Haarlem

Our plan for today was to be guided by the local knowledge of our hosts, Jerry and Rianna, with whatever adjustments might be necessary for the weather which was predicted to be wet. There were some welcome surprises along the way, including much better weather than had been expected.

DSC_6601We were awake about 7:00 am as usual, showered and went downstairs. Jerry and Rianna were down soon after and we had breakfast of cereal and fruit with Greek coffee made by Jerry. After breakfast we all went out to walk the corgi, Charlie, around the nearby lake. It had rained overnight and there were lots of puddles on the paths we walked along. The forecast was for more during the day but the sky was clearing in the west. There were a few sprinkles of rain as we walked but nothing serious.

Soon after returning with the dog we set out to explore the historic centre of Haarlem. Rather than drive we took the buses which run frequently on the busway adjacent to the residential area. There was one change of bus required along the way on the 40 minute trip but Jerry had mastered the system and we easily arrived at our destination near the central market place in Haarlem. By the time we arrived, the sky had mostly cleared and we had bright sunlight. The market square was filled with stalls selling the usual range of market items to a sizeable crowd.

This weekend was Haarlem cultural festival and open monument days which meant that admission to museums and some other historically significant buildings was free. Rianna was delighted to find that the town hall was open to the public. Her parents had been married in that building but she had never seen inside it. The building is still used by the city but contains many historical artefacts which we enjoyed seeing.

DSC_6615We wandered through the market to the other end where Saint Bavokerk was also open for free. It was originally a catholic cathedral but became a protestsant church after the reformation. There was a men’s choir singing and we listened to them sing the last couple of items on their program before looking more around the church. One end had an informative display about water mangement in the Netherlands including an animated history and other information about the systems in place. Jerry was particularly interested in the old maps that showed changes in the distribution of land and water and how large bodies of water had become tracts of land. One part of the display featured a scale showing sea level in relation to the level where we were standing, a bit more than 5 m below sea level. The Dutch have good reason to be watchful for changes in climate, rainfall, and ocean levels.

DSC_6619By that time it was early afternoon and time to eat. We enjoyed pizzas from a market van with a wood fired pizza oven just outside the church before moving on to explore further. We visited another building on the square that had been used as town hall before the current building and then as a guard house. It featured a display about an engineer who had been responsible for planning the expansion of the city in the last century. Moving on, we found another building where a choir had just finished performing and thought we might come back for a later performance in the same location. We toured the courthouse and found an ancient alms house tucked into the back streets.

Teylers Museum, the first and oldest in the Netherlands, had been on Jerry and Rianna’s list for a visit today. Neither had ever been there though Rianna’s boys had been on school excursions. We were delighted to find that admission was free today as part of the festival and spent more than an hour in the building. The impressive entrance foyer had a much decorated domed ceiling with a gallery. The first exhibit rooms displayed a large collection of fossils and geological specimens but then we came to rooms with pieces of equipment used to demonstrate classical physics experiments before discovering the elliptical library room with displays at floor level, covered cases for books around a gallery one floor up, and tall glass windows all around above that. Beyond that were rooms filled with artworks including pieces by Rembrandt and other significant artists that had been purchased starting in the 18th century when the museum began to collect. We looked at an exhibit about electricity on loan from an English museum before having coffees or alternative drinks in the museum café. We barely had time to finish those before we were ushered out at closing time. We did not make it back to the choral performance.

DSC_6633The streets of Haarlem are full of interesting buildings and we wandered about looking at some more of those before settling on Restaurant Delphi, a Greek restaurant, for dinner. Jerry impressed the proprietor with his Greek conversation and that seemed to get us special attention. We had eaten lunch late so settled for a selection of starters and a shared Greek salad with beers, wine or soft drink. The food was tasty and more than enough for us.

We rode the bus back to Hoofddorp and were lucky with the schedules that left us just minutes to wait for our first bus and at the change. Charlie the corgi was waiting for his evening walk around the lake so we all went for another walk in the last bit of sunshine. Our talking last night about our stay in Port Isaac (Portwenn) had interested Jerry and Rianna who had found and watched the first episode of Doc Martin last night. We watched two more this evening and enjoyed them as much as we had the first time around.

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