There are few nations that must be constantly alert to keep the sea from overwhelming much of their land. But the Netherlands (meaning “Lowlands”) is such a place. To the west and the north beyond the natural dunes and man-made dikes, lies the North Sea. Yet, on more than one occasion that sea covered large portions of what is now the most fertile land.
Another feature of this country is suggested by the name Holland. Because of the woods that once stretched behind the dunes in the west, that part of the country was known as Houtland (Timberland), which was later changed to Holland. Although the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, there are still some fairly large woodlands in the central and eastern regions.