A morning trip to Delft was well worth it. We arrived mid-morning to an empty street. The store windows had signs up listing their hours, and most shop owners seemed quite content opening the doors frequently enough to earn business, and infrequently enough to allow themselves a decent holiday.
To sum it up, everywhere was closed.
Europeans take this ‘going on holiday’ business very seriously!
Rounding a few street corners, we found a Dutch cafe open, and a few English women conversing with the owners. The big souvenir I’d hoped to purchase this trip is a true teapot. One crafted from the finest china that would be passed down from generation to generation as a reminder of a great adventure once had. This was just the spot! The white ceramics laced with blue are the classic dish found in the area. Inspired by authentic China brought to Europe in the 16th century, the Dutch began creating dishes, pots, kettles, and vases depicting scenes true to life in Holland. Windmills, tulips, cows, fields, houses, and churches- they can all be found in detailed designs sometimes less than a square inch.
Why not get a beautiful tea kettle from here in Delft?
Great idea! Except that we were backpacking and still had a few journeys to make. 10 to 1 that thing would come back in a few too many pieces to serve its purpose.
So, no Delftware Teapot for this girl.
However, we did get our first taste of another Holland gem: CLOGS! Yes. So many clogs and those hefty Dutch dresses designed for not only style, but warmth. Maybe not really for style. Maybe just for warmth.
Saying goodbye to the teapot that never will be (sorry, future generations), we made our way along some canals and into Delft’s city center. More Delftware! More clogs! More cheese! More churches! And more people!
The shops in the city center cater heavily to tourists so we were able to find plenty to do, including spending a solid hour in the basement of an antique collector. He was full of information about the area, sharing the history of Delftware (all that I shared before can be credited to him) and the origin of “The Stinking Rich” phrase.
Traditionally in Oude Kerk, the city’s Old Church, the most wealthy citizens were seated toward the front of the church. As fate would have it, centuries ago, bodies of the rich and famous were buried under church floors nearest the pulpit.
The decaying of corpses does not produce the most pleasant of smells and therefore, the wealthiest members of the church were able to enjoy the church service up close along with a stench unmasked by heavy waves of incense. Bring it all together and what have you got? The stinking rich.
We also learned several of The Netherlands’s historical celebrities were buried here: Vermeer, the talented artistic hand who produced Girl With the Pearl Earring, was buried within the Oude Kerk, and across was city center, William the Silent, or William of Orange, was laid to rest in the Nieuwe Kerk and eternalized through a large monument within the church.
The history that we’d been absorbing over the past week started to come together as we took in this information. William of Orange had been written about over and over again as we passed through History museums, art museums, and even the Belgian Palace. Vermeer was an icon in my mind even before the trip, but a visit to his grave brought it all to light.
These people that we’d been learning so much about, they were real. They were no longer characters from a novel or images in a painting. The stories we’d heard were not fabricated, they were created and lived out as absolutely bizarre as that seems. (And here is further proof that history is quickly becoming an interest of mine. Still, please don’t tell!)
After we wandered through every church, every souvenir shop, and tasted every bit of cheese that lay out at the Henri Willig Cheese and More shop – from smoked goat’s cheese (which we are still savoring after a wise purchase) to green pesto cheese and ginger cheese and asparagus bacon cheese – we left on a full tummy and took an hour’s bus ride to catch some waves and enjoy the breezy beaches of Scheveningen, Netherlands.
When originally planning this trip to Europe, the intent was to find a job over here and stay for a solid year, if not more. I tried hard to find a teaching job, and realized that it’s easier said than done. Instead of staying for the full year, Americans are welcome into an area called the Schengen Zone for 90 days each calendar year.
Never ever remembering the proper name, my roommates and I would jokingly make up any name beginning with “Shen…” Shennenena, Schevening, and now, why not.. Scheveningen! What an accomplishment.. I’d made it 😉
A bit different from the touristy beaches of Oostende, Belgium, these North Sea sands were open and free, with fun restaurants lining the beachside. Perfect end to a perfectly Dutch day!