Several years ago, when I visited the Netherlands for the first time, a famous historian with whom I was walking along a road through the polders observed that the national character of the Dutch had formed through many centuries of efforts to shape nature, and that nature in its turn bears the imprint of their character. I was greatly interested by this remark on the interaction between mentality and landscape and I asked my colleague to write an article on this subject for the periodical Odissei. Chelovek v istorii (‘Odysseus. Man in history’), which focused on issues of historical anthropology and which I am publishing for several years. Although unfortunately I did not receive the article as such, I was all the more interested to read Nico Roymans' work. The perception of space and landscape does in truth change through history and it would be incorrect to interpret the natural environment as a rigid framework in which the history of mankind unfolds. It is said that culture is man's second nature – but would it not be nearer the truth to say that it is his only nature? Man is a symbolical being (animal symbolicum), who finds his way in this world by means of symbols and who perceives reality through these points of reference, which he creates or reproduces. There is no sphere of activity beyond the boundary of this symbolical world. For this reason the perception of human activity cannot go beyond or neglect this all-embracing symbolical universe. Nevertheless far from all historians have mastered the art of reading or deciphering the sign systems of the past or present, since it is by no means easy to learn to read in this manner.