My last post was about Rotterdam in The Netherlands.  While we were there, we made side trips to both The Hague (called Den Haag in Dutch) and Delft. By the way, the whole time I was in Rotterdam I had this song running through my head.

We had gone to the Tourist Information (TI) center in Rotterdam and gotten a 3-day transit pass that covered local trains, buses and trams.  There is a bus from the central station in Rotterdam that gets you to Delft in about 40 minutes, so we went there on our first full day.

You may be familiar with the movie and/or painting “Girl With A Pearl Earring”.  The painting is by the artist Johannes Vermeer, who was born in Delft in 1632 and lived there his entire life.  Unfortunately, none of his original paintings are in his hometown. 
This photo shows the Vermeer Centrum where you can find copies of his paintings, but we didn’t go in because we wanted to see the original of Girl With A Pearl Earring in the nearby town of The Hague.

Even though we didn’t go into the building, the outside is still interesting.  You can see at the top that it says St. Lucas Gilde, which is the Guild of Saint  Luke.  This was the guild for painters and other artists.  You can also see that between the first and second floor windows there are 4 stone reliefs.  The second from the left depicts painters and the one on the right depicts booksellers.  This is the downside of waiting a week to write the blog – I honestly don’t remember everything the tour guide told us.  I think, though, that the one on the extreme left depicts potters and the remaining one is engineers or something.  Close enough.

We have 3 cats of our own and are cat lovers, so we try to get a photo of a kitty wherever we go.  It was easy in Delft as this kitty was hanging out in front of a restaurant that we passed.  He (I’m just gonna say it was a he even though I didn’t verify this) was meowing his head off and I think he wanted us to open the door for him.  Unfortunately the restaurant was not yet open and we couldn’t help him out.

This is the city hall in Delft.  You can see the top tower is a different color from the rest of the building.  That’s because the tower was built first and the rest of the building was built around it.  The main building was constructed in the early 17th century, but the tower is much older.  This is still the place where civic wedding ceremonies are held, and we saw several going on the day we were tooling around Delft.

The next photo is the Nieuwe Kerk or New Church, which is directly opposite the town city hall that you just saw.  You can see that the bottom, top and middle sections of the church are all made of different materials. 

These giant clogs are found all over The Netherlands.  OK, I can’t really confirm that last “fact” as I’ve seen them in only one other place in the Netherlands, but it sounded good.  Anyway, the funny thing about this one is there is a sign in it that says “For playing NO” and not two seconds before I took this photo there was a little boy playing in it.

According to the guide on the walking tour we took, the corner building here is the most photographed building in Delft.  If you look on the left side, you will see a little semi-circular part jutting out from the building.  That is the stairway, built there because they couldn’t expand the building and by putting the stairs there it gave them more room inside.

You may have heard of Delftware and/or Delft Blue and/or Royal Delft porcelain.  The Dutch East India Company originally brought blue painted porcelain back from China in the 17th century and the Dutch tried to recreate it.  They weren’t quite successful but did manage to spawn a whole other business.  In any case, you can find this stuff everywhere in Delft – even on the lampposts.

The tour guide told us how you can tell something is Royal Delft as opposed to something just made in the Delft Blue style.  This closeup of part of the above lamppost shows the Royal Delft mark.

The top part of the mark is a symbol that portrays a jar.  The second part is the initials JT, which stands for Joost Thooft, who was the owner of the company in the late 1800s.  Underneath that is the city where the porcelain was made.  Today, the factory in Delft is the only one left that makes Royal Delft.  Underneath that you will see the year on the left, and a year code on the right.  ED is the code for 2009.  Finally, you will see the painter’s initials (all Royal Delft is hand-painted) and in this case, it’s WST. 

This next photo was taken in the garden of the Prinsenhof or “The Court of the Prince”.  This was at one time the residence of William the Silent (aka William of Orange) and was also where he was assassinated in 1584.  We didn’t go inside, but apparently the bullet holes are still visible to mark the spot where William was murdered.  This is a statue of – you guessed it – William himself.

Not a great photo below, but the tour guide told us this was the smallest art museum in the world.  The words “Voor de Kunst” that you see mean “for art”.  One of the cool things about us going to the Netherlands is that we can use our very rudimentary knowledge of German to try to guess what some Dutch words might mean as they have lots of similarities.  For example, as you have just seen, “Voor de Kunst” is Dutch for “for art”.  The same phrase in German is “Für die Kunst”, so almost the same (and pretty much the same pronunciation).  From what little I could gather on the internet, the art in this little box is constantly changing.

The next photo shows a building built in 1505.  Since 1645, it has served as the Water Council House.

You saw the New Church earlier, and this is the Oude Kerk or Old Church.  Now I will admit that I am not a great photographer and regrettably a lot of my photos are tilted, but that is not the case with this photo.  The church itself really leans that much.  It leans about 2 meters or about 6.5 feet.

The Old Church is Delft’s oldest parish church, having been founded around the year 1200.  The  tower was built between 1325 and 1350.

The little pink/red brick house seen below is the smallest house in Delft. Despite its small size, notice that it has two doors.

This is the birthplace of Antony van Leeuwenhoek.  What?  You don’t know who he is?  OK, I didn’t either until this trip but he is considered to be the father of microbiology.  He made improvements to lenses and microscopes and is the first to record observations of bacteria.  According to our tour guide, he was also good buds with Vermeer and took care of Vermeer’s widow and 9 of their children after Vermeer’s death.

Also according to our tour guide, windows of businesses were commonly built at canal-level like this so boats could pull right up to deliver goods.

Back at the New Church, here is the mausoleum of William the Silent. The royals are all buried here, with the last one having been buried in 2004. You may know that just this year on April 30, 2013, Willem-Alexander became the king of The Netherlands.  His mother Beatrix, who had ruled since 1980, abdicated in favor of him.  When the tour guide was talking about the royals being buried here, she had to stop for a second to say the name of the king.  I guess it takes some getting used to if you’ve been saying “Queen Beatrix” for 33 years and all of a sudden you have to start saying “King Willem-Alexander”.  Back to the mausoleum of William the Silent, the tour guide said this whole white part is carved from one single piece of marble, which is pretty amazing. Notice that there is a dog at Williams’ feet in this carving.  The story goes that the dog was his faithful companion and was so heartbroken upon his death that he himself died a few days later.

A little side note: While in the New Church, the tour guide was telling us that back in the day, the rich were buried inside the church while the poor were buried outside.  Whenever someone from a rich family died, they had to open up the mausoleum or whatever to add the new body and of course the stench was overwhelming.  She said this is where the term “stinking rich” came from.  I did a little (very little) research and it seems there are variations on this story but none are really true and “stinking” is just a term like “very”.

The New Church is now a Protestant church but was at one time a Catholic church.  This photo shows the only tiny little part that remains from the church was Catholic.

I normally am completely in awe of the stained glass we see in various churches in Europe, but every so often there is a piece of modern stained glass that leaves me scratching my head.  Here is one such example.  There was an explanatory panel about the glass in the church but even the tour guide admitted she still can’t make out everything that supposedly can be seen, even after all the time she’s spent in the church.  As Sean says, if you need to have it explained to you, it’s not worth it.  Even with the explanation, the only thing I could really make out is the yellow hand at the top.

Back in town, we saw a fish market that has been operating at the same spot since 1342.  That’s just mind-boggling.

I can only assume from this next photo that people in The Netherlands are averse to buying clothing made in Bangladesh.  The sign says “Not made in Bangladesh but in Litouwen”.  I had to look it up, but Litouwen apparently is Lithuania. Much better than Bangladesh. 

Back at the Old Church, where Vermeer is buried.

After visiting the Old Church, we stopped at the nearby Café De Oude Jan for some lunch and my first Heineken of the trip.

A nice little canal-divided street in Delft.  I would not want to misjudge parallel parking along the canal.

This is a big square called De Beestenmarkt.  Livestock were sold here until 1972.  Now it’s surrounded by eating and drinking establishments and was quite crowded the day we were there.

I got a chuckle out of this one. The sign against which the bicycle is leaning basically translates to “No bikes here”.

Before getting back on the bus to Rotterdam, we stopped at this place called Locus Publicus and tried some local beer called Brand.  It was really good.  We had read that Locus Publicus had 180 different kinds of beer and indeed they had an extensive beer menu.  I had a pilsner (on the right) and Sean had an urtyp (the translation of urtyp is “prototype” in German). At one time there were over 100 breweries in Delft but they all disappeared over time for various reasons including destruction by fire.  

The next day, after Cousin Mary and Charlie joined us in Rotterdam, we hopped on the train for a trip to The Hague.  The main reason I wanted to go there was to see Vermeer’s painting Girl With A Pearl Earring in person.  The museum where it’s normally shown, Mauritshuis, is currently undergoing renovation and its major works have been temporarily moved to the Gemeente Museum.  This involved an additional bus ride for us as the museum is a bit out of the way.  It’s mainly a modern art museum and I will tell you right now that I just don’t get modern art.  I don’t like it at all.  Case in point – here is the art we saw outside the museum upon our arrival.  Just does not move me at all.

Luckily there were some truly stunning paintings in the museum by various Dutch masters, which is what I prefer.  After the museum we had a nice, leisurely lunch at a restaurant in town and then walked around The Hague for a short bit. One of the first things I saw was some man using one of the public urinals or “pissoirs”.  I was too surprised to get a photo of him, so Sean and Charlie agreed to pose for a photo.  They’re only pretending to use it though.  Or at least one of them is.

The stork is a symbol of The Hague and they even have them on top of their nice little directional signs.

This is part of the Binnenhof complex, which contains the parliament building and is the center of Dutch politics. 

This building is called the Ridderzaal or Knight’s Hall and is also part of the Binnenhof complex.  The fountain in front is from the 19th century.

That was pretty much it for The Hague as we spent the bulk of our time visiting the museum.  And I saved the best part for last, with the words “the best” being completely sarcastic.  After all our effort in getting to the Gemeente museum and paying our 14.95 Euro each to get in, the first thing we saw was a sign saying Girl With A Pearl Earring was on tour in Japan and America.  Excuse me, what?  Sigh.  So, this postcard I picked up at the museum gift shop and the key chain that Cousin Mary gave me were the closest I got to seeing the painting.

I guess that means I’ll have to go back to The Hague at some point in time if I want to see the painting.  Twist my arm.  I really like The Netherlands.  And oddly enough, I am finishing this blog on July 15th, which is the birthday of another famous Dutch painter – Rembrandt.  Did you know that Rembrandt was his first name?  Neither did I.  His last name was Harmenszoon van Rijn so I can see why we call him Rembrandt.  Next up for the blog is Nancy, France.  


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