Where is Amsterdam?

Where is Amsterdam?

Did you know the answer to this question? If not, don’t worry because you’re not the only one. By the end of this blog you will know what many people don’t, that is where and what is Amsterdam?

This question, When in Amsterdam came across in a conversation had when travelling Papua New Guinea (PNG), a country east of Indonesia. A well-educated young man called John who spoke excellent English and had travelled throughout the Pacific region had never heard of this famous European Capital city. It is the capital of the Netherlands. ‘The Netherlands?’ John replied with confusion. At the mention of the word, Holland, a smile came across his face. “Yes, Holland, very good soccer team I support them in the World Cup. I like orange. I liked Ruud Gullit but you are wrong the Hague is the capital of the Holland?”

John from a county on the other side of the world from Amsterdam was almost right but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Where is Amsterdam? Amsterdam is a city located at latitude 52˚22’23’’north and longitude 4˚53’32’’east in the south of the Province of North Holland in the Netherlands. The Netherlands or commonly referred to as Holland is a small country of 16 million people in north-west Europe. It borders Belgium to the south and Germany to the east and north. To the west is the North Sea which is north of the English Channel and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean.

John and many people, maybe you are one of them, are right to be confused between Holland and the Netherlands. The difference between Holland and the Netherlands is that Holland is two western provinces of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands.

How did this come about? Holland in the middle Ages was its own region with its own lords and governors who were connected to either the old Kingdoms of Germany or France. Historically, Holland was rich and many countries traded with Holland. Under Napoleon the regions of this part of Europe were place together and called the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official name is still the Kingdom of the Netherlands but because many countries had important trade connections with Holland the name, Holland, has stuck.

In Amsterdam it does not matter which word you use, Holland or the Netherlands. Just be careful when travelling north, south or east in the Netherlands as the people there will not appreciate you calling them Hollanders. 

John was also right to be confused about the capital of the Netherlands. This is because the political parliament of the Netherlands is in The Hague. This strange anomaly officially occurred in 1815 after Napoleon had been sent into exile after defeats at Leipzig and Waterloo. The new King of the Netherlands, Willam I, knew the importance of Amsterdam as a trade and financial center. Also, Amsterdam had been the capital under Napoleon occupation. The constitution of 1815 lists Amsterdam as the capital but the seat of parliament is in The Hague. The reason behind this is that the royal family had previously been regent of the region now known today as parts of Belgium and the Netherlands. They were Princes and called the House of Orange and Nassau. Historically this family had been located in The Hague since 1584 when William of Orange was assassinated in a town close to The Hague called Delft.

‘So this is why they wear orange, the soccer team?’ John immediately interjected. Yes, the Dutch wear orange as their national color because the royal family of the Netherlands is called the Orange family. However, most Amsterdammers don’t wear a lot of orange because the royal family has historically lived further south in The Hague. Amsterdam’s colors are red and black. ‘This Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and not The Hague. Only the parliament is in the Hague?’ John replied. Yes. ‘And Holland is in the Netherlands?’ John added. Yes. ‘What a complicated little country’ John concluded. Yes.