07 November 2011

Haarlem City

Posted in Talking about . . .

What an enchanting place . . .

We’ve been here 5 weeks, and have a flavor of the place, and it’s quite delightful.

The CBD is bounded by the Spaarne river in the east and 3 canals on the northern, western and southern boundaries. Within the CBD, there is a strip of shopping area consisting of two mainly pedestrian malls that begin close to the central station in the north, converge in a large square, the Grotemarkt where the enormous, historic Church of St Bavo stands (although this is now known as the Grote Kerk), then diverge again, and finally converge close to the southern canal. The whole strip takes about 40 minutes to walk from top to bottom. However, outside of these two thoroughfares, there is a complex network of little streets and 2 or 3 arterial routes through town. It is in the web of little streets that the charm of Haarlem is most evident.

Haarlem Street Haarlem Street Haarlem Street
Haarlem Street Haarlem Street Haarlem Street

Haarlem Streets

Within these streets, people live and have their businesses.

Haarlem Townhouse
Haarlem Townhouse
Haarlem Townhouse
  Haarlem Townhouse

Haarlem Townhouses

Haarlem Shop Haarlem Shop
Haarlem Shop Haarlem Shop

Haarlem Shops

The Grote Markt in front of the Grote Kerk is at times variously home to street markets, weddings, festivals, concerts, cafes and restaurants.

Grote Kerk in Grote Markt Friday evening in Grote Markt

From Left to Right: Grote Kerk in Grote Markt, Friday evening in Grote Markt

Haarlem Wedding

Haarlem Wedding

There is also a St Bavo Cathedral in Haarlem – just outside the CBD. It is gorgeous! It is a Catholic church and came about because (as with many other Catholic churches in Holland) the existing Catholic cathedral (now known as the Grote Kerk) was confiscated during the Protestant Reformation and remained a seat of Protestantism. The present building was only completed in 1930, and is a glorious mixture of Gothic, Romanesque, Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles. There are statues and gargoyles, a cascade of towers, a clock tower and a huge green dome. The cathedral is currently being cleaned/renovated, so the dome isn’t visible, but I did find a picture of it unencumbered by scaffolding. I gather that the cathedral is truly spectacular at night when huge spotlights are trained on it.

St Bavo Cathedral

St Bavo Cathedral

There are also all kinds of quaint statues scattered through the CBD. There is Hans Brinker (the little boy who was said to have held his finger in a breach in the dike a whole night to stop Haarlem from being flooded); Laurens Coster (whom the Haarlemmers claimed to have invented the printing press before Gutenberg); Man in Front of Firing Squad (to memorialize 15 people executed by the Nazis only a couple of months before Haarlem was liberated); The Haarlem Flower Girls (to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this organization who present flowers to guests at many Haarlem events); and some that I never worked out.

Man in front of Firing Squad Lourens Coster Haarlem Flower Girl

From Left to Right: Man in front of Firing Squad, Lourens Coster, Haarlem Flower Girl

Hans Brinker (Little Peter - the boy with the finger) Woman with Owl

From Left to Right: Hans Brinker (Little Peter - the boy with the finger), Woman with Owl

Three Women Two Bears

From Left to Right: Three Women, Two Bears

Waterfront Bench Sculpture

Waterfront Bench Sculpture

The last thing I want to share with you in this issue is the marvellous world of windmills! We had a tour of Adriaan’s Mill in Haarlem and learned a huge amount about mills – mills that grind wheat to make flour; mills that move water around the canals; mills that grind seeds and then press them to make oils; and mills that saw wood.

Our very enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable guide (who is a very proud Haarlemmer and appropriately parochial in his telling of the history of the city) took us through the mill itself with such a flourish that anyone would have fallen in love with mills at his telling!

What incredibly hard work it is to operate a ‘smock’ mill, with endless up and down steep wooden staircases and lugging heavy stuff around all day. . .

There were also a series of Dutch sayings written on the walls of the mill, like (translated into English) “he wants to blow and keep the flour in his mouth” meaning “He wants his cake and he wants to eat it, too”. I’ve forgotten the others.

I also learned that the sails of a windmill are left in a position that has a specific meaning. So when the sails form an X, it means that the mill is taking a “short rest”. When the sails form a cross, it means the mill is taking a “long rest”. When the uppermost sail is set at 1 o’clock, there is some ‘joy’ or celebration in the mill, like a wedding or a birth. Bearing in mind that the sails move in a counter-clockwise movement (which I gather was an arbitrary decision that has become tradition) this position heralds something “approaching”. When the uppermost sail is at 11 o’clock, is signifies mourning, as it signifies something that’s past.

Molen de Adriaan Brian's Burden

From Left to Right: Molen de Adriaan, Brian's Burden (see BDH at bottom of picture trying to move the old millstone!)

So – there we are. Haarlem is just lovely, and we’re very lucky to be where we are, and enjoying this enchanting city.

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