The notorious Dutch rain finally found us…..we were awakened in the middle of the night by the harsh sound of rain pounding on the skylight. The sound of rain on the roof, usually so comforting, reminded me of Ratty running across the cottage roof. Sleep didn’t come easy after that.
But by morning, the rain had stopped and the sun was peeking out behind the clouds. We walked downstairs into a cozy room off the courtyard and found one of the best breakfast buffets ever! Scrambled eggs, Dutch bacon, fresh fruits and yogurt, the requisite cheeses & lunchmeats with baskets and baskets of homemade breads, rolls and pastries. We may never eat again.
After breakfast, we walked through town to the train station and caught the tram to Den Hague. The pleasant 30 minute ride took us through pastures and suburbs, over canals and under roads, into the heart of Den Hague. We got off at a stop near the heart of the city and walked through the courtyard of the Binnenhof Parliament complex.
We entered this seat of government with less security than it takes to board a plane…..we just walked in…..no metal detectors, no frisking, no police presence……just an open gateway leading to a courtyard with a shining statue dedicated to Queen Beatrix.
Within the walls surrounding this courtyard are the Prime Minister’s office and the Parliament’s meeting rooms. Is security tighter when you enter these buildings? Or do other countries live in less fear?
As we wandered the rooms in search of these works, we were taken aback by Rembrandt’s painting of “Two Moors.” It’s contemporary look and feel seemed out of place alongside these 17th century paintings.
We wandered through room after room finally stumbling upon a rooms crowded with tour groups and school groups….all of them in rapt awe of the two paintings facing each other in this small room.
“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” beckons to you in…..have you interrupted this serene young lady from her tasks….or was she expecting you? She seems pleased to see you. Vermeer’s use of vivid colors, the play of light on her face, the earring…..so large and yet, somehow, just right…..the painting instills a calmness, a quietness in your soul. You don’t want to leave the company of this serene young woman.
But you do…..you turn around to find Vermeer’s “View of Delft.” At first, it seems off-balance…..the sky has too much presence. But then you come to understand that the sky and Delft are one. Its bright rays shine through this cloudy sky to light the corners of the city and reflect on its still waters. You find the work drawing you in. Two hundred years later, Van Gogh said of this painting, “If you look at his townscape close up, it is unbelievable! And executed with entirely different colors than you would expect when you’re looking at it from a distance.” Not bad praise.
The day was still young when we left the museum. We walked around the corner to see the beautiful facade of the Parliament building. Our mission in Den Hague was now accomplished so we took the tram back into Delft and headed straight to the canal for a boat tour of its waterways.
Our captain and tour guide was an engineering student at the nearby university. He regaled us with stories of Delft’s past. We discovered that, unlike Amsterdam, Delft’s citizens were taxed by how many window panes they had…..a 4-pane window wasn’t as prestigious as a 16-pane window of the same size.
As we cruised by the Oude Kerk (Old Church), he talked about its leaning tower and the optical illusions added to make it appear straight…..decorations on one side of the tower are taller, as are some of the clock’s numbers. Nice try.
Next up was the Vermeer Center……not a museum and no paintings…..its more of an interactive look into the life and works of Johannes Vermeer……prints of his works, a representation of his studio showing the seven colors that were the mainstay of his palette, a re-creation of “Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid” that lets you step into the painting, an explanation of the symbolism used by artists of that era (maps signified wealth, lutes suggested love….it seems everything in these paintings had a secret meaning). We left with an even deeper appreciation for this man’s work.
We had just enough time to race over to the Oude Kerk to pay homage to this great artist. According to our boat guide, Vermeer was deep in debt when he died in 1675 but he longed to be buried in the Oude Kerk. His family couldn’t afford a full plot so the church allowed Vermeer to be buried upright. True? Who knows…..but the church has two markers for him…..a small, older one and a large, newer one.
Most people come to pay their respects to William of Orange…..he, and all succeeding Dutch royalty, are buried here and he does have quite an impressive tomb but what amazed us was the stained glass window representing “The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter.” Within its brilliant colors, are the hands of Jesus, a child’s face and a butterfly.
Whew….we did everything we set out to accomplish today. Time for a break. We walked a walked a few blocks over to Beestenmarkt. Until 1972, this plaza was the site of Delft’s cattle market, now it’s a charming public square ringed with restaurants….but it still pays homage to its former purpose.
It was too early for dinner so we stopped at a little bistro while we waited for the restaurants to open. With moods mellowed by an old Jenever, we strolled past the restaurants in the square….perusing each menu and then deciding to try the Dutch specialities at Spijshuis de Dis. We weren’t disappointed.
I tried “Brammer”….oven-baked white fish, salmon, shrimp, mushrooms, carrots and bacon served with a glass of bocksinth….a housemade liqueur that was the perfect complement to this dish. Craig had a ham-wrapped chicken breast stuffed with vegetables, herbs and nuts that glistened from a delicious cheese sauce. Both were excellent.
I wanna live
with a cinnamon girl
I could be happy
the rest of my life
With a cinnamon girl……Neil Young