June 23-26, 2004
Our first stop in Europe and home base in the Netherlands -- at Hotel Joops. And our first confirmation of Rick Steves' wise advice about "packing light." Carried all our belongings in convertible backpack/suitcases and small day bags. Began our trip a day early to get over jet lag and explore this small town, 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train.
Visited the 15th-century Gothic Church of St. Bavo, called Grote Kerk or Great Church. Heard practice on its 100-feet-high, 5,000-pipe organ, played by both Handel and Mozart in the 1700s. Saw restoration work on its aging frescoed pillars. Wandered through the Frans Hals Museum, viewing the life-size portraits of Haarlem's 17th century leaders and residents (no photos allowed).
Paired up with our tour buddies, Lisa with Donna and Michael with Gary. Valued the candor of our local guide, Hans, a proud Dutchman. Learned about hoisting beams in Dutch gables for lifting furniture -- and gablestones for identifying businesses.
Ate, drank and made merry around Market Square, or Grote Markt. Removed a tangled hairbrush (and lived to laugh about it). Watched vendors and shoppers (and sweet Sydney) in its Saturday market.
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Early morning train ride from Haarlem. A rapid walking tour through city's historic core, including a quick jaunt through the neon-lit Red-Light District. The Anne Frank House and its sobering, ultimately unsuccessful hideaway, "The Secret Annex." Used by her Jewish family from 1942-1944 during the demonic Nazi occupation of Holland. The quiet, comforting Begijnhof courtyard with houses from as early as 1460.
A serene cruise on busy fresh-water canals with their houseboats and stately canal houses alongside, a respite from the whirl of bicycles and tiny cars. No time here or in Haarlem for visiting the legal cannabis coffeeshops, unfortunately.
Dutch masterpieces at the absorbing Rijksmuseum by Rembrandt (The Night Watch, 1642; De Staalmeesters, 1662), Vermeer, Steen and others from the 17th century (no photos allowed). Crafts booths on the Museumplein, a broad grassy open space amid the art museums. Must save time for the Van Gogh Museum next time we're here.
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On the road to Germany, the Open-Air Dutch Folk Museum with windmills; an old-time laundry complete with lawn-bleached sheets; age-old toys for Michael and Bob and others; old-time farmhouses and an herb garden; a papermaker and cold-type print shop; and other traditional crafts in action. A lunch of pizza-like Dutch pancakes at De Hanekamp.
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Tot ziens to Holland! Dank U for the memories.
Copyright Gary and Donna Larson, Seattle, Washington. Updated May 15, 2005.