Holland has been engaged in a love/hate relationship with water for centuries. No wonder, since a quarter of the country is below sea level – as much as 7 metres at the lowest point!
That means that the Dutch must always protect themselves against the waters, because no one wants to relive the North Sea Flood of 1953. The Dutch developed great skill at building sturdy dikes, culminating in the Delta Works.
The Dutch also reclaimed much of their land from the sea and from lakes, from as early as the 11th century on, when they built dikes to protect silt deposits along the coast. Starting in the 16th century, the Dutch began to drain lakes using windmills, especially in the province of Noord-Holland. The first known polder, Achtermeer lake to the south of Alkmaar, dates back to 1533. Other famous reclamation projects were the Beemster area (1608-1612) and, later, Flevoland.