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.
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.
When the gray turned to blue we headed out and became part of the people river
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.
Roller-blading blossoms handed out individual stalks
while others just preferred more formal attire.
Some street musicians added their tunes to the festival ambiance, one of them who could have been Robin Williams’ twin.
Even the “Angry Birds” appeared.
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 :)
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.
We stopped at a lunch truck for Max’s new favorite food, kibbeling, which is fish fried in batter with a tartar-like sauce.
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.
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).
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 :)
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:
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).
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.
Instead of being too crowded I loved how everyone was milling around enjoying a beautiful spring day amidst flora, flora everywhere.
You could visit a variety of pavilions each with its own theme, from tulips (of course)…
to kids entertainment,
even some fauna: the little pig pic is for my cousin Cathy and the peacock and peahen for our friend Ellen.
After two hours of strolling we wanted to head back through the fields which bordered these gardens.
Even saw someone trying out his drone.
We traded portrait shots with some other tulip-ers
before riding back to Harlem.
Dropping our bikes off with Tara at a great hostel-inn, HELLO I AM LOCAL,
we walked back to JUANONA knowing we had really, truly experienced Spring in Holland and it was SPECTACULAR and REAL :)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(And, Gracie, you may recognize who’s sitting on the window sill of this old house :)
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.
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.
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,
and walked by buildings where surely the pilgrims had also trod:
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.
The house was discernable only by the older brick incorporated into a newer structure.
We then entered the church where the pilgrims worshipped, no longer in use except as a historical site.
It did have a memorial to John Robinson (he died in Leiden in 1625) given by MAYFLOWER descendants 1926.
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.
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.
And, yes, there were stunning flower arrangements strategically placed in entrance halls and the reception area, many sporting the tulip.
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.
So, our day in Den Haag ended in a blur of art but all memorable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
We also passed the smallest house in town with its bronze head of the municipal doctor who was also Willem van Oranje’s physician.
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.
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.
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”.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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”,
and Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), “Father of International Law”, whose statue stands in middle of the market square.
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.
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
and his mausoleum (even in this place there’s tippiness as one of the bronze statues keeps falling over),
Hugo Grotius’ memorial is also here.
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).
Part of the town hall encompasses a medieval prison tower, which is located at the back of the main building.
Walking down another brick-laid street with Max playing the pied piper to a couple of ducks
we came to the only remaining city gate (the East gate) from the 1400s, now a private residence (lucky folk!).
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.
And, yes, it was still cold.
With that we walked back to the train station and a warm ride home to Haarlem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We chose the Turkish Doner route, one of our favorite sandwiches, and proceeded to simultaneously enjoy some people-watching and filling out bellies.
Next, back to the river canal, which brought us to Teylers Museum, the oldest public museum in the Netherlands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why this is so important, I don’t know but I did find that tidbit fascinating. Plus, I liked the colors.
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.
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.
Here we were introduced to some of the most prominent Dutch landscape artists of the 19th Century, such as Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870).
I couldn’t ignore “En Plein Air” by Constant Gabriel (1828-1903) due to artist friends whom I know enjoy this activity.
And, opened pages with exquisite water colors of flora and fauna, such as this 1758 book, couldn’t help but catch one’s eyes.
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.
Haarlem, I think you’ve put a spell upon us two sailors.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Frans Hals children also contributed to the art scene. One by the third son, Jan Fransz Hals, is “Children at Play” (1635).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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)…
a fascinating Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s copy of his father’s (the Elder’s) “Dutch Proverbs” (1625)…
a still Life displaying perfectionist details such one byWillem Heda (1594-1680) in 1658 (below is a cropped view I did of a larger picture)…
and some landscapes featuring local architecture with the “View of the Town Hall on the Market Square” (1671) by Gerrit Berckheyde (1638-98)
[Pretty wonderful to see this in a museum, then walk ten minutes to the physical site]
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.
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.
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.
Then, of course, there’s a favorite in every show, one which compliments JUANONA perfectly…
And, with that, we closed our tour of the Frans Hals Museum. Fortunately, many more historical visits were coming our way :)
Leaving mid-morning we continued cruising down the river to Haarlem, once the most important port after Amsterdam. From here we planned on using public transportation for some day tripping to towns further south. Like in Norway we had notes from our cruising friends, Ginger & Dick of s/v ALCHEMY and Helen & Gus, s/v WINGS; and, all of them had spoken highly of the charms of this historic city.
Just so you get an idea of how the Dutch have adapted to living on the water, check out these condos. Looks like their sailboats serve as their cars :)
Reaching the harbor master office located alongside a double bridge we paid for a week’s mooring and once again were kindly provided a city map with the locations of boating necessities (public showers, a laundromat, grocery store).
While waiting for the first bridge to open, the lady who had helped us in the office came down to the pontoon to tell us one of the bridges was broken; but, as she said we weren’t in any hurry since we were on holiday, which couldn’t have been truer. With the sun shining, a bright blue sky, and the promise of a berth in the midst of this old city, we felt lucky just to be on a boat gazing at a windmill in the distance.
Within an hour the bridge was repaired
and we continued down to a spot on the east bank of the river wall. Although located on the more residential side it was reputed to be quieter and still within easy walking distance of all the major attractions.
Once JUANONA was secured we hopped off and strolled along the canal dodging cyclists. I have to say we thought it was a bit harrowing in SE Asia when crossing lanes; yet, there at least there seemed to be a constant flow in one or two directions. Here, traffic resembled a whirlpool of two-wheeled cyclists, four-wheeled vehicles, and two-legged pedestrians. Consequently our heads swiveled like owls’ every time we started to cross a pathway. We sigh with relief when we’ve reached the other side without a potential near-swipe of a passing vessel, be it mechanical or human.
In spite of every-which-way traffic historic Haarlem is easy to navigate as the Grote Markt or main square hosts one of the city’s oldest churches, Grote Kerk van St Bravo . We headed in that direction with the church’s towering wooden spire (a replica of its initial stone one, which was replaced due to the weight of the sandstone ) as our beacon.
The architecture is stunning with facades featuring elaborate gables, which I found out served as an identification prior to the introduction of street numbers by the French. The building below looks like something that’d cause the sky to yell ‘Ouch’. We see these stepped lines a lot around here although this is the most elaborate so far.
Landing in the plaza we found ourselves with the surround-sound of amusement park rides including a ferris wheel.
And bordering this modern funtime was the 14th-century town hall,
the statue of Laurens Coster whom they claim invented movable type along with Gutenberg,
the 17th-century beef market and fish house all within a cobblestone throw from the church.
For some reason I had thought of The Netherlands not as a cruising ground but as a transiting point. I believe this arose from (a) knowing it was fairly early to begin our summer voyaging and (b) thinking ahead to a trip home for our nephew Thomas’ and Renee’s wedding. In any event it meant we had left Ipswich without a handy guide book; so, off we went to the local tourist office who directed us to a book store.
Once there the enthusiastic owner offered us free coffee, wifi access, and proudly showed us the largest book I’ve ever seen and the most expensive for sale (over 6,000 euros) I’ve gazed upon.
His store had one of only 15 located in the country and he’d already sold five out of limited press run. Gorgeous prints of paintings covered the pages, sized in various percentages to show exquisite details.
We told him one couldn’t fit it aboard JUANONA, which is when he mentioned a nice little table stand came with your purchase. Did I say he was also a salesmen?
With all of this history flooding around us seems like a good time to do my usual history jaunt through time. There’s no straight line through this country’s history, so bear with me if you’d like…
Who else but the Romans in 59 BC began documenting the Netherlands people. Caesar basically just followed the Rhine to its mouth, which empties into what’s now known as the North Sea. Following the Romans, Franks from the east began their conquering of the Low Lands bringing with them Christianity and the start of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) under Charlemagne in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Adding to the mix Vikings attacked from the west constructing fortified towns and ruling became localized. As individual rulers’ power grew they squabbled among each other while bartering various freedoms in exchange for support from their townsfolk.
By the 12th century seaport trade led to Dutch towns with sea access joining to from a powerful trading organization, the Hanseatic League, [define]. Meanwhile the first attempt to prevent the sea overrunning the land occurred when dams were built between Haarlem and the Zuiderzee, although disastrous floods still occurred.
Also during this time the powerful Dukes of Burgundy, French princes, took control of the area culminating with Philip the Good in the 15th century.
In spite of losing some of their freedoms towns switched into prosperity mode now that the local rulers stopped their spats under the domination of this Duke. Shipbuilding and trading of tapestries, paintings, chic clothing, beer, and salted herring flourished.
But all good things seem to come to pass, and such was the case of the Low Lands when Charles V, a Burgundian Duke, Head of the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Emperor, granted his son Philip II the Low Lands in 1555. The age-old ugliness of religious intolerance reared its head under this staunch Catholic. Prior to his rule Protestantism had taken hold with an array of sects allowed to practice. Eventually the largest group were the Calvinists. Believing all non-Catholics were heretics, Philip introduced his subjects to the Inquisition. In 1566 the Calvinists went on a rampage destroying Catholic churches symbols of idolatry. To combat this form of rebellion, Philip sent the Duke of Alba who took revenge of these unruly subjects by destroying towns and executing the inhabitants. Haarlem was one of the unfortunate victims when it surrendered after a seven-month siege in 1572, whereupon most of its inhabitants were executed.
This led to the War of Independence and the recognition of the country’s founder: Willem van Oranje (count in the House of Nassau, later becoming a Prince of Orange in 1544).
As a prince raised in the Hapsburg court as Philip II, Willem, too, was Catholic, but unlike Philip II, Willem believed in tolerance. Philip’s brutality caused Willem to revolt, and so began 80 years of war beginning in 1566.
In spite of the strife and ongoing battles the 15th and 16th centuries created a lot of wealth for the area thanks to the merchant cities. Once the war ended businesses really prospered and so, too, religious freedom. The northern Union of Utrecht, formed in the late 1500s by Protestants, offered religious tolerance unheard of in most European countries. It’s where the Pilgrims came and organized a sailing trip to the New World. In 1648 the War ended with the independence of the country called the United Provinces.
Trading continued to expand with the forming of the Dutch East Indies Company and Dutch West Indies Company in the 17th century. Colonizing of some of the Caribbean Islands and Indonesia occurred and the residents of theses United Provinces just got wealthier and wealthier.
Then wars with France in the 18th century interrupted lucrative trade, dykes fell into disrepair, and the country floundered. A civil war in 1785 between the House of Orange and its democratic opponents eventually led to Napoleon’s rule; but his Russian mistake created an opening for Prince Willem VI who in 1813 took over and sired a monarchy whose descendants still reign. He also formed the Kingdom of the Netherlands between the Netherlands in the North and Belgium. But, it was a bumpy ride with the country truly not becoming a unit until 1848 under Willem II’s more liberal constitution.
FYI: Inhabitants of The Netherlands refer to themselves as Nederlanders, not Dutch. The latter comes from Old English for ‘people or nation’ and was used to refer to people from the Holy Roman Empire way back when. “High Dutch” meant those living in the mountainous regions (Germany) while “Low Dutch” was used for those living in the flat lands (Netherlands). However, like Holland, which is really just two of the 12 country’s provinces but were the two most foreigners knew due to trading, Dutch is the word used by non-Nederlanders when talking about this country’s folk. Habits die hard!
The country avoided WWI and tried to stay neutral during WWII but Hitler’s invasion in 1940 created a Dutch resistance, which is where I take you back to Haarlem and to our wanderings on the following day.
Thursday, April 21
I remember hearing about Corrie ten Boom but had forgotten the specifics of her heroism. She didn’t want to be called a heroine but the title fits; and, her selfless acts began right here in Haarlem at her home on Barteljorisstraat number 19.
We arrived mid-morning thinking we’d just stroll right in and walk through not realizing reservations were taken online. Fortunately, the tour guide kindly let us join the group of 20, which increased by 24 by the time we all squeezed through the door and up the narrow staircase.
Corrie grew up in a very Christian household and one that truly lived by the code “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Theirs was an ‘open house’, which eventually became an underground railroad when the war broke out. To indicate it was safe to knock and enter, the ten Booms would place a wooden sign advertising a Swiss watch brand in the dining room window (her father was a watchmaker, and, interestingly, Carriebecame the first female licensed watchmaker in Holland).
Corrie, her sister, and her father saved over 800 people, many of them Jewish including up to 100 orphans, from the Germans’ clutches. The majority were fed and provided with temporary shelter during their escape route. Six, however, stayed in the house with Corrie’s family.
After a thirty-minute talk our guide took us upstairs to Corrie’s bedroom where the hiding place was located.
An architect had the foresight to use brick instead of wood to create a phony wall. Thus, it sounded solid when hunting Nazis thumped on it during their house searches. The two men, two women, and two boys who lived with Ten Booms were able to get themselves into this hiding place within 70 seconds of a warning by one of the family members (a system of buzzers had been installed in strategic areas around he house) There, with some bread, a little water and a bucket, they remained hardly breathing until an all-clear signal was given.
On February 28, 1944, the Ten Booms were betrayed. Corrie, her sister and father were taken prisoner. Her 84-year-old father died in custody while his two daughters were shipped to concentration camps. The six in hiding weren’t found by the Germans; and, after two days of not daring to exit, two Dutch policemen who were part of the resistance found them and helped them all escape. Our guide said they knew what had happened to all of six them, except for one of the young boys. However, they found out in the mid-80s when a visitor on one of their tours quietly announced he was that young boy when the group was being shown the hiding place. Can you imagine?!
Our guide also pointed out where extra food ration stamps were hidden under a riser in the staircase. Discovery of this was the proof the Germans used to charge the family, since they had been unable to find anyone in hiding.
Corrie was the sole survivor of her family, and she continued to share her faith with others by preaching love of others around the world. Eventually she moved to California where she died in 1983 on her birtthday, April 15, at age 91. Pretty powerful story.
I can’t leave this house without saying how absolutely wonderful our tour guide was. She was very efficient (and fast-talking) in relating Corrie’s life. She mentioned at the very end when we were all saying good-bye she had been a child during the war and remembered eating tulip bulbs but not hyacinths because the latter were poisonous. But, what was more memorable was her aura of gentleness and kindness. When I come into contact with such a spirit all I want to do is bask in their warmth.
Later that afternoon we headed back to our boat and ended up at another Dutch symbol, the windmill.
Our host was just as eager as the morning one. He threaded us up to the top where outside he showed us the blades holding the sails and how they stop the sails with a brake.
He also pointed out a large dome, which he said had been a jail and was now housing a recent group of immigrants.
Then, indoors he explained how this particular windmill was used to grind grains and nuts,
including cocoa beans for the local chocolate company, Droste. I recognized the packaging but had no idea it featured a nurse because chocolate was touted to be good for you. Smart messaging :)
The impressive structure was pinned together with pegs, and numbered, so that the windmill could be moved to another location if necessary. Giant wooden cogs converted wind into power.
A brake allowed the operator to stop the grinding and another lever adjusted how fine one ground the raw ingredients by raising or lowering the stones. (We did stop by the next day to see how noisy it was, and surprisingly it was extremely quiet with the blades turning, although no grinding was being done.)
The next floor down displayed several models of the different types of windmills and a map depicting all of the Netherland’s reclaimed land (light blue).
Originally created to pump water out of the low-lying lands, these mills were used for sawing wood, supplying clay for pottery, even grinding pigments for artists. By mid-19th century there were more than 100,000 windmills; yet, they fell into disuse with the invention of the steam engine – only 1,000 are in operation today.
Fortunately, the government recognizes the windmill as a Dutch heritage and have created a three-year training program for someone to obtain a license to operate these windblown mills.
During our tour we met two British cyclists who had taken the ferry from Harwich (just south of Ipswich) and were riding to Prague! Yes, they were fit; and, yes, they could probably eat all the cheese they desired and drink all the beer they wanted and still be fitter than when they started. It’s almost enough to make me want to take up cycling; and, I have several friends, such as Kathryn Y., Andrea, Cindy, and Jane G., who could mentor me.
We invited Paul and John back to JUANONA for some wine and cheese and had a wonderful late afternoon discussing a range of topics with the inevitable one of Trump arising.
In addition to this cycling trip (which would take roughly 3-1/2 weeks), they were also traveling to France in the Fall to tour some WWI sites. One of their field hockey teammates is an expert on WWI history and provides an amazing experience, such as researching John’s ancestor who died on the battlefields. Paul mentioned he was asked to recite a poem during this trip, and he kindly obliged us by reading John McCrae’s haunting “In Flanders Fields”.
Tomorrow more explorations of Haarlem’s offerings…
Ready to start our canal journeys we left IJmuiden after laundry and some minor provisioning the day before. We had kept a keen eye on the wind as our experience going through tight locks and bridges was fairly limited. But, as many cruising friends had told us The Netherlands are made for newbies. Bridge tenders and lock keepers were ready to hold our hands as we inched into a variety of locks and sluices and through bridges of various configurations.
With this busy port’s four locks manhandling the abundant commercial and leisure traffic we were directed to one of the smallest ones, still huge and industrial in scope.
(FYI: the lights are self-explanatory with Red = stop; Red + Green = prepare to go; Green = go, and they do mean ‘go!’.)
With our first lock under our belt we started to get the gist of how things work here, and relief and confidence set in as we slowly motored down the Noordzeekanaal (North Sea canal).
One-fifth of The Netherlands is built on reclaimed land so it wasn’t surprising to see sand-laden barges and bulldozers.
If 20% is reclaimed, another 20% of The Netherlands is water. In 1953 a flood in the southwest (Zeeland, the country’s most vulnerable region) led to the largest public works effort, the Delta Project. Today numerous dykes, dunes and pumping stations (the latter now replacing windmills) keep the liquid threat at bay. In the north and west you’re below sea level (!). With this type of terrain it’s a wonder the Dutch haven’t sprouted duck feet.
[Just an aside, The Netherlands and Holland aren’t interchangeable like I originally thought. Actually, this came up a few years ago in my Book Group. Holland is the name for two of the 12 provinces that comprise The Netherlands: the North or Noord and South or Zuid; yet, I find myself wanting to use Holland more than the sterner sounding Netherlands. Probably because it sounds warmer and more in tune with wooden shoes, windmills, Gouda and Edam cheese and tulips. So, if I mistakenly slip and use ‘Holland’ in future blob blogs, I do mean the entire country. Just put it down to sipping too much of their delicious beer.]
To reach our first destination, Spaarndam we took a right turn and positioned ourselves in front of the camera for the remotely operated bridge. It worked like a charm, and we entered a much more tranquil and rural landscape.
Our next bridge had set opening times to accommodate the major road crossing it; so, we tied up alongside a pontoon. All of our docking was great practice for the new method we had heard about and Max researched: using the aft spring line (generally tied towards the stern (back end) of the boat allowing JUANONA to pivot evenly, i.e., neither the bow nor stern would be pulled in more than the other). With hardly any tide or wind our canaling offered gentle opportunities to perfect this technique. I really appreciated this method for it meant I wasn’t teetering on the side of JUANONA with the bowline in one hand while clutching the life rail in the other as I gauged a gaping distance to jump from the boat to a dock as Max positioned us as close to land as possible.
We relaxed and peered about as we enjoyed our first true ‘sitting in the cockpit lit by warm sun reading’ of the season. Cyclists, tractors, and a horse-drawn cart trotted by on the road bordering our tie-up; and, overhead a KLM jet began its journey and left us wondering if our friend Koen, an EU air traffic controller, had sent it on its way.
Our last lock of the day was in Spaarndam (logically named as it’s a dam on the River Spaarne) where we joined a small motorboat and a large barge. The latter hosted a group of American, Canadian and European passengers who hopped off with bikes to enjoy a tulip tour. Friends had done one of these cruises and they certainly looked appealing, not the least being the flower be-decked tables I espied in the dining area. Talk about luxury.
Reaching a small marina we docked on the outer pontoon (JUANONA’s on the right at the end),
which felt like a small neighborhood as we walked out of the gate
and entered the associated office/shop where a woman gave us the lay of the land. Not only was she versed in her town’s landmarks but also an expert on our Reflex diesel stove. We have to say these Dutch folk have been some of the friendliest hosts we’ve been around in all of our travels. Once you take the initial step of approaching them, the Dutch respond typically in excellent English while encouraging any questions with a smile. Practicality, forthrightedness, and helpfulness seem to be universal personality traits in this small European country.
With the marina women as proof of the above, off we went to explore:
the 13th century lock that protected a picturesque water plaza…
laza…the Hans Brinker finger-in-the-dike statue (which is just a story tale)…
the eel dock where an eel smokehouse has operated since the 1860s…
and, some sights we’re becoming to expect… such as cyclists waiting for a bridge to open,
a train of kindegardners being wheeled down the road…
planters of flowering grape hyacinths,
and the occasional gnome.
During our stroll back to the boat we looked for an ATM (many businesses don’t accept VISA credit cards and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of banks, unlike in England). Espying what we mistakenly thought was an ATM Max noted it was actually a 24-hour drug dispenser. A pretty clever way to get your prescription.
Our last stop was the grocery store where we added a bouquet of tulips to our provisioning list, something I think will be a regular item during our canaling in this friendly and laid-back country.
So, with our own floral centerpiece :) we head next to Haarlem, a city whose origins date from the 10th century thanks to some enterprising Counts. Spotting an opportunity to take advantage of a growing trade they set up a toll booth on the River Spaarne. Didn’t I say they were practical? :)