donderdag 22 augustus 2019

Map Guide: The Netherlands

This is the first part on a series of Map Guides I'll write for Eighty Clicks. Predictably, I'll start with my home country: The Netherlands.

How to recognise the Netherlands


The Netherlands are aptly named. If you see mountains, you definitely are not in the Netherlands. The highest 'mountain' of the Netherlands is the Vaalserberg, right on the border with Belgium and Germany. That being said, in the south of the Netherlands there are some hills. The Netherlands are densely populated, so signs of habitation are never far away. The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate, so it's quite green and water is never far away.

Traffic signs

The road network of the Netherlands is extensive and well maintained. Bike lanes are abundant and usually are paved with red asphalt. Dutch traffic lights are easy to recognize by the black-and-white stripes. Road are signposted in blue signs with a white font. Painted white triangles (called 'haaitetanden', or 'sharks teeth') on the road indicate when traffic has to yield to the crossing road.


Like in most European countries, Dutch cars are smaller than their American counterparts. Number plates are yellow with black letters. Most trains are operated by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen and sport a livery which is mostly yellow.
Definitely a Dutch car

Houses and other buildings

Although the Netherlands are known for the stepped gable facades, they are only found in the historical centers of a few cities. Most people live in rijtjeshuizen, or row houses. Dutch houses are built to strict building standards. Brick is commonly used for construction and roofs are almost exclusively tiled with shingles. In the south, buildings tend to be a bit more diverse. Although there are regional differences, by and large plots are much smaller than in the US. Detached houses are relatively rare except in rural areas.

Smaller power lines are always hidden underground. If you see smaller overhead power lines, chances are you are not in the Netherlands.

How to find your way in the Netherlands

The easiest way to find out where you are in the Netherlands is by finding a large road and working back from there. Dutch traffic planners mostly adhere to the principle of a street hierarchy. Small roads tend to be connected to bigger ones. By repeating following larger roads you should encounter a well signed intersection quickly.

At these intersections, there are some clues which should allow you to determine where you are:
  • Distances are signposted in kilometers. 
  • Autosnelwegen (motorways) start with an A and are signposted with white letters on a red background. They are fully grade separated and have at least two lanes per direction.
  • Regional roads start with an N and are signposted with black letters on a yellow background. The larger ones (indicated by a one or two-digit number) are mostly grade separated.
Once you have found your global area, you need to backtrack to the correct street. Streets are usually signposted with blue signs with white letters. Since grid-based street names are unheard of in the Netherlands, the last mile might be the trickiest one!

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