HOLLAND AND GERMANY 335. Land below the level of the sea.— Holland, or the Netherlands, as it calls itself, is like Belgium, a country having little land but many people. Except for a few poor mines, it has no coal except that which comes in ships from England and in river boats down the Rhine from Germany. For a long time the people of Holland have been cultivating all of their land. What work would a young man do in such a country? In Canada or the United States he might still go out west and find a farm waiting for him. It is different in Holland, where every foot of land is already used. To get a job, the young Dutchman must go to town, or go to sea, or go to some other country, as many of the Hollanders, or Dutchmen, have done. But there is one more thing he can do; he can help build sea walls to keep the water back so that the sea bottom may be drained and used for growing crops.
Holland is the only country in the world whose people have thus made a large part of their land for themselves. Much of Holland was once a big, shallow bay called the Zuyder Zee. For hundreds of years the Dutch have been diking off parts of it, pumping the water out and then making fields on the bottom of the bay, and they are still doing it. This is how it is done.
First, they build a big dike, or bank like a railroad bank, across a part of the bay. Sometimes they have to use stones from Norway and logs from Switzerland, for. this part of Holland has neither stones nor forests. When the dike has been built, pumps are started, and by months of pumping the water is drawn out of the part of the bay behind the dike. Then the bottom can be used for farms. Finally, in order to keep the rain water from cover ing the land, windmills are built on the dike. Every time the wind blows, these mills pump and pump and pump, and thus keep the water below the surface of the meadows.
Now you see why this country is called the Netherlands, which means "Low lands".
The bottom of the Zuyder Zee is part of the Rhine delta—soft, rich mud, washed down from Germany and the Alps. When reclaimed, it makes very excellent pasture. So many cows are kept here that butter and cheese are among the chief exports of Holland. The Dutch cultivate each field
like a garden, and everything is very neat and clean.
336. A country of go in all directions across this level country, and people use them instead of roads. The farmer goes to mar ket in his canal boat instead of in a wagon. In the winter, the people skate to town on the canals, and skating races are the chief winter sport.
Everyone who goes to Holland wants to take a ride on a canal boat. Let us get on board this one that is waiting. The canal goes across the coun try like a road or vil lage street. We see on one side of it a foot-path and a row of houses with roofs of red tiles made of burned clay. Women take milk from door to door in carts pulled by big, strong, lead colored dogs. Dog wagons are very com mon in this part of Europe. As the few roads are level, traveling is easy for dogs.
Then, too, it costs less to keep a dog than to keep a horse.
A large, long-legged bird stands on a church roof. It . is a stork, and that pile of rough sticks on the church steeple is her nest. Everybody in the village is pleased to have a stork's nest on the roof because they think it is a sign of good luck.
Beside the canal some boys and girls, wearing wooden shoes, called sabots, play with toy boats that have sails and run before the wind. On the other side of the canal is a field where black and white cows eat very green grass. Near by a windmill swings its arms as it turns the mill that grinds American corn into meal for these cows to eat. Our boat stops, and the village cheese maker puts on board a lot of round, red Dutch Edam cheeses that are on their way to the United States.
337. Government and cities.—The government of The Netherlands is like that of BelgiuM. The capital is The Hague. Amsterdam is the largest city, and is famous for its work in diamonds. Nearly all the dia monds in the world are taken to Amster dam to be cut, for here are the most skilful diamond cutters in the world. These men can take what would look to us like rough pebbles, as they come from the mines of South Africa, and make of them brilliant, shining jewels.