Observations of Haarlem, Holland

Wife Sarah and I spent 17 days based in Haarlem celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. We chose Haarlem because of its proximity to all the places we wanted to visit whilst we were there. Whilst there we noted a number of things:

  • The women in Holland are tall – one youngish lady I encountered in the train station in the ticket office towered over my six feet and she was wearing flatties!
  • Many of the men wore winklepicker shoes and nearly drainpipe trousers
  • No ties on the men = sports coats and open necked shirts were the order of the day
  • Many people smoke
  • Everywhere is neat and tidy – no garbage on the streets
  • We found four bakeries in Haarlem all serving baked today breads and rolls – no white bread. And, oh those croissants!!!
  • No panhandlers or street people
  • The coffee is STRONG!
  • Everywhere we went we felt safe
  • The smoked salmon was fantastic – lots of different fresh fish in the markets
  • Haarlem, like the other cities we visited, had an outdoor market
  • There were three chocolate shops in Haarlem – each made its own – each was delish
  • Dutch people love flowers – great flower shops with amazing arrangements
  • Don’t speak the lingo?  No prob – nearly every one spoke english
  • The public transport system is TOTALLY amazing – the buses and trains run EXACTLY on time

Here’s an eclectic collection of pics taken in Haarlem:

[Click on a pic to see full size.]

Would I go back? In a heart beat.

Alkmaar (Holland) is more than cheese and Dutch allotments (volkstuin)

Alkmaar is about 40 minutes north from Haarlem.  Alkmaar is well known for its traditional cheese market. Size? About 100,000 people. The earliest mention of the name Alkmaar is in a 10th-century document. As the village grew into a town, it was granted city rights in 1254. The oldest part of Alkmaar lies on an ancient sand bank that afforded some protection from inundation during medieval times. Even so, it is only six feet or so above the surrounding region, which consists of some of the oldest polders in existence.

There is nothing more satisfying that growing your own fruits and vegetables. In the Netherlands however, the prospect of doing so can seem quite bleak because in cities everyone lives cheek by jowl. The Dutch answer is volkstuinen.  We saw hundreds of them on the train ride from Haarlem to Alkmaar. We were positive that nary a one had a weed in it.

For those who have not heard of the term, a volkstuin is an allotment or community garden. It usually consists of a plot of land, which is non-commercial, where individuals or families can grow fruits and vegetables, flowers and trees. Allotments are generally patches of land but often have sheds and sometimes, even a proper summerhouse shelter for seasonal or weekend accommodation. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it!

In the Netherlands, volkstuinen started in the 17th century. Back then, they were more commonly known as moestuinen; an old fashioned term meaning vegetable garden, or kooltuinen (cabbage gardens). They were places where the working class produced a reasonable amount of vegetables for themselves as well as selling off the surplus. It was believed that these gardens would increase the happiness of people by improving the material and moral circumstances of the working class. It wasn’t until around 1928 that the allotment societies founded a national organisation by the name of De Algemene Vereniging van Volkstuinen Nederland (AVVN). Allotments in the Netherlands were generally used for vegetable production up until about the 1950s when the gardens became more known for their recreational use.

There are more than 240.000 allotments in the Netherlands. With the hustle and bustle of the city, getting away can come as a godsend. In fact, spending time around nature can work wonders, and gardening is most definitely therapeutic. Whilst allotments in the Netherlands cannot be considered as permanent residences, overnight stay during the summer season is possible if this falls under the municipality’s plans and the space has a garden house that meets the requirements. You won’t be able to obtain a residence permit though as it is not an official residence.

What do they look like? Try this for size:

Typical Dutch Allotment - note little house

Typical Dutch Allotment – note little house

What else did my camera capture in Alkmaar ? An eclectic collection of images:

 

 

 

Signs and stuff found in and on walls in Haarlem in Holland

Whilst blundering about Haarlem I pointed my $99 special at a whole gamut of “thingamees.” Here’s a hodge podge of Haarlem “thingamees.”

The cut flower pavilion at Keukenhof, Holland

The first time we visited Keukenhof they were arranging flowers in the cut flower pavilion and we were unable to get in. On the second visit we did get in and we landed in a sea of flowers. As a dedicated model railroader my knowledge of flower varieties is scant. Even the oracle (wife Sarah) was gobsmacked by the variety of flowers and plants. One hopes that the gallery below gives some idea of the magnificence of what we marveled at. I recommend  that you use the gallery feature by clicking on any one of the pics. The theme of the pavilion was flower power hence the use of relics from the age of Aquarius.

When we finally went out of the pavilion we drifted to the edge of the Keukenhof property where we could get a clear look at one of fields where they grow the tulips et al.

Tulip and hyacinth field

Tulip and hyacinth field

Like most fields in Holland this one was surrounded by a ditch full of water and ………..

Mum waiting for grub

Mum waiting for grub

Dad getting grub for Mum

Dad getting grub for Mum

I even found a song I liked about daffodils.

 

Haarlem – the canals and River Spaarne

You can’t be too far from the River Spaarne or a canal if you are in Haarlem. This is the canal right outside our front door.

[Click on any picture to see full size.]

The canal that runs outside our house

The canal that runs outside our house

We took a hike to the River Spaarne to watch the Nederlanders out on the river on a Sunday afternoon.

And the music to accompany your Sunday afternoon cruise.

I’ll sing it for you if you want!!!!!! Remember though I have a voice that will make a statue cry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Amsterdam – The Albert Cuyp Market

We went there semi-accidentally the last time we were in Amsterdam. My recollection of that visit was that daughters Annalise and Holly ate at every food stall.

On this trip we made two visits to Amsterdam. On the first it was bloody cold and we didn’t do a whole lot. On our second visit – we took the train up from Haarlem – it was a beautiful spring day. I stopped to take a couple of shots of Amsterdam’s Central Station. It awes me every time I arrive there.

Look at the vastness of Amsterdam's Central Station

Look at the vastness of Amsterdam’s Central Station

You can get a train to pretty much anywhere from here. This train was on its way to Paris with just two stops.

This one went to Paris in 3 hours

This one went to Paris in 3 hours

We took a tram from the station to a stop about two blocks from the market. The Albert Cuypmarkt is the busiest in all of the Netherlands – 260 stalls -and is reputedly the largest daytime market in Europe. The famous Dutch Stroopwafels are prepared fresh here.

The street and market are named for Albert Cuyp, a painter from the 17th century. The market began as an ad hoc collection of street traders and pushcarts. By the beginning of the 20th century, this had become so chaotic that in 1905, the city government decided to set up a market, at first only held on Saturday evenings. In 1912, the market became a daytime market open six days a week. Originally the street was accessible while the market was taking place, but more recently the street has been completely closed off to traffic during market hours. The product selection at the market varies from the traditional range of vegetables, fruit and fish to clothing and even cameras. There are many products sold that are of interest to the city’s residents of Surinamese, Antillean, Turkish, and Moroccan origin, giving the market and neighbourhood a strong multicultural feel.

The market – what caught my eye::

he market from above - can you see me?

The market from above – can you see me?

The market goes for five city blocks with stalls on both sides

The market goes for five city blocks with stalls on both sides

This is a potpourri of the pics I took:

Did we take a canal cruise? No, my feet were glowing!!!

Canal cruise boat

Canal cruise boat

These houses along a canal caught my eye:

Look at the shutters on this block of houses

Look at the shutters on this block of houses

I was humming this song all day ………

Great day out.

 

 

 

 

A visit to Zandvoort by the sea in Holland

Zandvoort is a Dutch coastal town west of Haarlem.  It’s about 15 minutes on the train and about half an hour by bus. We elected to go by bus. The town is a popular seaside resort, thanks to its long, sandy beach on the North Sea. Zandvoort contains the southern portion of Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. The large park includes coastal dunes, trails and the Kennemerduinen Visitor Center (Bezoekerscentrum), which was modeled on a 7th-century farm.

We didn’t go the first week we were here in Haarlem ‘cos it was so cold. But, when the temp reached 70 we decided to take a lazy day and read our books whilst lazing by the seaside.  Wife Sarah actually got just a hint of a suntan.

[Click on any pic to see it full size.]

P.S. The beach to the north is Hollands nudist beach and no we didn’t go.

 

Haarlem – The Tulip Parade

One of the “things” that we wanted to “do” in Holland on our hols was see the parade of floats that goes from Keukenhof to Haarlem. The parade was due in Haarlem at 9:30 pm. Alas, it was bloody freezing so on a unanimous vote we stayed home. The good news was that the floats stay in Haarlem overnight and are on display the next day.

The next day was cold but not freezing with blue, blue skies. When we got to the parade, much to my surprise, wife Sarah started taking photos – something she normally never does. When I saw her clicking away I thought it would be neat if I remembered the parade through her lens. So, here’s what Sarah recorded.

Click on any photo to start the gallery and see the photo full size.

I couldn’t help ending this post with my favorite version of Easter Parade: