. According to them, just about anything is better than sleeping at their hostel. Better places to stay include:
- A Sleeping Bag On The Side Of The Motorway
- An Abandoned Mine Shaft
But they are better than spending the night in an unmarked grave.