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Discover the Essence of Holland

The essence of Holland is a unique mix of the sophisticated and the cozy—summed up by gezellig

Written and produced by Caroll Stoner

Dutch vernacular painting at Robert Noortman Gallery

Opulent town houses line canals throughout the beautiful city of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Their beauty lies in architectural details.

Outdoor chairs are kept ready at a moment's notice to put into service at outdoor restaurants the minute the sun comes out. Often, the Dutch can be seen sipping coffee outdoors on warm winter days.

Chef Sonja Perreira at the Blue Pepper in Amsterdam, one of the elegant Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands.

Fresh tropical fruit is a fine way to end an Indonesian meal and a treat for the Dutch.

The dining room at the elegant Chateau Sint Gerlach, just outside Maastricht is in a first- rate hotel and is worth a side trip.

The exterior of the Chateau Sint Gerlach in the Netherland's South, hints at the elegance inside.

Amsterdam's Dylan Hotel

Gezellig: Warm, Cozy, and Convivial

The Dutch know how to relax and nourish themselves, and it's this gezellig attitude that makes the Netherlands a fine place to visit. Gezellig embodies the principles of coziness, comfort, and conviviality, and explains many of the daily joys of Dutch life.

"Gezellig is a dinner by the fireplace with family and friends. There's good food, and candles and nice flowers on the table, along with interesting conversation. And laugher for sure," says Marco Sheepstra standing outside the family flower business whose flagship P. Scheepstra & Zn. is one of the most beautiful flower shops in the heart of Amsterdam. "The Dutch go out a lot, but they also love being at home. That's gezellig," he adds.

The Dutch love their farmhouse varieties of buttery cheese- often Gouda or Edam, but aged to increase flavor. These are at Amsterdam's best cheese shop, De Kaaskamer. {C}

Brita Rohl, a manager of Seven One Seven, an exclusive private guesthose-hotel in Amsterdam, puts it this way: "Gezellig is covering yourself with the finest wool blanket and sleeping on the fine pillows and linens. It's having comfortable parlors to meet friends and relax in. Really, it's surrounding yourself with the best you can afford—both at home and away—so you can always feel cozy and comfortable."

Antique delft from Aronson Antiquairs, in business for five generations in Amsterdam.

Robert Aronsen, the fifth generation at Aronson Antiquairs in Amsterdam, where they specialize in 17th- and 18th-century Dutch Delftware and Chinese porcleain and furniture, has his own take on gezellig. "It means enjoying your life in beautiful surroundings." He looks at blue-and-white porcelain around him. "For me, that would mean my favorite antique delft."


  • Dutch Treat or Going Dutch: "Why shouldn't everyone pay his or her own way?" is the pragmatic thinking behind this practical approach to sharing expenses.
  • Dutch Uncles: The original Dutch uncle told the truth—even if it hurt. Be prepared: The Dutch love politics, and today's Dutch uncles may be aunts who pay careful attention to world affairs and are happy to share views. Expect to listen politely and respond with equally educated convictions.
  • Double Dutch: This jump-rope game in double time reflects speed and skill. Today, watch young Dutch servers deliver Winkel's famous apple cake and coffee to diners with the same speed in Amsterdam's Noordemarkt.
  • Dutch Ovens: Iron pots, developed in the early 1700s in England and Holland, were a staple for America's settlers. With lids in place, they're ideal for one-dish meals.
  • Dutch-Process Chocolate: Cocoa powder treated to neutralize its acidic flavor
  • Dutch Bob: The squared-off haircut with attitude, darling on little girls and boys.

Photography: Francis Hammond