Saturday, 20 October 2012

Canals, Cafes and Coffee


With Holland being a small country, getting around on the trains is remarkably easy. From Amsterdam to our first destination, Leiden, some 40 kilometres from Amsterdam and literally no more than 20-25 minutes on the train with barely a wait for it.

Once out of the station and after a quick word in the information office so I could drop off my bigger backpack, we walked around in the direction of the town's sights and no doubt a few cafe stops for coffee, beers or whatever else tickled our fancy.

Soon came upon a canal system where there was a square and I saw my first windmill in Holland, got to love the stereotypes. Followed the main canal for a bit before heading down 'Rapenburg' and having  a couple coffees along the canal whilst people watching in the sunshine.

Once on the move again, we made our way through the town seeing the main attractions: 'Pieterskerk' or St. Peter's church which is a big old church along Kloksteeg, the Burcht which  translates to something like castle ruins which is what they are, affording decent views of the surrounding area  and then onto 'Hooglandsekerk' which means Highlands church.

After seeing the sights and wandering the picturesque narrow roads and canals it was time for yet another pitstop at a cafe for some refreshments on a bridge overlooking the main canal street before heading onto Delft where we'd be staying overnight.

My first windmill

View from within the Burcht




Another short train trip brought us to Delft; birthplace of the famous painter Johannes Vermeer, The Girl with the Pearl Earring being one of his works, home of Delft blue pottery and to the New Church which is the burial ground of the Dutch royal family, starting with William of Orange himself.

We arrived in the early afternoon and left just about enough time to roam around the beautiful main square and get our bearings in relation to where the churches of note were for the following morning. With most things closing, this was as good a time as any to have a peaceful night in, but not before some traditional pea soup served with rye bread and bacon, delicious.

As we were heading to Tim's hometown the following day, an early start was required to fit in everything in Delft. It's only a small town which makes this relatively easy and no need for any transportation, everything is within walking distance.

First stop was the main square, home to the city hall and the impressive New Church with it's clock tower which is some 108m tall, the second tallest in the country. We'll get onto the tallest in a minute. The clock tower offers 360 degree panoramic views of the town and perhaps on a seriously clear day you could see all the way to The Hague or Rotterdam, maybe.

The church  is cavernous to say the least, with the tomb of William of Orange dominating the front and the right hand side dedicated to educating the masses on the origins and history of the Dutch royal family with plenty of glass-housed scripts and pictures written out in Dutch and English.

The actual tombs are beneath the church and off limits to visitors so you have to make do with just walking the perimeter of the church, sitting down to enjoy the silence, pray or just take in the scenes of others unfolding around you.

Beyond the square is the Old Church where Vermeer is actually buried. Situated opposite is the Prince's Court, where William of Orange was actually murdered in 1584. Just a two minute walk from the main square brings you to 'Beestenmarkt'. This used to be an animal market back in the day but now is a beautiful little square where all the restaurants around it have their outdoor seating, a real treat in summer I imagine.

New Church


View of the City Hall from the clock tower

View of the Old Church


Just before making it to Loo, we managed to have a couple hours in Utrecht as it lies between Loo and Delft. Just a quick stop really, no more time than to see the tallest church tower in Holland, the Dam Tower, measuring 112.23m precisely we were told. After this we checked out a cosy little alley of cafes called 'Wed' and proceeded to people watch, always fun, over a few beers until it was time to call time on my town hopping and settle in Loo for a few days.

Dam Tower

Old student building
Next stop, Loo, for a break from moving around and a cycle ride around the countryside.

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