Fun Facts About the Netherlands

In anticipation of our trip to the Netherlands earlier this month to present the Authenticated Data Specification (ADS) at the 2023 IBC conference in Amsterdam, I researched fun facts about the Netherlands. There were the expected factoids about tulips, windmills, and wooden shoes, then the less-expected:

• The Dutch are the tallest people in the world (men average 6’, women 5’7”) – personally, I’m north of 6’2” when standing straight, so I’m a little freaked out whenever I run into someone noticeably taller than me, which happened several times while in the Netherlands.

• Amsterdam has more than 1,200 bridges. I never gave it much thought, but all of those canals do require a whole lot of bridges, which do break up the city delightfully. Much like Venice, Italy, the older buildings in Amsterdam sit on top of more than 1 million wooden poles driven into the muddy ground. Unlike Venice, however, Amsterdam does not seem to be sinking at an appreciable rate.

• One-third of the Netherlands is below sea level – and that’s before you account for climate change. That in turn accounts for all the windmills, dykes, and little boys with fingers in same (the latter bit comes from the story of “The Hero of Haarlem” as told in Mary Mapes Dodge’s 1865 book, Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland).

• There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands (with an average of 1.3 bicycles per person). This is obvious in Amsterdam. No matter the time of day, there was always someone out riding a bicycle – from commuters to school children to entire families. I was nearly run down three times my first day in the city until I worked out the system of pedestrian walkways, bikeways, roadways, and tramways that serve the city. The London Underground remains my favorite subway system, but Amsterdam has the best system of public transportation and automobile alternatives I’ve ever seen.

And finally, the entirely unexpected: The Dutch invented gin. Gin always seemed such a quintessentially British beverage that I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that it didn’t come from the land of fish and chips with mushy peas.

Ultimately, gin is a form of juniper schnapps – a clear liquor flavored with juniper berries (during American Prohibition “bathtub gin” was an attempt to take some of the edge off homemade moonshine by flavoring it with juniper oil). Botanical extracts designed to take advantage of the medicinal value of juniper berries date back to 1269. So, technically, gin started off as a health food. The modern alcohol-based version appeared in the 16th century and was originally called “Genever” (Dutch for “juniper berry”), which eventually devolved into the English “gin.”

The British were introduced to gin during the Eighty Years’ War (1566-1648), one of the many Protestant/Catholic wars fought over the years – this one involving the British and Dutch on the one side and the Spanish on the other (Spain ruled the Netherlands from 1556-1714). During the war, Dutch soldiers were issued a gin ration prior to battle – leading to the term “Dutch courage.” Gin soon became the British national beverage, replacing cholera-infected well water as the most popular drink in England and pre-dating the introductions of both rum (c. 1650) and tea (c. 1657). When the Dutch prince William of Orange became King of England in 1689 (and passed the “Distillers Act” of 1690, which allowed tax-free home brewing while restricting imported brandy and wine), gin’s place in the British heart (and liver) was assured. By 1733, London boasted over 7,000 gin shops and the average Brittan consumed 14 gallons of 160-proof gin per year (no wonder it was called “Mother’s Ruin”).

In the 19th century, soldiers with the British East India Company began mixing gin with quinine water to help combat malaria, and the gin and tonic was born. So, gin is twice over a health food. The United Kingdom is today the world’s largest exporter of gin, followed distantly by Germany, Spain, and France. The Dutch still make jenever, a variety of gin often characterized by a stronger juniper flavor and the presence of a wide variety of locally-sourced botanicals, particularly in Schiedam located near Rotterdam, southwest of Amsterdam.

So, with all this newly-acquired gin-soaked knowledge, how do we make an evening of it? By watching memorable gin-related movies, of course. Top of the list has to be 1942’s Casablanca (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”) followed by 2006’s Casino Royale (for the Vesper martini, if nothing else) with an honorable mention to 2012’s The Hunger Games (more for Haymitch, in this case, than Katniss). We culled a number of sources ranging from Gin Raiders to IMDb and Movie Flavor to compile our list of 40 movies with iconic gin moments and suitably inebriated characters. More information on all of these films can be found (and linked to) in the EIDR Content ID registry.

EIDR’s Ginapedia

Title Year EIDR ID
West of Zanzibar 1928 10.5240/ACD2-A825-666F-77DF-A805-Q
Idiot’s Delight 1939 10.5240/E5F7-8BA8-0AEC-28FB-9940-0
Casablanca 1942 10.5240/85FE-AC4A-178F-C32D-0CF1-0
Random Harvest 1942 10.5240/A5BC-267B-5BBB-1FF1-CE6A-K
Wake of the Red Witch 1948 10.5240/1E1D-9190-E3B8-E68B-1F0A-8
The African Queen 1951 10.5240/ED31-BACA-F6CF-4CE8-7A5F-C
Auntie Mame 1958 10.5240/4799-7AB7-1538-20D3-F4DD-X
Ice Cold in Alex 1958 10.5240/9C66-C548-8F2F-6E11-5D4D-1
The Young Philadelphians 1959 10.5240/2FB4-CCF7-3BC4-D8E5-F8B9-I
Strangers When We Meet 1960 10.5240/409C-FA93-34D9-1306-B8B4-V
Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961 10.5240/53AD-3BEB-67CE-A78B-8727-X
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes 1963 10.5240/0E48-430F-833A-92BD-E80A-P
Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon 1970 10.5240/1DAD-54B5-B15F-C4CC-AA05-J
Sleuth 1972 10.5240/6E15-65ED-D808-123A-6E5D-E
The Way We Were 1973 10.5240/230C-C3F3-4C58-F75C-4780-R
The Man Who Fell to Earth 1976 10.5240/D721-C018-06DD-344D-92CF-J
The Wild Geese 1978 10.5240/6572-2AF1-C1C6-4DC7-DFDA-B
Annie 1982 10.5240/10E9-EE61-BB7C-2FBF-14AE-Q
1984 1984 10.5240/4419-245B-FFF8-6FF2-D149-U
Planes, Trains & Automobiles 1987 10.5240/57C5-C7E3-EC61-9AA0-B4EB-B
Withnail & I 1987 10.5240/8A79-4775-2971-8E63-4817-E
Battle Royale 2000 10.5240/CFAF-FA86-1DD1-8D64-E450-A
Meet the Fockers 2004 10.5240/2192-50A3-ADE7-6D03-62E0-F
Capote 2005 10.5240/A49F-8B67-ACDC-656D-E9F9-9
Black Book 2006 10.5240/5A51-EED5-8DE2-1D85-C5DC-H
Casino Royale 2006 10.5240/FDB2-EC36-5159-417D-933A-L
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2007 10.5240/BC5A-7CD7-BF87-C5A5-605E-8
A Single Man 2009 10.5240/DE45-BC27-328C-0371-DD9F-L
Dorian Gray 2009 10.5240/38C7-EDB4-09E0-C75B-6DC0-N
The Great Gatsby 2012 10.5240/4C4E-7378-CB62-461F-865F-Y
The Hunger Games 2012 10.5240/6165-87D5-C8F5-D90E-0195-M
The Other Woman 2014 10.5240/9BC6-C065-978E-1175-0622-8
Legend 2015 10.5240/0E76-59EF-F081-9139-4004-9
John Wick: Chapter 2 2017 10.5240/EAE9-4C4F-599A-019B-8109-X
A Simple Favor 2018 10.5240/1B67-1C47-0C41-60AF-520E-E
Terminal 2018 10.5240/8218-560D-A3AE-1946-FDA8-L
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 2018 10.5240/2199-79C1-13CD-3908-6B60-E
Possessor 2020 10.5240/A72D-694F-3DC6-B921-B527-W
Juniper 2021 10.5240/C563-9725-3139-C08A-5671-B
Nightmare Alley 2021 10.5240/1A48-FD46-4329-59C2-EF4D-R