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For all that the Bible says otherwise, the Dutch insist the Creation took 8 days, not 7 -- on the eighth day they reclaimed their country from the sea with their own hands. "God made the earth," they tell you, "and the Dutch made Holland."

The all-important dikes, which hold back the sea, began to evolve as far back as the 1st century A.D.; by the end of the 13th century, entire coastal regions were enclosed by dikes that held back unruly rivers and the sea.

If you think a dike is a high wall, you'll be surprised to see that actually many of them are great mounds of earth and stone that extend for miles. Indeed, many of the roads you travel on are built along the tops of dikes.

Around half of the country's land area has been reclaimed from the sea, lakes, and marshes. Some 2,600 sq. km (1,000 sq. miles) of the country was under water just 100 years ago. Approximately 25% of Holland, an area that holds about two-thirds of its people, now lies below sea level, protected from flooding only by sand dunes, dikes, and Dutch engineering ingenuity.

In 1953, devastating North Sea storms broke through the dikes in many places along Holland's southwest coast, flooding significant areas. There was a substantial loss of life and property. In order to assure greater protection along its coastal areas, Holland embarked upon a long-range Delta Project to seal off the river estuaries in the southwest of the country.

In flat Holland, wind is ever present, so it is not surprising that the Dutch have made use of windmills to do their hard labor, from pumping water off the land to drain polders, to milling grain and sawing timber. Nowadays, you're as likely to see the whirling blades of wind turbines, generating a growing proportion of the nation's electrical power.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.