The Netherlands, is a lively mix of tradition, in the form of windmills and tulips, and fast-paced modern European life.The Dutch are an affable race, with a good sense of humour and a keen sense of how to enjoy themselves, whether it be relaxing in the countryside or partying hard in the big cities. Despite their country's puritan past, they are known for tolerance, or at least turning a blind eye.Known as being largely flat (much of the country lies below sea level, and another great swathe is made up of ‘polder', or land reclaimed from the sea), The Netherlands is an ideal destination for those who enjoy pursuits like cycling or walking without over-exerting themselves. But it is a cultured land as well, as the seemingly endless list of great Dutch artists testifies. The Netherlands' roots in the arts stem from the 17th century, the so-called ‘Golden Age', which placed this tiny but rich country at the forefront of European culture. The gaining of the upper hand by imperial influence and the annexing of The Netherlands to the far-flung empire of the Hapsburgs in the 16th century resulted in the rebellion of the largely Protestant northern provinces of the Low Countries, led by William of Orange and Nassau - this struggle for independence would last until 1648. This was compounded by a remarkable growth in Dutch sea power, as many Spanish and Portuguese possessions in the New World and East Asia were seized. This reached its acme in 1689 when William III of Orange became King of England - although the association was severed on his death in 1702.