Haarlem, Netherlands

Sunday, September 25, 2022

So here I am in Haarlem, Netherlands. Our New York Harlem actually derived its name from here when it was “New Amsterdam”, a Dutch colony.

I have to admit, I am wearing thin on my energy levels and it took me a while to get out the door this morning! Also, it rained pretty hard for a while. And when I did go out, I didn’t really have a mission – I really just snapped photos of the beautiful architecture and spires that I could see. I came across the Train Station, some parks and eventually meandered into a series of what looked to be really great eateries and social hang outs. I discovered it’s an area called Grote Market (Market Square) and 10 streets converge here! This has been the town centerpiece for 700 years! Here is also the impressive 15th century Gothic Grote Kerk, or St. Bavo Church (the Great Church). Within there is pipe organ from 1738 that is 100 feet high and has more than 5,000 pipes!! According to Rick Steves it impressed both Handel and Mozart. “After a fire destroyed the old church (1328), the Grote Kerk was built over a 150-year period (c. 1390-1540) in the late Gothic style of red-and-gray brick, topped with a slate-covered wood roof and a stacked tower bearing a golden crown and a rooster weather vane. Originally Catholic, the church was named after St. Bavo, a local noble who frequented seventh-century red light districts during his youth. After his conversion, he moved out of his castle and into a hollow tree, where he spent his days fasting and praying. In the late 1500s, St. Bavo Church became Protestant (Dutch Reformed) along with much of the country. From then on, the anti-saint Protestants simply call it Grote Kerk. (Rick Steves Amsterdam and The Netherlands)

Ultimately I happened upon some kind of a fun run – I don’t know if it was a marathon, half marathon or what – but I think I saw the first runner emerge! There was a lot of fanfare and some DJs and many people out and about! And to listen to the announcer proclaiming loudly and quickly in what I think is Dutch, and what I thought to be the attributes and encouragement for the runners, was mind-boggling!!!

Also, one must really be careful not to be mowed down by a cyclist or two – they are everywhere! Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere! All kinds of folk – young, old, pairs, families, groups – riding fast, slow, focused, indifferent – you name it! And scooters and small cars too! There are a lot of similarities to Italy in that the roads are narrow and winding here, and there seems limited opportunity for pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and motorists to all share the road together! Much cooperation is required! I didn’t really get any good photos, because it’s just constant blurred action!
I found a grocery store and bought some food. I don’t know why, because I only have another day here, and I really would like to eat at some of the restaurants . Although I have looked at a few menus, I cannot for the life of me make out this language! They supposedly speak English here, and when push comes to shove they do, but they really don’t! And most of the menus are not in English. I had a midmorning snack from my grocery purchase of what I think were seasoned shrimp: “Rivierkreeftjes”. I also think I bought some tuna in olive oil, “tonÿn-stuuken in olijfolie”.

I got caught in a rain squall, and though my Airbnb has an umbrella and I also have a raincoat with me, neither did I bring with me! It’s okay though, the Pacific Northwest has trained me to know that I won’t melt!

I went out for an early dinner at a chicken roaster that Billfishdenman recommended to me, “Roast Bistro Bar”. Once again, the menu was not in English and my server was wonderful to translate almost every item to me! I looked up one word that I thought might be the chicken, but it was actually cauliflower (bloemkool)!! Strangely though, the napkin was in English! I had two oysters and ordered the half roasted chicken plus some french fries! The oysters were on the big side for my preference, yet they were so excellent!! We are actually very close to the sea here. The chicken was So, SO DELICIOUS – smokey and tender!

“ Parts of Haarlem still look like they did four centuries ago, when the city was a bustling commercial center rivaling Amsterdam. It’s easy to imagine local merchants and their wives dressed in black with ruff collars, promenading on Grote Market. Back then, the town was a port on the large Haarlemmer Lake, with the North Sea only about five miles away. As well as being the tulip capital of the country, Haarlem was a manufacturing center, producing wool, silk, lace, damask cloth, furniture, smoking pipes (along with cheap, locally grown tobacco) and mass quantities of beer – it was a popular breakfast drink, and the average person drank six pints a day.” (Rick Steves Amsterdam and The Netherlands)

Also from Rick Steves Amsterdam and Netherlands guidebook, “Town Hall: Whereas most of medieval Europe was ruled by kings, dukes and barons, Haarlem has been largely self-governing since 1425. This building – built from a royal hunting lodge in the mid-1200s, then rebuilt after a 1351 fire – has served as Haarlem‘s Townhall since about 1400. The façade dates from 1630”

This is a pleasant community and has a real neighborhood vibe. I sat on a bench along the canal as the day slowly closed. I am having a hard time deciding what to do tomorrow…

2 responses to “Haarlem, Netherlands”

  1. Amazing photos and descriptions Robbi. My grandfather was Dutch and used to sing to me as a small child in Dutch. It was many years ago. Always hope to visit someday.

    1. What a beautiful place! Honestly though, their language about drove me bonkers!

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