These four central provinces form a tapestry of history and scenic beauty. In Utrecht, the smallest of the nation's 12 provinces, châteaux speckle the landscape. The provincial capital, the 2,000-year-old city of Utrecht, is a center of learning and religion, while Amersfoort and Oudewater evoke medieval times.

To the east is the country's largest province, Gelderland. The banks of the Rhine, Maas, and Waal rivers, along with national parks, nature reserves, and recreation centers, are vacation venues for the Dutch. Gelderland's towns beckon with attractions like the Het Loo royal palace museum at Apeldoorn and Arnhem's Netherlands Open-Air Folklore Museum. Also noteworthy is that the World War II airborne battle for the Rhine bridge at Arnhem -- the famous "bridge too far" -- was fought here.

A parklike landscape of beautiful forests, meadows, and lakes distinguishes rural Overijssel. These are punctuated by châteaux, steep-roofed and half-timbered farmhouses, tranquil villages, and picturesque medieval and Hanseatic towns.

Holland's newest province, Flevoland, was created on land reclaimed in recent decades from the IJsselmeer and was inaugurated in 1986. The new polders cover 1,800 sq. km (695 sq. miles), sprinkled with old villages that were once islands by themselves, and shiny modern towns like Lelystad. Straight roads run through flat fields traversed by equally straight canals.