|Tuesday September 26 – Delft day
Woke early in my Delft apartment, and finished listening to ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’. This novel tells the story of the girl who modeled for the painting by Vermeer, the famous painter from Delft. I’m glad to have finished ‘reading’ it before I explored the town today.
The day started out quite cool—definitely fall. I headed to the tourist office and arranged to take the little bus (really a large golf cart) out to the Royal Delft factory. It was a good tour with good information on the traditional blue and white porcelain. It became very popular after a Dutch sea captain won a battle with another ship and took home 100,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain and brought it home. When the production in China dried up because of a war, they figured out how to make it themselves. I enjoyed seeing the people hand painting the designs, but even the smallest pieces were 100+ Euros. The transfer ware pieces were more my speed.
I clambered aboard the shuttle again and rode back to the center to the Prinsenhof museum. This was originally a fortress on the town walls where William of Orange had headquarters during the war with Spain. King Philip II offered a huge bounty and an assasin broke in and assasinated William. (He was captured and met a gruesome end.) William is considered the founding father of modern Netherlands, and his descendants became the current royal family.
Across the canal from the museum was the Old Church. The first church on the site was a little building in 1050, but of course it was enlarged, and the current structure with tower was started in 1325. The entire outside was covered with scaffolding, but the inside was very nice. They had informational displays on the people who had graves and monuments, telling about their lives and accomplishments.
Back to the market square, I had an apple-raisin version of the Dutch pancake. Quite tasty with the local syrup. I believe it is apple based, definitely not maple. It tastes a little like a very light molasses. Now I’ve tried all the Dutch foods that were officially on my list. (Herring was never on that list.)
The next stop (after perusing more blue and white porcelain) was the Jan Vermeer center. None of his paintings remain in Delft, but they did a good presentation of his work with reproductions in sequence. They also showed his studio with the hand-made paints using natural materials, and other tools of the trade from the 1600’s. Most of his works were portraits of women, and there were several symbolic items in the pictures that had meanings recognized at the time (letters, musical instruments, wine glasses, etc.). In the gift shop they had a huge range of his art work on a variety of items from pens to potholders.
Time to wrap up my sightseeing with a visit to the ‘New Church’ which has pride of place on one end of the market square. The current church construction was started in 1393 and took 100 years. New is definitely a relative term! The main claim to fame for the church is that it houses the tomb and monument to William of Orange. It also has the mausoleum for the royal family, which has been enlarged over the years, and has many residents. There were short films of the more recent royal funerals where the coffin was brought by horse-drawn conveyance from the palace in The Hague, carried into the church for the service, and then carried down the steps into the crypt. Only the Royal family is allowed to go in for the final placement in one of the remaining niches. I watched clips of three services, but I still didn’t really figure out how the eight pallbearers managed to carry the coffin down the stairs.
Time to call it a day! I walked back via the grocery store to pick up salads for dinner the next couple of evenings, since I have a fridge. It was great to get ‘home’ and relax. TV includes ‘Big Bang Theory’ reruns with Dutch subtitles, Antique Roadshow-like British shows, and a Dutch version of ‘House Hunters’ where I can only imagine the comments based on their expressions and tone.
Tomorrow I will drop off laundry (yay!) and trip over to The Hague to the museum with the original girl with the pearl earring. I want to see if the eyes really do follow you!
Wednesday September 27 – Delft and a side trip
I was pooped after doing everything on my Delft list yesterday. I set a slower pace today, starting with the exciting cultural experience of laundry. I toted my stuff through the foggy morning to the laundry, and fortunately there was an attendant so I didn’t have to figure out the instructions! While things were running I looked around the neighborhood. The fog burned off for the most part by the time I headed back through the market square to the hotel to drop off the laundry.
In the afternoon I took the tram into The Hague to visit the Mauritshuis Museum. This was definitely back in the big city again. It was a short walk to the museum, which is in a house built in about 1640 for the Count of Maurits, and it has been a museum since 1822 for the Royal collection. The building itself was a work of art with beautiful woodwork, silk brocade paneled walls, and high plastered ceilings. It provided a great backdrop for the artwork from that period. There were some great Rembrandts, the anticipated Vermeers, and some wonderful works by lesser known artists. I was happy to see the original girl with the pearl earring, and the eyes did follow you whether you stand to the right or left. I checked out some other very good portraits and they didn’t seem to have that ability.
After the museum, I had a couple of choices. I could go back to Delft and do the boat tour there, which would be enjoyable, but similar to previous boat trips. Instead I got back on the tram and went out to Scheveningen, a town on the coast. It is a bit like Coney Island or Atlantic city, with lots of hotels, amusement rides, and restaurants lining the beach. There were quite a few people enjoying the increasingly rare sunshine. It was very nice to sit by the beach sipping my obligatory diet Coke, and watch people and the seagulls with the sand and sea in the background.
I made my way back to the tram for the ride back to Delft and my last evening in this little apartment. Tomorrow it is on to Brussels, so it will be city life again.