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Dutch history goes back the furthest in the province of Drenthe, located in the northeast Netherlands. Prehistoric man settled in Drenthe and built dolmens, called hunebedden (giants' beds).

Dolmen or hunebedden (giant's bed) at Havelte in Drenthe Province
Dolmen or hunebedden (giant's bed) at Havelte in Drenthe Province
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Dating back to 3500 BC, 53 of these burial mounds are scattered across Drenthe, mostly in the northeast. We found two hunebedden in Havelte.

During the war, the huge stones were scooped up and dumped into a hole during the building of an airfield. Fortunately, a local archaeologist had made a scale model of the place before the war, so it was used for reconstruction.

Emmen Drenthe

On a lonely, heather-covered moor near Emmen, we found another circle of stones with an enormous capstone weighing more than 18,000 kilograms. We headed to Borger to search for 11 hunebedden and Rolde for two more dolmens.

Dolmen (Rijk's hunebed) at Emmen, Drenthe
Dolmen (Rijk's hunebed) at Emmen, Drenthe
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Although we didn't find them all, we did see several Drenthe-style farmhouses with animals, hay and family all under one roof.

Groningen Holland

Crossing into Groningen, we noted different farmhouses. They're called "head-neck-rump" houses, with the family home (head) joined by a hall (neck) to the barn (rump).

Although Groningen is the most northerly province of the Netherlands, facing the North Sea and rubbing shoulders with Germany, its capital is only 161 kilometers (100 miles) from Amsterdam.

Driving toward the coast, we observed how the persevering Dutch have added thousands of fertile acres to their country, creating whole new villages. Nearly 30 per cent of Holland now lies below sea level, protected from flooding by great bulwarks of earth and stone, steel and concrete.


Watergate in Sneek, Friesland Province
Watergate in Sneek, Friesland Province
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Several miles from the North Sea intertidal zone, called the Wadden Sea (Waddenzee), we drove along a dead dike (built in 1600). Farther on, we saw a grass-covered sleeper dike, built in 1800, dotted with grazing sheep.

Closer to the Waddenzee is a watcher dike, built in 1945. The watcher is the first line of defense from the ocean, backed by dreamer and sleeper dikes.


Our first view of Friesland (officially called Fryslan) required a double-take. It was a peaceful panorama of a prairie-flat field, green as a billiard table, with a sailboat gliding across the horizon.

The boat, in fact, was in a canal, one of many canals, lakes and rivers which cover the province. Friesland is where the Dutch go to enjoy nature.

In Hervormde Kerk, a church in the Frisian town of Wieuwerd, we saw four 400-year-old mummies. The mummies were preserved by cross-ventilation in the crypt.

Our final stop in Friesland was in Sneek. Its picturesque Watergate (Waterpoort) is the last surviving portion of the town's defense works, built in 1613.


Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions: www.holland.com

More things to see & do in Holland:

Dutch Foods, Drinks and Cuisine

North Holland Tour

East Holland - Gelderland & Overijssel

Flevoland & Urk Holland

Dutch Phrasebook