Category: Netherlands (page 1 of 1)

Haarlem Part 1

When the busyness of Amsterdam becomes too much, a fifteen minute journey by train brings you to Haarlem. A small city of around 150,000 people Haarlem has a beautifully preserved and pedestrianised centre focused on the Grote Markt, only ten minutes walk from the railway station.

During the Dutch Golden Age Haarlem was home to Frans Hals and Jacob van Ruisdal and his uncle, Salomon van Ruisdal. Jan Steen also lived and worked in the city for ten years. More recently Haarlem was the birthplace of Harry Mulisch, generally considered one of the greatest Dutch writers, and of Corrie ten Boom whose family sheltered Jewish refugees and Dutch resistance fighters in their home in the city during the Nazi occupation. The ten Boom family home is now a small museum honouring the family.

Beyond the central square are narrow side streets where centuries old buildings stand alongside more modern constructions. A little further out Haarlem’s canals are lined with pleasant and well kept buildings – mostly business premises and people’s homes.

The canal above leads to one of Haarlem’s best known sites, the De Adriaan windmill. Originally built in 1779 the windmill burned down in 1932. Plans to rebuild were drawn up but construction did not start until 1999 and the windmill finally re-opened in 2002.

Haarlem Part 2

The Grote Markt in Haarlem is dominated by the Grote Kerk or Sint Bavokerk. There has been a church on the site since at least the 13th century but this particular church dates mostly to the 15th and 15th centuries. Franz Hals and the van Ruisdals are buried beneath the floor of the church, among other Haarlem worthies.

The interior of the Grote Kerk is impressive, the two standout features being the beautiful wooden ceiling and the magnificent organ. The organ was originally built in the 1730’s and was at the time the biggest in the world. Mozart, Mendelssohn and Handel have all played this organ.

Delft Part 1

Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North and, like Venice, is struggling to cope with the numbers of tourists, now approaching 19 million every year. This year, 2019, Amsterdam struck a deal with the the Dutch capital Den Haag allowing the latter’s tourist agency to set up at Amsterdam’s Centraal railway station in hopes that some of those 19 million might be persuaded to spend part of their holiday outside the city.

The problem is that the Netherlands is small and the Dutch public transport system is superb, so it is a simple matter to stay in Amsterdam and take day trips to the many surrounding towns and cities, including Den Haag which is less than an hour away by train. While this gets us tourists out of town by day we flood back in like the tide by night. On a trip to Amsterdam to visit friends I discovered the value of the city as a base for exploring more widely and while I did not make it to Den Haag on that occasion I did visit Delft and Haarlem.

Delft Part 2

Mention Delft and many people will think of the famous blue pottery from Royal Delft which has been in production for more than 350 years. Delft is also the seat of the House of Orange and burial place of William I, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs in the 16th century. Delft’s most famous native son is probably Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer was born, lived and died in the city, and is buried in the Oude Kerk. In addition to his well known portraits he also produced two views of the city.

Like many ancient European cities Delft is dominated by churches. Delft has two grand structures, the Old Church and the New Church. The Old Church, or Oude Kerk, dates from 1246 with the massive tower a 14th century addition. The foundations were not sufficient to support the weight of the tower and as you can see from the picture below the lean is very evident. The straight turrets, rebuilt at a later date, make the tilt of the tower even more noticeable. Vermeer is one of the 400 people buried in the church.

Delft Part 3

Work on the New Church, or Nieuwe Kerk, which stands in the Market Square opposite City Hall, began in 1381 and the tower was completed in 1496. With subsequent rebuilding and expansion the church was only finally finished in 1655. The tower is the second highest in the country at 356 feet. There is a very steep and narrow staircase you can climb that leads to a platform offering spectacular views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The mausoleum of William I, Prince of Orange lies within and in the private crypt the kings and queens of the Netherlands are buried, along with other members of the House of Orange.

Finally, some pictures of the views over Deft from the tower.

Delft makes a wonderful day trip from Amsterdam. Travel time by train is around one hour and trains stopping in or connecting to the city leave Amsterdam Centraal every 10-15 minutes. If time is short another option is to combine Delft with a visit to Den Haag which only a fifteen minute train journey from Delft.