Monthly Archives: May 2016

Further north to Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

Wednesday, May 5

(Remembrance Day)

Our time in Haarlem ended as we untied under a bright sky and retraced our steps up to the Noordzeekanaal, only this time turning right towards Amsterdam versus left for IJmuiden and the North Sea.

Due to a timed bridge opening, we hurriedly went through the first lock only to be put on hold awhile for the second. For the latter we really didn’t have to tie up to wait because we discovered we were gently ‘resting’ on the bottom of the canal…

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Further up in Spaardnam that lock became a can of sardines (or herring, more appropriately here) with everyone jockeying for position as the Lock Keeper waved for the stragglers to hurry up. There was a bridge up ahead opening at 10:30am with the next one not until 2:15pm. We piled in amongst a plethora of motorboats, headed off on a rally together.

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But, all of us did make it (note the traffic having to stop on this major highway crossing but the Dutch take it in stride),

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and we followed the canal to our destination.

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Since it’s difficult to tie up to a canal wall in Amsterdam this time we entered the Sixhaven Marina suggested by friends. With only a short (free) ferry ride to the center of town, docking here offered a perfect spot for exploring the city. Many others thought the same as we joined a herd of boats in this jammed marina. Although, we were once again stunned by how easily and comfortably the Dutch seem to pack in boats, such as waking up the next morning to find a sailboat docked behind the sterns of two other boats.

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We were welcomed by Joise and Hennie, who thankfully alerted us to a two-minute of silence at 8:00pm in honor of those who died during WWII. It would have been great to have experienced this in the city (where everyone and everything comes to a halt, and the popular King and Queen make an appearance) but we were a bit late in planning so we just observed this aboard. Tomorrow we’d begin our exploring.

Thursday, May 6

(Liberation Day)

Folks in Haarlem had warned us about the crowds in Amsterdam; yet, it was still surprising just how many people fit into this city space. Being another holiday leading into a beautiful spring weekend increased the flow of pedestrians and bikes and cars; but, we enjoyed the places we had mapped out:  Rembrandt’s home and studio after he moved from Leiden with two excellent demonstrations, one being how he mixed his paints, another how he created his prints (FYI: Anyone interested in the 17th century art business and bankruptcy should read about Rembrandt’s life from a commercial aspect. It would be a fascinating look into those times.)

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the Resistance Museum, featuring some very brave souls, such as Hannie Schaft, known as ’The Girl with the Red Hair’.

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and, the Gassan Diamond Tour (which was really a two-minute breeze-through of trying to watch some employees polishing the stones and a thirty-minute sales job… at least we managed to skip the Madame Trousseau ‘Museum’).

During our walk from one exhibit to the next we met a friendly pup who reminded us of our friend Sue H.’s Portuguese Water Dog. So, we had to stop and pet him while talking with his even friendlier owner.

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After a day of soaking up some of Amsterdam’s history we opted to grab a beer and glass of wine in the Waag’s square (because a lot of trade was conducted via bartering most municipalities had these Weigh Houses to ensure one was truly getting the correct of amount of cheese, butter, etc, bartered for). With trucks offering refreshments and picnic tables providing seating, we found a seat and then sat back to enjoy the partying going on around us.

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We had thought we’d only be there for one drink then head back to JUANONA, but, we were wrong, oh so very wrong. Within thirty minutes the table changed over and we found ourselves with a German Couple (Ilse and Werner) here for the weekend and three, thirty-year-old locals who had grown up together (Ditske, Koen, and Erik who’s taking the picture).

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We decided to participate as one of the table team’s in the trivia pop-quizzes (five rounds of ten questions each),

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and, well, one thing led to another,

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ending with our strolling through the Red Light District to a local pub

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for one last beer.

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We made it home by 1:00 am along with other revelers enjoying Amsterdam’s night (and morning) life.

 

Friday, May 7

Well, we DID get up the next morning (Friday) and continued our sight-seeing with the focus being the impressive Rijksmuseum. A major, ten-year renovation meant the art housed here was splendidly showcased. In fact there is so much art and history (1100-present day) covered in this beautiful building that we limited our ogling to several centuries while casing the joint for hopefully a return visit.

Not wanting to overload you with tidbits I picked up, I will post one portrait painted by Theresa Schwartze (1851-1918) who, I believe is our artist friend Ellen’s ancestor. She was the go-to painter for the Dutch elite and one of the few, recognized females during that time. Below is one she painted of her niece, Lizzy Ansingh, also an artist.

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As you can imagine on a beautiful holiday weekend the galleries were wall-to-wall people with Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” painting drawing such a crowd I just peeped over some shoulders then moved on. After two hours we exited to the garden with its nearby water pool and walked through the park connecting the Rijks with the Van Gogh Museum, another extraordinary art feast,

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one we decided to save for another day.

Sunday, May 10

Having felt the elbow-to-elbow squeeze on the sidewalks as well as in museums, we opted out of Saturday sight-seeing and toured on Sunday. We ended up at one of Amsterdam’s House Churches, the Lord in the Attic House museum (love the name as it compliments what mom said we use to call the guy in Sunday School, “Jesus in the basement”, which basically was the end of my religious instruction). This site offers a fascinating view of how Catholics worshipped when they, along with some other non-Calvinist, religious groups, could practice their religions but just not in public. Consequently, some ‘secret’ churches were constructed in homes, this being one of them.

The self-guided tour takes you up three flights of narrow stairs, where you stop on each floor to walk around rooms furnished from the 1600s. On the top floor you step into a three-story-high ‘attic’ that features a beautiful altar. This house church was in use until the late 1800s when Catholics could again worship in public.

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I had also read about the World Press Photo Exhibition being held in the Nieuve Kerk, so we stopped in there for some eye-opening pictures. It made for a relaxed stroll surrounded by current events.

Then back to JUANONA while spotting a rather unique mode of transportation:  a centipede of beer guzzling partiers propelling a cart by pumping with their legs while enjoying some brew…

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with women doing the same.

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Monday, May 11

Our brother-in-law Doug mentioned his brother John and wife Bette had toured the Flower Auction just outside of town. Saying that it had been the highlight of their trip we caught an early morning bus to Flora Holland.

Billboards provided background info and explained the process but it was enough just watching a beehive of buzzing human bees moving here and there.

Following a suspended walkway over the warehouse floor we landed outside the glass-enclosed auction room where buyers bid electronically on flowers from around the world (also possible to do remotely).

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And, it’s complicated.

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I tried following the little red dot but my eyes started spinning in my head alerting me it was time for a coffee break.

Outside we saw more evidence of the commercial trafficking of flowers as we watched truck after truck stream towards the highway loaded with freshly cut flowers. If only that natural floral scent could be bottled for JUANONA’s head.

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Back in town we met our crewmate Rudy, who had arrived from a two-week archaeological dig at Vindolanda, a Roman fortress town at Hadrian’s Wall.  We were fortunate to have him aboard in between his dig and visiting his Belgium Family (whom we also call our Belgium Family :) and were looking forward to some cruising, exploring, and games of OH HELL.

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To say life can be grand just doesn’t do it justice.

Pumping Holland Dry by Max

 

HAARLEM

Monday, May 2

Fascinated by Holland’s history with water, I walked 3 miles south from Haarlem to visit one of the 3 pump houses that drained a major area of Holland from 1849-52. The journey entailed taking a free ferry across what I later learned was part of the “Ring Canal” built to drain a lake.

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In prehistoric times, what is now the North Sea was largely land: one could walk from present day Holland to England. Rising ocean levels gradually covered the land, but even as recently as the Roman era, much of present day Holland was comprised of low lying land interspersed with lakes. However, the shoreline became an increasingly changing and dangerous landscape as the ocean continue to rise and storms battered the coast. Early inhabitants started living on mounds (whether natural or man made) called terps, to which they retreated when the inevitable floods occurred. The first known dike was constructed around the time of Christ.

Inland from the ocean were mounds of peat standing higher than the surrounding bogs. In the 10th century humans began moving from the coast into this area, and found that by digging trenches and draining water from the sodden peat domes, they could farm the land. The problem was that drying the peat causes it to lose its ability to hold back the rush of storm water; as it dries it shrinks, becomes fluffy, and the top layer oxidizes and turns sour. Once the old land becomes too sour for farming, the inhabitants looked to new peat mounds to drain.

Compounding the problem, peat became an important commodity: it was used for heating, to fire brick-making kilns, to dye cloth, to brew beer. The more the peat was harvested, the more the ground sank, and the less resistant to flooding it became. In response, towns that had ruined the land with their appetite for fuel, started to build dikes and dams to protect themselves; Amsterdam was one such town. Yet the peat harvesting continued.

(An aside to this story is described in an interesting recent book given to us by our friend Ginger, “The Edge of the World” by Michael Pye, describing the influence the North Sea has had on western civilization. After the peat became unsuitable for agriculture, it was used for cattle grazing. Families began keeping cows, and to eke out a living on the infertile land they produced butter for export. Butter requires immaculate conditions or it will spoil; it is far less forgiving than cheese. The Dutch reputation for cleanliness began with the requirement that the dairy barn, usually an extension of the house, be kept immaculate.)

With land that was now below sea level in many areas, Holland developed techniques to pump it out. In one of the most significant developments of the time, windmills previously used for grinding grain were set up to raise water over dikes and into drainage ditches. Windmills sprouted up everywhere, and enabled the inhabitants to keep their feet dry on land situated below sea level.

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Model of a ’tjasker’ which could pump water into a ditch, where a larger windmill would pump it into a canal to carry it to the ocean.

Nevertheless, terrible storms occurred from time to time over the centuries, causing catastrophic damage and destroying entire cities.In 1506 and 1509 there were terrible storm surges which broke through ditches and canals and formed a huge new lake south of Amsterdam, called the Haarlemmer (you can seethe beige expanse of the “Groote Haarlemmer” in the middle of the map below). By 1647 this lake had grown to 66 square miles, swallowing towns as it expanded.

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Map of Haarlemmer Lake

Pumping out the Haarlemermeer was originally proposed in the 1600s, but there was widespread public resistance, especially by the fishermen. But in 1836 massive storms devastated the region. In November a hurricane drove water to the gates of Amsterdam, and on Christmas Day the water was driven in the opposite direction, flooding the streets of Leiden. It became clear something had to be done: The lake needed to be pumped out. There was natural sentiment to do the job by traditional windmills, but it would have taken 160 windmills 30 years to do the job. King Willem I pushed The Netherlands to advance its technology and insisted that steam engines be used.

The first step was to build a 61 km (38 mile) elevated ring canal to carry the pumped water away, and to carry ship traffic which previously would cross the lake. It took 8 years to build, as the work was done entirely  by hand. The earth that was removed was used to build a 120 ft wide dike around the entire lake.

Three pumping stations were built. The pump at De Cruquius, with a cylinder diameter of 12 feet, was the largest Watt style steam engine ever built.

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Each stroke raises 8,000 liters 5 meters high. There are 8 levers. They run at 5 strokes per minute. The water is raised to the ring canal, from which it flows to the Spaarn River and eventually to the Zuider Zee and out to the ocean.

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One of the valves which let water enter the chamber on the downward stroke and closed on the upward stroke:

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They were paid by the stroke. A meter counted them out:

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Pumping began in 1848 and the lake was dry by July 1852. In the end, 800 million tons of water were removed.

Holland carefully monitors water levels to this day. Using more modern pumps, they pump out the lowlands when it rains through a vast network of drainage ditches and canals. Since there is still salt in the land left over from prehistoric times, they intentionally flood areas of land occasionally to freshen the soil. Massive dikes and dams have been built in recent decades, some of which have been designated amongst the most impressive modern engineering wonders if the world. I felt fortunate to visit this one and look forward to seeing others.

Tiptoeing through the tulips and then some

Haarlem

Saturday, April 23

We had landed in the Netherlands when festivals and holidays seemed to spring up all around us, one being the annual flower parade. As the twilight began, folks started gathering down a main street to peer at the flotilla of floral vehicles, and we decided to join them in spite of the definitely unspring-like temps.

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After watching a few we called it quits knowing we’d be able to peruse them all under, hopefully, sunny skies the next day.

Sunday, April 24

And, we did :)  but only after a quick morning shower of hail.

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When the gray turned to blue we headed out and became part of the people river

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as we wandered from one float to the next, all the time thinking of our friend Ellen who’s created floral peacocks as table centerpieces.

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Roller-blading blossoms handed out individual stalks

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while others just preferred more formal attire.

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Some street musicians added their tunes to the festival ambiance, one of them who could have been Robin Williams’ twin.

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Even the “Angry Birds” appeared.

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At the end a mini-carnival offered kids opportunities to expend unused energy, and I couldn’t help but wish they had an adult size. What a great way to celebrate Spring:  literally, Jumping for joy :)

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Wednesday, April 24

We had heard that King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day before Queen Beatrix abdicated 2013) was the best street party ever, so we took a break from exploring southern towns to join in the revelry.

It wasn’t the best weather but we couldn’t be here and not join in. Most partyers huddled under umbrellas venturing out when the rain took a break.

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We stopped at a lunch truck for Max’s new favorite food, kibbeling, which is fish fried in batter with a tartar-like sauce.

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Not being much of a fried fish fan, I hesitated when he offered me some; but, after one bite, I was sold and proceeded to scarf down a good half share.

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When another rain storm started its drenching of revelers, we headed back to JUANONA passing by evidence of the day’s fun (evidence which quickly disappears by the next morning).

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Settling back aboard we heard some loud music coming closer and closer. Poking our heads out we saw the source and shared a ‘Cheers!’ to a boatload of King’s Day well-wishers. A perfect ending to the National Holiday :)

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LISSE

Sunday, May 1

Our first cycling on this cruise, and where else to go but Keukenhof Gardens. Unlike the last time I rode a bike, I actually made it there and back and loved it. It did help being flat. Plus, you really do feel like you’re the elite with traffic signs such as these:

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After about an hour+ toodling along a canal and through villages we arrived. We had purchased tickets online so joined the long line and wheeled our bikes to the entrance only to be told no bikes allowed. Once we entered and saw the crowd, we realized no wonder they’re not permitted. People and flowers everywhere. The scenery looked like someone had taken equal parts of both and strewn them across this former kitchen garden (‘keukenhof’ translated).

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The origins for this massive undertaking began back in the 15th century when Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria (1401-36) used this area to collect fruits and vegetables for Teylingen Castle. In 1641 Keukenhof Castle was built and the estate grew to over 200 hectares (almost 500 acres).

In 1857 the estate’s gardens were redesigned into an English style by two landscape architects (who also designed Amsterdam’s Vondelpark). Fortunately, these grounds didn’t remain in the view of private eyes only. As of 1950 the public is now able to tour the expansive flowering hub after 20 flower bulb exporters developed a plan in 1949 to use the estate for a spring-flowering exhibition.

Annually over 800,000 visitors wander through the grounds during the two months Keukenhof is open; and, today we joined them picture-taking, portrait-making, and just slowly stepping along the numerous flower paths.

Locating a convenient lunch spot, we noticed even the carts are on bikes.

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Instead of being too crowded I loved how everyone was milling around enjoying a beautiful spring day amidst flora, flora everywhere.

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You could visit a variety of pavilions each with its own theme, from tulips (of course)…

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to orchids…

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to kids entertainment,

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even some fauna: the little pig pic is for my cousin Cathy and the peacock and peahen for our friend Ellen.

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After two hours of strolling we wanted to head back through the fields which bordered these gardens.

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Even saw someone trying out his drone.

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We traded portrait shots with some other tulip-ers

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before riding back to Harlem.

Dropping our bikes off with Tara at a great hostel-inn, HELLO I AM LOCAL,

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we walked back to JUANONA knowing we had really, truly experienced Spring in Holland and it was SPECTACULAR and REAL :)

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On the road again…

LEIDEN

Thursday, April 28

Well, actually on the track again where we pass the train stations’  parking lots of bikes coming. One of these days we’ll have to use that mode of transportation. But, for now, to the train.

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With Max’s ancestors in mind we zipped down to a town just 30 miles south, purported to be Holland’s largest city in 1500. We wanted to check out the site where many of the pilgrims who later sailed to America gathered after escaping religious persecution in England.

Knowing that trains left almost every 15 minutes for southern stops, we only had to wait five minutes to hop a ride to Leiden. A short walk took us into the old part of the city where we passed some unfortunate boaters pumping out their half-submerged craft with the help of a crane.

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Since the pilgrim museum didn’t open until later, we opted to visit the Museum de Lakenhal, which obtains its name (“Laken”) from a light woolen fabric woven in Leiden. Picking up our audio guides the woman behind the desk told us they would be closed for renovations for two years, starting at the end of May. Good timing on our part because it would have been a shame to have missed this museum.

The renovation will maintain the old part of the building, constructed in 1640, which was fascinating to tour. From the 13th to the 17th century Leiden’s wealth and prominence grew from exporting cloth to the Baltic and Hanseatic Cities (a group of city alliances formed for the purpose of economic growth in the middle ages; the Hanseatic League in northern Europe was a powerhouse). After 1577 thousands had fled to this city to escape religious persecution, bringing with them textile skills with which they expanded the types of fabric manufactured here. With a supply of laborers (who, unfortunately, weren’t paid much at all), the city’s cloth business thrived.

Weaving was a home-industry based on the ‘putting out’ system where by merchants supplied the raw materials to laborers who then are paid by the finished piece. To ensure consistent quality the city’s administration established inspection centers, one per type of fabric. Lakenhall became the most significant of the seven neringen (trades) or cloth halls in Leiden. Walking into a huge room we read that thousands of woolens had been inspected here, each bolt being 44m long by 2.5m wide (145 ft x 8 ft). Between 200 and 300 weavers brought their cloth to be inspected. Three times the cloth was stretched out and carefully scrutinized.

In this room also stood a 17th-century loom used continuously for 250 years.

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A table stood in another room. On either side were brass bands for measuring using the Rhineland yard (approximately 68.5cm (27 in) based on an average length of a man’s arm).

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If the cloth passed inspection it was stamped with a lead seal and shipped to Amsterdam. We even saw one of theses seals from an earlier time (circa 1275) found in Amsterdam and marked “Leyden”.

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One of the most impressive rooms displayed sample books from the second half of the 17th ce. up to the 20th century. Here consistency of color was recorded foreach inspected bolt. Black cloth was even cooked to ensure the fabric maintained its color.

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In addition to the sample books the room decor was startling with its walls covered in embossed leather panels, a type of wall covering used by the wealthy.

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This museum also had several art galleries. I won’t go into all the detail but will mention they had several Rembrandt (1606-69) paintings. This famous painter was born here and spent 26 years of his life in Leiden, later moving to Amsterdam. Known for his use of chiaroscuro (strong contrasts between light and dark), the museum contains several of his early paintings.

Rooms flowed from one century to another, displaying a variety of Dutch artists, including Rembrandt’s first pupil, Gerrit Dou (1613-75) who became a virtuoso in rendering light in gradual tones and reflection. With his highly detailed painting style in small formats he became so popular and gained such international fame that England’s king Charles II tried to hire him as a court painter – but Dou said ‘no thanks’ and remained in Leiden.

Two other notable pieces were:  an elaborate Catholic Altar found in an old ‘house church’ where Catholics were allowed to practice their religion, just not in public.; and a fascinating, 1587 propaganda tapestry displaying almost a wall-size map of Willem van Oranje’s first successful battle against the Spanish (with help from the English ‘Sea Beggars’, i.e., pirates) on October 3, 1574.

Tapestry map

By this time the pilgrim museum was open. Located in the oldest house in the city we joined a group of five other tourists interested in the pilgrims’ history in Leiden.

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(And, Gracie, you may recognize who’s sitting on the window sill of this old house :)

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The museum turned out to be a 15-minute tour of two tiny rooms crammed with period pieces. It helped that the building’s owners were in the antique business; and, when someone asked how much a fireplace mantle would go for, our guide said he didn’t know but was aware that some of the pieces had sold for over 20,000 euros. Humph… No souvenirs for JUANONA here.

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After the others left Max and I stayed to talk with the laconic curator who had an extremely dry wit. We discovered he happened to be from Oregon. His posting at the museum came about because the city administrators thought he’d know a lot about the subject matter since he ‘was from America.’ Fortunately for us he had learned a lot since then.

Our last exchange went something like this:

me:  What’s that against the wall?

him:  It’s a screw.

me:  A screw?

him:  Yes. Interestingly the pilgrims actually had a screw on the MAYFLOWER.

me:  The pilgrims had a screw on the MAYFLOWER…

him:  Yes, and it was lucky they did because the mast cracked at one point so they needed a screw.

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At this point I knew it was time to leave because now I had a vision in my head that didn’t tally with anything I had ever assoiciated with the Pilgrims. And, so we left.

We had several other pilgrim sites left to explore, primarily the neighborhood, then called the English Gate, where the pilgrims eventually congregated.

In 1609 approximately 300 pilgrims arrived from England with their leaders William Bradford and John Robinson, a minister. Robinson subsequently built 21 houses surrounding the 15th-ce., St. Pancraskerk Church. On the way we passed the old town hall where civil marriages were performed,

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and walked by buildings where surely the pilgrims had also trod:

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Using directions from the curator we located the lane where Max’s ancestor, Wiliam Brewster, had lived. Near by he printed religions books and pamphlets promoting the pilgrims’ beliefs.

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The house was discernable only by the older brick incorporated into a newer structure.

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We then entered the church where the pilgrims worshipped, no longer in use except as a historical site.

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It did have a memorial to John Robinson (he died in Leiden in 1625) given by MAYFLOWER descendants 1926.

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Our final stop was the oldest university in the Netherlands, founded in 1575 by Willem van Oranje in appreciation of Leiden being the first city to not fall to the Spanish (hence, the map tapestry mentioned earlier). Here, the Netherland’s famous botanist, Carolus Clusius (1526-1609), cultivated a flower soon to become ubiquitous in his country. He became the first director of the Hortus botanicus Leiden, founded 1590. The grounds are lovely with the tulip featured in abundance. A perfect way to end our day in Leiden.

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DEN HAAG (The Hague)

Friday, April 29

The next morning we hit the track again, this time to zoom down to Den Haag, the center of the Netherlands government and home to the royal family. This city had been the capital up to 1609, when Napoleon enthroned his baby brother Louis – the little emperor was populating Europe’s kingdoms with nepotism. Louis moved the seat of his government to Amsterdam while ruling for eight years. Upon his ouster, the government hightailed it back to Den Haag but Amsterdam remained the capital. Now, you’ll find this city hosting other global entities, such as the UN’s International Court of Justice.

Although there’s plenty to see here, we focused on two museums:  Mauritshuis, a beautiful, 1640 mansion now housing enough Dutch artists to provide a very thorough history lesson through oil paintings throughout its 16 rooms; and, Escher in Het Paleis Museum, the former winter residence of Queen Emma (1858-1934) and subsequent working palace for her queenly descendants, Wilhelmina, Juliana, and Beatrix up to 1984.

Because I believe I’ve inundated you with art, I’ll simply say, If you’re ever in Den Haag, GO. These museums are gems. The first requires more time than the two hours we dedicated and the last is an eye-opening view into the 20th century artist M.C Escher (1898-1972).

If you do end up at Mauritshuis, some of the artists you’ll see are Flemish, German, and French with the majority being Dutch.

It was crowded so at times I just waited for a group to pass then step as closely as I could to peer intensely at the details, colors, and forms. What a wonderful way to learn about art, even if my study of it is pretty superficial. I can only imagine what it would be to follow an Art Historian around. I’d be hanging on her/his every word.

Some of the artists whose work caused me to pause were:

Anthony van Dyke, Willem van Hecht, Peter Paul Ruebens, Jan Bruegel the Elder, Hans Holbein, William Claesz Heddan, Roeland Savy, Rembrandt, Willem van Mieris, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Frans van Mieris, Johannees Vermeer (whose “View of Delft” hangs here), and many others.

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And, yes, there were stunning flower arrangements strategically placed in entrance halls and the reception area, many sporting the tulip.

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The Escher museum provided background on his early years and his honing of his exquisite disorienting graphics, including his tessellation art (I needed a definition of that:  “any pattern made of repeating shapes completely covering a surface without overlapping or leaving any gaps.” http://www.exploratorium.edu/geometryplayground/activities). His approach to art and his work brought to mind one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss, if the latter desired to take a sophisticated tack in his illustrations.

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So, our day in Den Haag ended in a blur of art but all memorable.

Next, flowers galore…

A wandering we go

DELFT

Tuesday, April 26

With JUANONA comfortably settled in Haarlem we took advantage of the reliable and inexpensive train service to explore several towns further south, the first being Delft.

Identified by many guide books as a quintessential Dutch canal town, we knew we’d enjoy strolling Delft’s winding streets ribboned by small canals (added in the 15th century to connect the river Maas) and lined with medieval Gothic and Renaissance homes.

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We easily spotted the leaning spire of the Gothic Oude Kerk (old church). With the land being a bit soggy, many of these buildings can’t support a big load such as this one currently leaning out at 2 meters (4+ feet). Due to the precariousness of this tower, the bells they only dare toll for extremely special occasions.

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Close to the Oude Kerk is the former house Jan de Huyter constructed around 1500. Emperor Charles V slept here during his 1540 visit to this fair city and later the daughter of Willem van Oranje also visited. The stone is gorgeous and well-maintained. Wooden coats of arms decorate the main door, which you can just make out below.

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Currently the Delfland higher water board is based here, responsible for keeping the water level of a boezem (outlet/drainage system of a polder, aka, drained field) at or below its maximum level. And, believe me, from the looks of the houses whose backyard is the canal this seems to be measured in inches, not feet.

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You read about how the royal family likes to mix in with their citizens, and here’s some evidence of that:  Just down the street from the huge stone house was the less-grand townhouse where the second son of Queen Beatrix lived during his engineering studies at the local university (he died in a tragic skiing accident in 2013).

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We also passed the smallest house in town with its bronze head of the municipal doctor who was also Willem van Oranje’s physician.

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I had only associated the city’s name with its famous pottery.  With all the blue-and-white souvenirs, including this huge cabinet on the street, it was easy to be reminded of this connection.

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Ironically, many of the early ones were manufactured in China, the country whose famous porcelain inspired the Dutch to create knock-offs beginning in the 1600s. (As opposed to being made of porcelain clay, Delft potters used clay coated with a tin glaze after firing.) Over 20 factories popped up during the 17th and 18th centuries to satisfy demand for this earthenware pottery. Today, one factory still exists with several shops in town demonstrating the technique.

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We resisted the numerous blue-and-white tchotchkes (for beautiful pottery, check out our friend Rebecca Esty’s) and headed for the other famous name associated with Delft:  Johannes Vermeer (1632-75), one of the great Dutch masters. Although he lived his entire life here with his wife and 11 children, there are very few, if any, of his 35 authenticated paintings in Delft. However, banners heralding ”Vermeer is coming home” broadcast an exhibit featuring one of his famous paintings, “The Little Street”.

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The reason for all of the hype was due to art historians over several centuries trying to identify the exact location featured in Vermeer’s painting.  In 2015 a new theory was published by a professor of art history who claims he found the street based on the two arched passageways (only one of which exists today).

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I’m sure it was an exciting discovery but for us it was just pleasant seeing the real painting on loan.

The more interesting tour down the street showcases Vermeer’s studio (replica), life-sized copies of his paintings, pigments he would have used for paints, his use of light and brush strokes, and a short film on restoring “The Milkmaid”. I definitely could have stayed here for several more hours. I find the technical details fascinating and only wish I could have had one of my godsons, who studied art restoration, explain it all as we peered at Vermeer’s work.

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Another famous personage connected to this small town is the man considered the founder of the Netherlands, Willem van Oranje (1533-84) (aka Willem the Silent due to his considered approach to matters).

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This is the gentleman who joined rebels fighting the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King Philip II of Spain. The Eighty Years’ War began with stadtholders’ protests of feeling excluded from governing their own lands to one of outright rebellion due to the persecution of Protestants by the Catholic King and his followers (i.e., Inquisition and other delights all in the name of religion).

A former, dignitary-hosting convent (now the Municipal Museum het Prinsenhof) where Willem and his family kept court also features the staircase and bullet holes where he was assassinated July 10th 1584 by a fanatical Catholic, Bathasar Gerards.

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The assassin may have also been motivated by a bounty on Willem’s head:  25,000 gold coins (which Philip II did pay to Gerard’s family) and elevation to nobility. However, not only was it a bad end for this founder of Dutch independence, but also for Gerards. The latter was caught, subjected to daily tortures, and finalized with a public execution involving red-hot irons, pincers, swords, and chopping. Definitely not a pleasant way to go.

Along with the site of the assassination, the museum provides information about the rebellion and all the players, including portraits of Willem’s four wives. One interesting tidbit:  his second wife had an affair with Jan Rubens, the future dad of Peter Paul Rubens. Again, more hours could have been spent absorbing more of the Netherlands’ history.

Two other notable sons of Delft were Anthony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-18723), said to be the “Father of Microbiology”,

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and Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), “Father of International Law”, whose statue stands in middle of the market square.

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A child prodigy and later a rebel, Grotius is also known for his escape in 1621 in a book chest after being imprisoned for treason two years earlier. There’s not much left of his Delft home but  I still wanted a snapshot.

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We wandered into the Nieuwe Kerk (new church), which was open to the public (the old one was closed for an event). (FYI:  what they’re labeling “new” still means medieval ages.) Here, more tributes to Willem van Oranje…

a stained glass window

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and his mausoleum (even in this place there’s tippiness as one of the bronze statues keeps falling over),

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Hugo Grotius’ memorial is also here.

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Facing the New Church across the Markt (the market) stood the town hall. Burnt down in 1618, a new one quickly replaced it two years later in the Renaissance style. Today the view was partially blocked by a stage being erected for tomorrow’s annual royal Day celebration (currently called King’s Day since Queen Beatrix abdicated 2013 in favor of her son Willem-Alexander).

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Part of the town hall encompasses a medieval prison tower, which is located at the back of the main building.

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Walking down another brick-laid street with Max playing the pied piper to a couple of ducks

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we came to the only remaining city gate (the East gate) from the 1400s, now a private residence (lucky folk!).

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Our last stop was one of the six Dutch offices of the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) or Dutch East India Company founded in 1602.

Formed from small, independent trading companies, the VOC is considered to be the world’s first multi-national company. Granted the right to protect the Dutch trading routes in the Indian Ocean, this consortium brought immense wealth to the Dutch Republic during the 17th and 18th centuries thanks to a monopoly on all trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. But, all ‘good’ things come to pass, and the VOC filed bankruptcy in 1798 due to corruption, lack of capital, overly high dividends (18% for its shareholders), and competition.

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And, yes, it was still cold.

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With that we walked back to the train station and a warm ride home to Haarlem.

 

Another day in Haarlem

HAARLEM

Saturday, April 23

Before we toured another museum we opted to visit some sites generally only open on the weekends. Called “hofjes,” these former monastery gardens evolved into hospitals, inns, and refuges for orphans, widows and the elderly beginning in the 15th century with one of them still operating as such. One of the most beautiful was directly opposite JUANONA on the other side of the canal. Entering this tranquil sanctuary was a bit like stepping into a storybook courtyard. We owed the pleasure of this experience to one of Haarlem’s wealthy citizens, Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-78), a Haarlem banker and a manufacturer of linens.

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We also perused others, one of which was located next to a WWII memorial honoring Haarlem citizens who were persecuted by the Nazis. It was haunting to read the list with most names accompanied by the internment center or concentration camp where they were murdered.

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With some time to explore further we stepped into the major attraction in the town center. Named after Haarlem’s patron saint, St. Bavo’s church known as Grote Kerk or Great Church. Built in the 1200s and later rebuilt after a fire in 1328, this late Gothic structure has seen a lot of history, all noted in a self-guided brochure. (It’s Grote Kerk’s wooden spire which serves as our primary navigational marker in Haarlem.)

One of the more interesting features of this grand church is its impressive organ. Even more interesting were some of the guest organists:  a child of age ten named Mozart in (1756- 91) and Handel (1685-1759), the latter at an older age.

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We wandered around the building thinking again how chilly it must have been for worshippers way back when as we were freezing, and that’s with unfreezing temps outside.

Surprisingly three old ships hung from an arch, donated by the Shipbuilder’s Guild and modeled on ships of the day. My husband, naturally, stopped to study them.

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Not surprisingly, my husband also noted an old map where he happily pinpointed JUANONA’s current mooring site along the side of the ancient canal.

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This church also carried scars from the horrific siege of Haarlem in 1573 when the Spanish Duke of Alba under Philip II’s orders conquered the city and executed its inhabitants.

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By now it was lunch time and a wonderful Saturday market offered tempting offers hard to resist as see passed cheese vendors with their samples.

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We chose the Turkish Doner route, one of our favorite sandwiches, and proceeded to simultaneously enjoy some people-watching and filling out bellies.

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Next, back to the river canal, which brought us to Teylers Museum, the oldest public museum in the Netherlands.

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This museum carries the name of its benefactor, Pieter Teyler van der Hulst, whose hofje we visited that morning. He left his large and diverse collection to a foundation for promoting the study of science and the arts.

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Within six years of his death, the Oval Room specifically designed for optimal display, had been built behind Teyler’s former residence and opened to the public. Since then three extensions have been built resulting in a maze of rooms for visitors to wander through.

Each section enveloped us in its own time period. The architecture surrounding each exhibit was as intriguing as some of the odd collections. We walked through some spaces whose wooden, glass-framed cases and artifact arrangements seemed cast from an Indiana Jones movie while others were the height of modernity with white space sunlit by walls of glass. It was like stepping back in time then rushing forward into the 21st century. A bit surreal but definitely entertaining.

Stepping from the high-domed reception hall into the first exhibit room we found ourselves amidst an array of fossils, looking like they’d come out of a mad paleontologist’s world. But, with selective items explained by the audio guide, my attention was easily captured. At times I was amazed to read of the historical significance of one lone fossil thanks to Teyler’s avid interest and scientific funding.

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The two rooms of fossils then flowed into one of diverse instruments used for various physics and chemistry experiments, more in tune with Max’s interests than mine, followed by a tiny closet-size area housing conjurers’ and magicians’ use of science for their parlor tricks (not as interesting as it sounds…) and the Luminescence Room created in 1938 to demonstrate fluorescence (material continues to emit light in spite of the external light source being turned off), phosphorescence (conversion of invisible ultraviolet light into visible light by fossils and minerals), and electroluminescence (an electrical charge in tubes filled with a specific gas) (at least I paid attention to the descriptions here)…

to one of the highlights of the entire museum:  the Oval Room whose purpose was to exhibit the initial collection when it opened in 1784.

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A specific display, that of the minerals, is in itself historical because they’re laid out according to the 18th-century French cleric and mineralogist Rene-Just Hauy.

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Why this is so important, I don’t know but I did find that tidbit fascinating. Plus, I liked the colors.

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Our exploration wound its way to the world of art and numismatics and medals. Two coins caught our attention in the latter room, one from 65 C.E. with an effigy of the Roman Emperor Nero and one featuring a portrait of Michelangelo (1475-1564) created by a contemporary of his, most likely Leone Leoni who served Emperor Charles V of Germany and Holland.

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The two art galleries featured primarily oil paintings from the past 300 years. Here, too, the format of the display mirrored  the time period in which the room was added. Built during the 1800s Gallery I had paintings symmetrically hung in rows top and bottom. Constructed later, Gallery II, however, showcased its art in a singular line along its walls, more like one sees today in art exhibits.

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Here we were introduced to some of the most prominent Dutch landscape artists of the 19th Century, such as Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870).

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I couldn’t ignore “En Plein Air” by Constant Gabriel (1828-1903) due to artist friends whom I know enjoy this activity.

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And, opened pages with exquisite water colors of flora and fauna, such as this 1758 book, couldn’t help but catch one’s eyes.

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We also poked our head into a cafe whose ceiling and a wall were festooned with children’s artwork. I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the myriad colors seemingly dangling outside the large glass windows due to the reflection.

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Haarlem, I think you’ve put a spell upon us two sailors.

The start of our Netherlands exploration

HAARLEM

Friday, April 22

This historic city offers a lot of interesting sites, one being the Frans Hals Museum, which boasts the best collection by, whom else, Frans Hals. We spent over two hours wandering rooms hung with a variety of pictures and decorated with floral arrangements, which are works of art themselves.

Thanks to the recommendation by other cruisers we obtained the national museum card providing admittance to over 400 museums during one year. Having purchased the card at one of the larger museums in town, we subsequently discovered the person selling us our cards didn’t really provide all the information we needed to take advantage of this annual membership (this has rarely been our experience with the Netherlanders so it was a bit of a surprise when it occurred). 

We later corrected this misunderstanding with the help of a great couple running a local cafe, the Downtown Coffee shop. The owner kindly translated the Dutch website letting us use their business address to register the cards. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I noticed they’d be mailing us our annual cards (our temporary ones only lasted 31 days) to this business. Not a problem he said. They’d just email us when they received them. And, this is the typical type of interactions we’ve had in this country!

Back to Frans Hals… the woman behind this museum counter couldn’t have been nicer (I seem to use that description a lot around here) giving us more complete information about our museum cards. She also mentioned we were fortunate to visit during this time of year due to the flowers complementing the artwork. She was right about that as a large and elegant array greeted us as we rounded the corner towards the exhibits.

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With a map and audio guide we stepped back into the 17th century noted as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting. Art flourished during this time period due to the strong economy in the Low Lands. Even with the strife of the civil war (battles lasted until the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia 1648) and no local patronage by royalty or the Catholic Church (the late 16th-century rebels up north formed the Union of Utrecht promising unheard of religious freedom and a switch to less elaborate church decor), a growing middle class grew into a new purchasing power.

Art became a business, and many took up the brush to cash in on this thriving industry. So many tried their hand at painting the increasing competition meant a large group of highly skilled artisans rose to the top of their craft. They did so by focusing on what the merchants, shopkeepers and other buyers wanted. Now landscapes and still lifes hung alongside the traditional portraits and religious scenes.

By the amount and quality of artwork it was a spectacular time to paint, and we’re fortunate to see so many of these original artworks during our visit in The Netherlands. Not only am I learning more about art than ever before but also appreciating the various styles each artist represents including some of the Dutch painters exemplifying this Golden Age:  Frans Hals (1581-1666); Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69); Johannes Vermeer (1632-75); and, Jan Steen (1626-79). And, since we’re in the Frans Hals Museum I’ll start with him. (FYI:  I apologize for the poor reproduction due to no flash allowed.)

Frans Hals is best known for his relaxed style and virtuoso realism. He was the first to paint people gazing at and laughing with one another in these officers’ portraits. A highly-desired commission by the town resulted in five large group portraits of the Civic Guard. At the age of 18 all males were required to serve a three-year term. Frankly, it seemed to be a glorified old boys’ club from the look of their portraits since the painted topic was the Leaving Banquet toasting the end of terms… 

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Other famous works by Hals were the portraits of Regents and Lady-governors. Comprised of prominent men and female spouses of wealthy citizens, these appointees by the local magistrates oversaw what we’d call today non-profit organizations offering social services for the less-fortunate. These paintings reflect the communal caring orchestrated by each city’s magistrates who felt both a Christian and a civic duty to take care of their poor. These lay administrators (aka Holy Ghost Masters) to manage outside relief agencies (distribution of food and clothes to those who had homes but needed fundamentals) and almshouses (those requiring shelter as well). Thus, this country created a de-centralized social safety net city by city, based on a Christian principle of charity but evolving into a municipal responsibility as early as the 1400s. 

One of Hals last group portrait featured “Regents from the Old Men’s Home” (1664). Later in the 19th century his imprecise style was criticized; however, with the rise of Impressionism, Monet and Manet actually visited Haarlem to study Hals Regents painting. Ironically, Hals became a recipient of the city’s charity becoming a pensioner in the last years of his life, a sad fate, which befell many talented individuals.

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Those large-scale works were impressive but so, too, were the individual portraits Hals painted, such as the one of Haarlem’s mayor in 1630, Pieter Jacobs Olycan. Also, note the wall, which is hung with leather embossed panels.

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An earlier painter who obtained valuable commissions from town leaders was Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1638 ). In 1590 he became famous overnight thanks to the town council asking him to paint four scenes for the Prinsenhof, a guest house for visiting Dutch stadholder (stadholders were basically the aristocracy of the Low Countries). He painted himself in, too (top row, second from left). Not an uncommon trait to find artists making a cameo appearances in one of their works.

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Frans Hals children also contributed to the art scene. One by the third son, Jan Fransz Hals, is “Children at Play” (1635).

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Personally, I think he would have been better off holding something other than a paint brush

 

Daily life events also featured in artists’ paintings. Jan Steen, another local artist, depicted peasants in various activities. Although his art carried a humorous and sardonic tone, the overarching theme was to amuse and yet warn upper classes away from temptations as shown by His “Village Fair” (1665). This painting speaks to the dangers of drunkeness and licentious behavior. Looks more like a good party to me.

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Haarlem was known for its fine linen, and one oil painting showed hundreds of feet of cloth stretched out to dry in the sun. Interestingly there was an ongoing feud between the city’s beer industry and the linen one because both needed clean water. The breweries won and the linen producers were forced to find other sources further out of town to create their bright white cloth. 

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Another topic reflected by artists was Tulipmania. The tulip, whose name is derived from its country of origin: Turkish for turban, was introduced in the 16th century and later propagated by the scientist and botanist Carolus Clusius in Leiden, roughly twenty miles south of here. Haarlem became the main center for cultivating these desired flowers. The tulip became a commercial entity with speculators vying for the most exotic bulbs, ones they could display as proof of their wealth. One example:  a bulb was purchased in 1623 for 1,000 guilders. Within two years it doubled in price, and then rose to five times the original price in 1637 (the cost of a canal-side home or $90,000 in today’s currency). 

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When the demand all of a sudden fell in 1637 (probably someone woke up and realized it really was just a flower) many wealthy and not-so-wealthy speculators fell into bankruptcy. Satirical paintings sprouted up as a result of artists poking fun at this frenzy all in the name of a bulb, and this museum featured a few. The picture below painted in 1640 portrays the flower goddess Flora accompanied by three men in fool’s caps. The cart is heading towards the sea and a certain sinking followed by some investors,  Haarlem weavers. 

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In addition to the Golden Age painters the Frans Hals Museum had a Hieronymus Bosch 1450-1516 (we wish we had tickets for an extraorinary exhibit in Bosch’s hometown from whence he took his name but not surprisingly it sold out quickly)…

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a fascinating Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s copy of his father’s (the Elder’s) “Dutch Proverbs” (1625)…

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a still Life displaying perfectionist details such one by Willem Heda (1594-1680) in 1658 (below is a cropped view I did of a larger picture)…

 

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and some landscapes featuring local architecture with the “View of the Town Hall on the Market Square” (1671) by Gerrit Berckheyde (1638-98)

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[Pretty wonderful to see this in a museum, then walk ten minutes to the physical site]

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Not all were paintings. One exhibit was an elaborate doll house from the mid-1700s. Evidently, doll houses began as a collector’s object with prosperous homes showcasing miniature furniture and accessories. 

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The owner of this doll house, the wife of Jacob Ploos van Amstel, sewed some of the items herself. She, her husband and mother-in-law are featured in the portrait below. The same artist actually painted some of the pictures hanging in these miniature rooms. That alone illustrates how valued these doll houses were.

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As promised by the woman who checked our card flowers brought spring inside as we toured the various rooms. I gazed at these almost as much as I did the paintings.

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Then, of course, there’s a favorite in every show, one which compliments JUANONA perfectly

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And, with that, we closed our tour of the Frans Hals Museum. Fortunately, many more historical visits were coming our way :)