Join me for a trip to Haarlem, the stately city which boats the most pure spoken Dutch language. Haarlem, in the province of North Holland, is situated 20 KM to the west of Amsterdam, easy to reach by train in under 30 minutes. Haarlem boasts an important late mediaeval church of enormous size. Inside is a famous organ that has been played on by young Mozart and other composers. This church is situated on a beautiful civic square, which also contains the Town Hall and the Meat Hall.
The expressive architecture of the Meat hall was chosen and built by the City Council at great cost to enhance life for all citizens. It now functions as a museum building as well. This unique meat market hall is one of the most important buildings in the Netherlands. Under architect Lieven de Key it was finished in 1602, stylistically based on the modern Italian mannerist examples, such as Palazzo del Te in the city of Mantua, by architect Giulio Romano. Romano himself rested on the shoulders of Michelangelo, who redefined architecture. Haarlem thus ordered top design within the walls and paid the Key big money to keep him permanently within the city limits. Twenty years later, he also built the new wing at the Town Hall on Great Market square.
The town’s claim to fame is the oldest museum in The Netherlands, founded in the 18th century, in the Age of Enlightenment. This Teyler’s Museum has collections spanning from unique bird feather imprints in natural stone from the time of the early dinosaurs, to scientific machines such as the large one to generate static electricity to be stored in Leyden bottles. The huge flashover generator with glass disks yield static electricity to be stored in batteries called Leiden Jars.
It also has a fine collection of Renaissance drawings including some by important masters such as Michelangelo. As you may know, the Age of Enlightenment was not born in France in the 18th Century but had a precursor in The Netherlands of the 17th century with Van Leeuwenhoek, Boerhaave… Imagine the noisy flashes of 100.000 volt lightning arcs! Lovers of dinosaur age can also see the fossils of the earliest feathered bird.
More claims to fame: The first public sports field in Western European history. The very first public lending library for books.
A beautifully preserved inner city with great buildings. Situated on a sandy ridge and therefore dry ground, and thus preferred by people with a higher income. It is said that the most beautiful Dutch is pronounced in Haarlem, without a trace of regional dialect.
Haarlem history: an epic struggle of the protestant Rebels against the Roman Catholic troops of Spain; the hardest and bloodiest battles were fought in Haarlem. Like waves slowly rolling over a sandy beach, Haarlem was overrun time and again by the opposing troops, changing from Catholic rule to protestant rule and back a number of times. Harsh reprisal actions took place and numerous executions poored rivers of blood on the pavement.
Yet if you walk in the center now, the first impression is one of order, peace and quiet and proper burgher prosperity. In town you see numerous old age pension courtyards (Hofjes) and some fine museums, which beg to be visited.
The Frans Hals museum has outstanding painting collections of Mannerist and later masters including that strange large-scale portrait painter Frans Hals.
The Weighing House was the folk cafe where Simon and Garfunkel performed in the 1960s before they became famous.
Larger images are available on this old school site.
HOW TO GET THERE
Haarlem is easy to reach with public transport, by train in 30 minutes. I hold a Dutch Railways rebate card. For this train tour I can offer you a special rebate of 40% for three separate adult railway tickets. This makes it economical for you as clients. I can join you from your hotel or from the Amsterdam train station.
Various other options are open to you: a) You can hire a car and drive it yourself, and I will join you starting in Amsterdam and will advise you about the best route. b) We can hire a professional taxibus service at around E 70 per hour for about 4 to 5 hours. On top of that you will pay me as the specialist guide. This is the more expensive option.