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History, recreation, and attractive scenery are abundant in the southern Netherlands. The locals share a relaxed view of the world and place emphasis on life's pleasures. They lump Amsterdammers together with the other "cold-blooded" northerners as people too straitlaced to know how to have a good time.

Zeeland's three-part harmony of sea, land, and sky is so smooth that it's sometimes hard to say where one begins and another ends. The province's islands have been stitched together by a succession of great dams and barriers that bring a measure of security to the inhabitants of this low-lying delta, where the Rhine, Waal, Maas, and Scheldt rivers drain into the North Sea. Elegant harbor towns like Zierikzee and Veere retain the character of past centuries, when Zeeland's seafarers plied the world's oceans.

Scenic Noord-Brabant (North Brabant) has waterways and polders in the north and west; sand drifts, moors, and fir and deciduous forests in the south and east; and tranquil villages and ancient towns.

Coming into Limburg from the north, you notice a gradual transformation taking place in the landscape. Gone are the flat fields interlaced with canals. Contours appear. The change becomes more pronounced the farther south you go, and culminates in steep hills. Truth be told, the hills aren't that high, yet in a country where you get a view by standing on a match, Limburg has hidden depths. Shaped like a leg stepping into the space between Germany and Belgium, the province combines a German capacity for organization with a Belgian embrace of the good life.