Travel Guide Europe Netherlands North Holland Alkmaar



Alkmaar is a historic city in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands, about 10 kilometres inland from the coast, and 40 kilometres northwest of Amsterdam. The city's population is about 95,000, the whole urban area has about twice that number. Alkmaar is the regional center for the northern part of the province, serving about 600,000 people. The city center preserves the 17th-century pattern of canals and narrow streets, and has many historic buildings (and some ugly new ones). The nearby beaches and dune reserves are easily accessible from Alkmaar. Inland is a historic agricultural landscape, with 17th century polders: one (De Beemster) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Sights and Activities

The old city of Alkmaar is approximately an oval, south-east of the station. It is about 1 km from east to west, so everything is within walking distance. Shops and public buildings are concentrated in the western part, nearest the station, the east and south are residential. There is one shopping centre just outside the old city, Noorderarcade, accessible by footbridge across the North Holland Canal. The old city contains most of the historic buildings.

From the station: turn right as you leave the station, along Stationsweg. Turn right along Scharlo, cross the bridge over the Singelgracht (the old moat), and you are in the old city. The bridge is 5–10 minutes walk from the station.

The bridge into the old city is called the Bergerbrug, the old route to Bergen. The city gate here (Bergerpoort) was demolished in the 19th century. On the corner just after the bridge, at Zevenhuizen 13-23, is the Hofje van Paling en van Foreest. A hofje is an almshouse, especially from before 1850, often built around an enclosed courtyard. They were funded by legacies of wealthy citizens and usually bore their names. This one was funded by a legacy of Pieter Claez Paling and Josina van Foreest, around 1540: their family coats of arms are above the door. Only Catholic women could live here until 1670, when Protestants were admitted but lived separately. With 19th-century additions, the hofje now forms a block around an enclosed garden.

Most of the moat around the old city has survived, its present extent dates from about 1590. On the north side it is now the Noordhollands kanaal, a shipping route, and the quayside is a busy road. On the west and south, the old bastions are planted with trees, and there is a footpath along the waters edge. A small section of the old city (around Heiligland) was cut off when the Noordhollands kanaal was built (in 1824).

The Clarissenbolwerk is the best preserved section along the old moat. The footpath passes an arched door leading to a vault: this is the former gunpowder magazine, converted to an icehouse around 1850. (The ice was cut from the moat in winter, and used to cool the vault until the summer). The vault is now home to Alkmaar's bats. The footpath also passes a small water gate, Lamoraalsluis: boats entered the small harbour here, Scheteldoekshaven, which connects to the Lindegracht and the Oude Gracht. The curving street Geest was also a canal, until 1899. The many breweries in Alkmaar were concentrated on the Lindegracht, when the harbour was still in use. Small canals linked Alkmaar to Egmond and to Bergen.

Alkmaar's oldest house, Kanisstraat 1. Restored in the 19th century, this house on the corner of Geest, is one of the oldest surviving houses of Alkmaar. There have been older houses in the city, but most of them have been wooden houses, and therefore did not survive the repeated city fires.

Across the Singelgracht, at the end of the footbridge, is the Sint-Josephkerk (Saint Joseph's Church), Nassaulaan 2. It is a typical example of the neo-gothic Catholic churches, built in the Netherlands from the mid-19th century until the First World War. This one was consecrated in 1910, and was designed by the office of Margry and associates, followers of the neo-gothic specialist and Rijksmuseum architect Cuypers. Cuypers himself designed the Catholic Sint Laurentiuskerk at Verdronkenoord 78. The Margry churches are described and illustrated at the same website. (Q2501504) on Wikidata (updated Nov 2018 | edit)

The only windmill of the city centre, De Groot, known better as De Molen van Piet (Piet's Windmill). It can be found at the south end of the Clarissenbolwek. It is informally named after the family Piet, who run the mill to this day. Ownership has since been moved to the municipality though. Windmills were often placed on the bastions and ramparts of the city walls around Dutch cities, so that they could catch more wind. In Alkmaar, there were ten windmills on the walls, and one was built here in 1605. The present windmill, a grain mill, was built in 1769.

The old city has two main squares: the one nearest the station is the Canadaplein, on the north side of Alkmaar's main church, the Sint Laurenskerk Grote. Also known as the Grote Kerk, it was built between 1470 and 1520, at the highest point on the sand ridge. The late-gothic church is built in Brabant Gothic style: it contains the early-Renaissance tomb of Floris V, Count of Holland (1254 -1296). The church is open daily in summer, but it is now mainly used for conferences, receptions, and concerts. The Canadaplein is enclosed by the new city library and museum, and the theater and cultural centre De Vest.

Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar, Canadaplein 1, ☎ +31 725 489 789, e-mail: Tu-F 10:00-17:00; Sa Su and holidays 13:00-17:00. A good regional museum, covering the history of Alkmaar and the region, especially the 16th and 17th centuries, and the growth of modern Alkmaar, with paintings from both periods. Adults €12; family ticket (two adults with children) €16.
Het Hooge Huys, Sint Laurensstraat 1-3. A neo-mediaeval insurance office completed in 1931. The architect, A.J. Kropholler was a Catholic traditionalist who designed insurance offices and churches. His traditionalism was his downfall: he was accused of collaboration with Nazi ideology during the German occupation, and could only work with difficulty after 1945.

The main street is the Langestraat, which starts at the Sint Laurenskerk, and ends just south of the Waagplein. Halfway along the street is the late-gothic Stadhuis or Town Hall, built in 1509 - 1520. The building and the tower were restored in 1911-1913, and the present façade is in fact a copy of the original. The extension on the corner with Schoutenstraat, was rebuilt in 1694 in classicist style. The door displays the coats of arms of former mayors, and allegorical figures of Prudence and Justice. The hall contains two monochrome allegorical paintings (ca. 1694) by Romeyn de Hooghe.

At Langestraat 93 is a patrician house from the same period as Huize Egmont (below), the Moriaanshoofd. Built in 1748, it is now used as part of the Town Hall. The name is from an earlier tavern on the site and means "The Moor's Head". Above the entrance is a bay window, topped by a polychrome sculpture. The interior has a hall in Italian marble, and stucco walls and ceilings.

At Langestraat 114 is Huize Egmont, a house with decorated sandstone façade, built in 1742 in Louis XIV style for Carel de Dieu, mayor of Alkmaar. Impress your friends by pointing out the alternation of grooved triglyphs and plain metopes on the cornice. Refer them to Vitruvius Book IV, Chapter 2 for the origin of triglyphs and metopes. The architect of Huize Egmont was Jean Coulon from Amsterdam, the son of a Huguenot refugee, and the pioneer of the Louis XIV style in the Netherlands. The sculptors Asmus Frauen (Amsterdam) and Willem Straetmans (Alkmaar) worked on the interior, and collaborated again in the reconstruction of the Kapelkerk. Coulon was the architect of Herengracht 539 in Amsterdam, which has many examples of this style.

North of the Langestraat, and parallel to it, is the Gedempte Nieuwesloot, meaning the 'filled-in new ditch'. Halfway along the street is the Hof van Sonoy, which is also a street name.

Hof van Sonoy, Veerstraat 1. The Hof van Sonoy is a larger version of a hofje, incorporating part of the former convent of Maria Magdalena. During the Siege of Alkmaar, the convent was used to house those displaced by new defensive works. After the siege, it was sold to Diederik (Dietrich) Sonoy. The notorious Sonoy was a nobleman from Kalkar, in the Duchy of Cleves, who choose the side of William of Orange in the conflict with the Spanish court. He was appointed governor of 'Holland's Northern Quarter', the region around Alkmaar, and played an important role in defeating the Siege of Alkmaar. However, he was not a 'liberator': like some other leaders of the revolt, he was a religious fanatic. He burnt the Abbey of Egmond, and persecuted, tortured, and killed Catholics. (Mutual resentment among Catholics and Protestants played an important role in Dutch social history: the issue was not fully resolved until the mid-20th-century). The next owner, Willem van Bardes, added the tower and the gate, carrying his coat of arms (early 17th century). In 1743 the building was acquired by the Reformed Church, who used it as to house the needy elderly. Part of the Hof van Sonoy is now a restaurant.

Beside the Hof van Sonoy is the Huis van Achten, at Lombardsteeg 23. This is another almshouse, for eight elderly men - hence the name (House of Eight). Its official name is the Provenhuis van Johan van Nordingen, founded with Nordingen's legacy in 1657. The figures on the Renaissance façade, and the wood carvings in the hall, indicate its function as a hospice for men. The windows of the eight rooms are visible on the Veerstraat and Lombardsteeg side. On the Nieuwesloot side is the regents chamber, and the house of the supervisor. Inside, a covered passage encloses a garden.

Further north, parallel to Gedempte Nieuwesloot, is the Koningsweg. The first stone for the house at Koningsweg 78 was laid in August 1598. The side walls and the ceilings are original, the wooden frame of the house (Scandinavian oak) has been reconstructed. The present bell gable façade dates from 1787, enlarged 1925. The house had a sunken bed alcove, and its own well and cistern at the rear.

The main market square is the Waagplein, with the most photogenic building of Alkmaar, the Waag or weighing-house. It forms the backdrop for most postcards of the Alkmaar cheese market. The Waag now houses the Kaasmuseum (Cheese Museum). The building was built as a chapel around 1390, and converted to a municipal weigh-house in 1582.

Kaasmarkt (Alkmaar Cheese Market), Waagplein. Every Friday morning in spring and summer, from 10:00 to 12:30. Though it no longer is a proper market, but more so a show for tourists, the well-known cheese market of Alkmaar is a replica of what was, complete with cheese porters in traditional costumes.
Hollands Kaasmuseum (Cheese Museum), Waagplein 2, ☎ +31 725 155 516, e-mail: M-Sa 10:00-16:00, but times may differ. Adults €5, children age 4-12 €2, children <3 and holders of Museumkaart or Alkmaarpas free.

Just north of the Waagplein is the Nationaal Biermuseum de Boom, housed in a 17th-century brewery at Houttil 2. This was one of the largest breweries in Alkmaar. Beer was drunk in huge quantities in medieval towns, which rarely had a safe supply of drinking water. Alkmaar brewers brought clean water in barrels, from streams or ponds in the dunes: at the quayside they were lifted by a special crane. Open M-Sa 13:00-16:00, during the cheese market 11:00-16:00. Closed on Sundays, public holidays and the 8th of October. The bar serves 86 kinds of beer. Entrance €5.00, children aged 7-12 €2.50.

South of the Waagplein is the Vismarkt or fish market, at the corner of Mient and Verdronkenoord. Until the 19th century, most food and agricultural products were traded on street markets. The larger the town, the more specialized street markets it had. The names of these markets survive as street names in old European cities: for instance, Haymarket, Heumarkt, and Hooimarkt. The Hague has a Kalvermarkt, Varkenmarkt, and a Dagelijkse Groenmarkt - calves market, pigs market, and daily vegetable market. Alkmaar also has a Paardenmarkt (horse market) and a Turfmarkt: turf was the main domestic fuel until about 1870.
The simple covered fish stalls were first built in the 16th century, and renovated around 1755. In the 19th century. Fish were sold here until 1998. The columns (first wood, later stone) were replaced with cast-iron pillars. The fish were sold on the stone tables, usually after being kept in baskets in the canal behind the stall. The door gave access to the canal, which was also to transport the fish: similar fish stalls in other old towns also back onto a canal. The pomp dates from 1785, and was renewed in 1882. Another typical feature of these fish stalls are the copper grilles on the drains: the salt (used to preserve fish) would corrode iron grilles.

Oude Gracht

The longest canal in the old city is the Oude Gracht, with its continuation the Lindegracht. On this relatively wide canal, parallel to the Langestraat, are several historic houses.

At Ritsevoort 2, on the corner with Oude Gracht, is the Hofje van Splinter. This hofje was founded in 1646, with a legacy from Margaretha Splinter. It was rebuilt after her death as a hofje for eight unmarried ladies, in needy circumstances but of good family. The Splinter coat of arms is on the façade. The unmarked door beside the lawyers office leads to a small covered passage, along the eight tiny houses. The hofje is private, but the door is often open for visitors, on the expectation they will visit quietly.

At Oudegracht 247 is Huize Oort, an a 17th-century house that was renovated in the 18th century. The façade is in neo-classical style: the transom window (above the door) depicts a double coat of arms. The marble-floored hall leads to the main garden room, with stucco ceiling and mantelpiece.

At Oudegracht 239-241 are two photogenic 17th-century houses: the house with the corbel gable has a stone indicating the date, 1623. The frieze includes two lion masks, the other house has two canons and two ships on the façade. The stone (now polychrome) possibly refers to the Alkmaar sea-captain who had the house built.
Just off the canal, in the Hofstraat (nr 15), is the former synagogue- now used as a Baptist church. Jews were admitted to Alkmaar in 1604, the building was bought in 1802, expanded, and converted to a synagogue. Behind it was a school, and there was a house for the rabbi and a 'mikwe' (ritual bath). The dates on the façade are the Jewish-calendar dates of renovation, 1826 en 1844. The Alkmaar Jews were arrested in March 1942, and almost all of them were murdered. The building stood derelict until the Baptists bought it in 1952, there are now plans to re-convert it to a synagogue and Jewish centre.

At Oudegracht 187 is the Evangelical-Lutheran church, built in 1692. The exterior is simple: the interior has a wooden barrel vault with raised centre section, and a decorated porch. The 1754 organ has rococo carvings: the swan on the organ is a symbol of Luther, and of the Lutheran church.

At Oudegracht 45-91 is a large hofje, the Wildemanshofje. This one was founded by Gerrit Florisz. Wildeman - built in 1717, rebuilt in 1849. To honour the founder, there is a statue of a Wild Man with club, in the decorated porch. The Wild Man - a figure from mediaeval and early-modern European mythology - was also included in the Wildeman coat of arms, a tradition also in Germany. The other allegorical figures represent Age and Poverty, the statue is by the Alkmaar sculptor Jacob van der Beek: there is a second statue in the symmetrical enclosed garden. The hofje housed 24 elderly women.

At the corner with Keetgracht is the Stadstimmerwerf, or former municipal workshop (literally 'city carpenters wharf'). Most Dutch cities had similar workshops and yards: this one started as a shed around 1600, and was considerably expanded in 1726. The corbel in the façade indicates that a second story has been added.

Verdronken Oord

Verdronken Oord ('drowned place') is the second main canal of Alkmaar. In the Kapelsteeg, just off the canal, is the second church of late mediaeval Alkmaar, the Kapelkerk. It was first built between 1500 and 1540, in the Brabant gothic style. The church was reconstructed in Dutch classicist style in 1707: a transept and domed spire were added. It was rebuilt again (after a fire) in 1762. When the church was built, the Laat was a canal, so the entrance is in an alley.

The exterior has 'speklagen', alternating layers of stone and brick, a feature of late Gothic architecture. In the interior is a closed bench for the magistrates (council) of the city, in Louis XIV style (1707). A second pair of benches was added in 1762, for army officers, regents of almshouses, and similar notables. The 1762 rebuilding included a rococo chancel with screen and an organ-case, by the sculptors Asmus Frauen and Willem Straetmans, who also worked on Huize Egmont (Langestraat 114). The organ itself is by Christian Müller. The present stained-glass windows date from much later, 1920-1940. There is detailed description (in Dutch, with images of the interior) at the church website.

At Verdronkenoord 78 is the Catholic Sint Laurentiuskerk: like the Laurenskerk it is dedicated to Saint Lawrence , an early Christian martyr who was roasted to death. Duplicate churches are common in the Netherlands: the older Laurenskerk is of course Protestant since the Reformation. This Catholic version was built in neo-gothic style in 1859-1861, and was an early work by the most prominent Dutch neo-gothic architect, Pierre Cuypers. The interior is also neo-gothic, with marlstone reliefs, and a fresco depicting the Blood Miracle of Alkmaar (1429). This was one of the many mediaeval miracle stories associated with the Catholic belief in the transformation of bread and wine into the Body of Christ, transubstantiation. The piece of cloth with three drops of 'blood' is still kept in this church, and still revered by traditionalist Catholics.

At Verdronkenoord 45 is a substantial 17th century warehouse with a decorated gable, named De Vigilantie (Vigilance). The gable has a split arch with vase, two oval cartouches and other floral decorations. The façade is in the style of the Amsterdam architect Philip Vingboons, compare the house at Rokin 145 or the Cromhout houses in Amsterdam.

Luttik Oudorp

The third main canal in the old city is Luttik Oudorp. On the corner with Appelsteeg is the only surviving wooden-fronted house in Alkmaar, Het huis met de kogel. The 'house with the cannonball' gets its name from the fact that it was struck by a Spanish cannonball, during the Siege of Alkmaar in 1573. There is still a cannonball on the façade as a reminder. The occupants, the Calvinist preacher Jan Arendsz and his family, were unharmed.

Across the bridge from the cannonball house is a shorter canal, the photogenic Kooltuin, with a quay on one side only (the other houses back onto the water). The parallel narrow street, Achterdam, (at the front of these houses) forms the entire red light district of Alkmaar. Achterdam is one of four streets around a rectangular block. Their names indicate it is a unit, in fact a late 15th-century land reclamation: Dijk, Voordam, Achterdam, Zijdam - dike, front dam, rear dam and side dam.

The canals in the old cities of Holland had an economic function: they were a vital means of transport. Warehouses and the few industries were on the quayside. Goods were unloaded from barges, and often hoisted into the upper stories. At Luttik Oudorp 81 is a typical large warehouse with a projecting beam for the hoist, De Korenschoof ('The Wheatsheaf'). [7] The warehouse has double access doors on four stories, and next to them arched windows (originally with shutters in place of glass). The sandstone blocks alongside the door carried the original heavy hinges. The upper storey (with the three arched windows) is the hoist floor, the hoist wheel survives. The hoist could be worked from any of the floors below.

In the long narrow street Fnidsen, parallel to Luttik Oudorp, is a simple Remonstrant church (Fnidsen 35-39). This is a schuilkerk, or 'hidden church'. After the Reformation, the Dutch Reformed Church was the only legal religion. As time went on, Catholics and non-conformist Protestant sects, were allowed to practice their religion, but only out of public view. Chapels inside private houses were tolerated, and later small churches, so long as they did not look like churches. This one was built in 1658, to replace a secret meeting place in a mill. The gate with the two flanking houses was built later, in 1728. The wrought iron above the door incorporates the letters RK (Remonstrantse Kerk), the interior has a 17th-century chancel with 18th-century baptistery screen, and copper chandeliers from the same periods, and a deal floor (traditionally covered with sand).



Events and Festivals

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity.



Getting There

By Public Transport

Alkmaar is served by train through Station Alkmaar, which is serviced with Sprinter (stopping train) and Intercity (fast train) services to Amsterdam, Utrecht, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Haarlem, Hoorn and Maastricht. The station's bus station is served mostly by Connexxion, for which it is a local hub, with buses to Egmond aan Zee (165), Heerhugowaard (160), Bergen aan Zee (166) and Broek op Langedijk (169). There are also two services to the province of Friesland via the Afsluitdijk, serviced by Arriva. These are 350 to Leeuwarden and 351 to Harlingen. The latter, however, is only active during summers. These two routes, however, are significantly faster than taking a train via Amsterdam and Zwolle to get to the same destinations.

Local bus services connect Alkmaar to surrounding villages and towns, up to about 30 kilometres away. They all stop at Alkmaar bus station, beside the railway station. Some routes also stop at the northern edge of the old city centre (on Kanaalkade), or at the southern edge (at the Metiusgracht stop, across the bridge from the windmill 'Molen van Piet').

By Bicycle

The signposted long-distance cycle route LF7 includes a section from Amsterdam to Alkmaar. This section begins by crossing on the ferry (Buiksloterwegveer), behind Amsterdam Centraal Station. About half the route is through rural areas, including the shore of the Alkmaarder Meer, 'Lake Alkmaar'- although in fact it is beside Uitgeest. It is the only large lake left in the region - all the others were drained over the last 450 years. In Alkmaar, the LF7 passes through the old city, near the station. The route is 57 km long, takes about 4 hours, and you must pay careful attention to the signs, or you will take a wrong turn. There is also a direct cycle route, along the N203 road via Zaandam. It has a cycle lane, but you would cycle for 2–3 hours alongside a busy road.

You can also rent a bike as you arrive in Alkmaar at Fietspoint Stoop beside the train station, immediately to the right as you exit.




Almost all bars serve food and the town offers a wide range of restaurants, almost all of which in walking distance from the city center. varying from Dutch to Thai, from Chinese to Russian and Eastern European, from Spanish to Indonesian and from Greek to Scotch. Restaurants are typically open from around 17:00 to 23:30.




Alkmaar has many bars, which are mostly centred around the Waagplein and Platte Stenen Brug (Mient). Bars are open until 02:00 on weekdays and until 02:30 or 03:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.




Most accommodation in the region is on the coast, especially in the seaside villages, and in the dunes. In Alkmaar, there is one small hotel opposite the station, a larger hotel in the city center, two larger chain hotels, and several bed and breakfasts.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)



Keep Connected


Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.


The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.


Accommodation in Alkmaar

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This is version 5. Last edited at 13:02 on May 3, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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