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It’s a little known fact outside of the Netherlands that one third of this tiny country – if it weren’t for a couple of great big hulking dijks - would be submerged under rather a lot of water.
Left to Mother Nature, Schipol Airport would in fact be a lake (it’s 3 meters below sea level), and rural North Holland – where I used to live – should actually be reclaimed by the North Sea.
Jacob Vossestein (author of Dealing with the Dutch) has written a whole book about the Dutch nation’s preoccupation with keeping water out of their clogs, and The Dutch and their Delta: Living below sea level, is his recent offering.
This bible-sized compendium is a delight for anyone living in the Netherlands past or present who has ever wondered even a little bit, about the intricacies of pumping the ocean out of the Lowlands.
With signs of their predicament everywhere in the form of windmills, canals, polders and huge grass-covered clumps of earth all holding back the waves, one can only marvel at the Dutch world-leading ingenuity when it comes to water management.
You don’t have to be an engineering nerd to wonder how it all works, you just have to stare at the sea from the top of a dijk during a storm, to understand the sense of fear and foreboding these people must have felt in olden days.
With 300 pages of excellent photographs and descriptive explanations, Vossestein’s enthusiasm for the topic, and his obvious love for this amazing little country shine through.
The Dutch and their Delta: Living below sea level is a surprisingly fascinating read, and a perfect addition to any self-respecting Dutch coffee table.
For a taster of what to expect, see Jacob Vossestein’s youtube video about The Dutch and their Delta.
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