Friday, 11 May 2012 19:16 | By Tom Phillips

Ten things you never knew about the Netherlands



The Netherlands (© Reuters)

1) There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people - an estimated 18 million bikes for around 16 million people.

2) Cars are almost completely barred from the Dutch village of Giethoorn - because the old village doesn't have any roads at all. Everything is connected by water, and the only ways to get around are by boat, or by walking or cycling across a series of interconnecting bridges.

3) Speaking of bridges - there are well over 1,000 bridges in the city of Amsterdam alone, spanning its more than 100 kilometres of canals.

4) The Netherlands is notoriously flat and low-lying - around a quarter of the country is below sea level, and the highest point on the mainland is only 323 metres high.

5) The Netherlands - famous for its tulips and lilies - produces around 65% of all the flower bulbs sold in the world.

6) The Elfstedentocht - or "Eleven Cities Tour" - is the world's longest ice skating race, in which competitors must race to touch every city in the province of Friesland, a distance of over 200km. Because it can only be held when the ice is thick enough, it hasn't taken place since 1997.

7) The Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus van Nassouwe, is the oldest song used as a national anthem in the world - records of the music and lyrics date back over 430 years. However, it was only officially adopted as the national anthem in 1932.

8) The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2001.

9) In 1886, a total of 26 people were killed in Amsterdam during the two-day-long "Eel Riots" (or Palingoproer) - sparked after authorities outlawed a popular game in which two teams on boats fought over an eel.

10) Dutchman Wim Hof - better known as "The Iceman" - is renowned for carrying out acts of physical endurance in the extreme cold, while wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. Among other feats, he holds the world record for having the longest ice bath, and ran a marathon in the Arctic, wearing only shorts and sandals, in temperatures of around -20°C.

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