My first post was getting rather long, so I decided to break it up.
Haarlem (part 1): Haarlem is smaller and more navigable than Amsterdam, and I had an excellent time there as well. I originally went to visit the Corrie ten Boom house, but it actually is not open on Sundays. I did go inside St. Bavo’s Church, which, if you are familiar with The Hiding Place, was the ten Booms’ church. It is located on the very gezellig square, which includes an excellent gelato shop. I checked out the Frans Hals Museum, and could definitely see why he was popular with the Impressionists. The Teyler Museum was an unexpected pleasure, combining art and natural history. I particularly enjoyed the temporary exhibits and discovered a new favorite artist, Martin Monnickendam. De Hallen Haarlem, a modern art museum, was also quite fun: they were presenting a collection of works by Dutch artists who had sketched and painted their way around the world. Art and wanderlust, what a perfect combination!
Highlights: Teyler Museum, De Hallen
Den Haag: Better known in English as the Hague, I was attracted to Den Haag by the Mauritshuis, home of the royal painting collection. I would highly recommend this collection, which includes works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Vermeer. It is located right next to the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch House of Representatives, which looks like a sort of small castle. I also visited the Haags Historical Museum and the Bredius Collection before heading out to the Peace Palace. I ended my visit eating friet, Dutch french fries, in the Haagse Bos. This park, and the wildlife it formerly housed, was the reason the hunting-loving counts decided to build their capital in Den Haag.
Highlights: Mauritshuis, Peace Palace
Maastricht: Maastricht is a two hour train ride from Utrecht, at the very southern tip of the Netherlands. The dialect of Dutch spoken there is quite different from standard Dutch, partly due to French influence. I started at the Bonnefanten Museum, which has a collection of both older art from the southern Netherlands and modern art, as well as temporary exhibits. While I like modern art, I actually preferred their older art, as well as the temporary exhibits. I crossed the Maas River on one of several high bridges and found the Helpoort, the oldest remaining city gate in the Netherlands. I climbed up in one of the towers, where there is a museum about the history of Maastricht in general and its walls in particular. Because of its location, Maastricht has been at the center of many battles, particularly between the Netherlands and France. On my way into the center of town, I visited Onze Lieve Vrouw Basilica, which was quite grand. My destination was a bookshop, Boekhandel Dominicanen, which is located in a cathedral. I love books and old churches, so this was an appealing combination. I added a couple of books to my growing collection. Afterwards, I visited the Vrijthof Museum and walked around listening to street music while eating gelato. That is also an excellent combination.
Highlights: Bonnefanten Museum, Helpoort, Boekhandel Dominicanen
Haarlem (part 2): Since Haarlem is fairly close to Amsterdam, I managed to make it back there before flying out. This time, I actually got to visit the Corrie ten Boom house. I have to admit, I took the English tour, since I did not want to wait in the rain for the Dutch-language one. After one last bus-ride through the lovely Dutch countryside, I was off to England to visit friends.
Highlights: Corrie ten Boomhuis