Mapping the Dutch Mountains
“So where are those three mountains?” I wondered when I recently got out of the train at the railway station of Driebergen (meaning “three mountains). They were not there, of course. The nearby Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Ridge) is at its highest point, the Amerongse Berg (Mount Amerongen), only 70 meters above sea level. In any other country such elevations would not be considered a mountain or a hill, but at most a gentle rise in the landscape.
I realized that the Netherlands, which are as flat as a well-laid laminate floor, have remarkably many towns and villages with “berg” (mountain) in their names. I could think of at least ten; if I did my best I might even get to twenty.
Consulting Wikipedia, my boldest expectations were exceeded; on the list of Dutch places there are no less than 72 mountainous names. Well, some of them are hamlets with just a few houses. But quite a few are towns and villages of considerable size. Steenbergen, Zevenbergen, Bergen op Zoom… Bergen, another Bergen, Muiderberg, Geertruidenberg, Hillegersberg, Soesterberg, Hardenberg, Woudenberg, Bergschenhoek, Berg en Dal, Bergeijk and more.
As far as I could see, no one had yet had the idea to put all those Dutch mountains on a map, so I decided to do that myself.
I assume that many of these “mountains” eventually refer to subtly higher places in the landscape, however insignificant they may look. For example, the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Hillegersberg originated on a river dune, which only stood a few meters above the peat. Those few meters could after all be the difference between dry and wet feet.
The mountain names are found throughout the country, with the exception of the province of Zeeland and the far North. However in the province of Limburg we find a striking concentration. Well, at least in that region there are some altitude differences which justify the use of the word hill. With a whopping 322 meter above sea level near Vaals, although we must share that with our two neighbours Belgium and Germany.
But 322 meters… in Switzerland, Nepal or Peru they laugh about that.