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The Netherlands is a country in Europe. It is bordered by Belgium and Germany, and has a total population of approximately 16 million (2007). The country is often referred to as "Holland", but this incorrect, as Holland is actually just one region of the Netherlands.

As its name implies, it is a very low-lying country. About a quarter of the land area, containing more than half of the population, is actually below sea level, and would flood if the sea were not held back by a system of dikes.

A major breach of the dikes occurred in 1953, killing 1800 people.

Amsterdam, named for the Amstel river, is the largest city, and officially the capital (although the seat of government is actually in The Hague). It is ringed by an extensive system of concentric canals.

Eindhoven is the location of the giant electronics corporation, Philips (full name: Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.), with annual revenue equivalent to about $40 billion. (The U.S. corporation General Electric has revenues of about $150 billion, but much of it is from non-electronics businesses).

The Netherlands has long been famous for its production of flowers, and also for a related economic event, the "tulip mania" of 1636-1637. A classic example of a "bubble," tulips were traded on stock exchanges, and bid up to fantastic prices by people who understood that the prices were crazy but hoped to sell at a profit to even crazier investors. As with all bubbles, when bidding began to lag, people tried to sell and the bubble burst.

The Netherlands is also famous for its low-crime rate and liberal legislation. Examples are organized prostitution in designated areas of major cities, such as Amsterdam's Red Light District, the legal soft drugs sold in the country's many coffee shops, wide abortion rights, same-sex marriages and euthanasia.

Queen's Day

April 30th is known as Queen's day - the national holiday to mark the official birthday of the monarch. This is the one day of the year when ordinary Netherlanders are permitted to sell goods on the streets without a licence. Consequently the whole country is turned into a gigantic flea market (garage sale). The primary effect of this is that people buy goods they do not want or need, solely in order to sell them the following year. In an act of patriotism most of the populace wear orange colored clothing (the national color) to identify with the Royal House Of Orange.

Those not involved with selling their surplus belongings celebrate the national pastime of cycling, and participate in the national Fiesten op dijken tour.