Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea

Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Denmark

Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, U.A.E. and Denmark.

Panama, Colombia, Ecuador (inc. Galapagos), Peru, Bolivia, Chile (inc. Easter Island), Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico.


Wednesday, July 17

12/20: Last Day in Delightful Delft & A'dam's Red Light District!

About three months ago I returned from being away on vacation with a friend in New Zealand and Australia for 3.5 weeks. In case you also want to follow that really fun trip Down Under, here's a link to the newest blog: www.bergersadventures7.blogspot.com

After traveling through much of Central Asia, most of Spain and some of Portugal and a couple of days in Amsterdam for the last four and a half months, here we were on our last day of the trip on a day trip to Delft, a city "laced with tranquil and picturesque canals and which could easily win the cuteness factor," according to Rick Steves! Delft was just a quick one hour train ride from downtown Amsterdam and, as it's sandwiched between the large cities of Rotterdam and The Hague, locals describe Delft as a 'small town' even though its population exceeded 100,000. 

It was an easy stroll toward the historic center where all the tourist sites we wanted to see except the porcelain factories were located. We hadn't got our fill of placid canals while in Amsterdam so were thrilled to encounter so many of them in Delft.

At the end of the canal was the leaning, brick spire of the Old Church that we'd see more of in a few minutes. 

Even after traipsing through much of Amsterdam the previous couple of days, we hadn't seen signs reminding bike owners not to park their bicycles up against shop windows. 

In the center of Delft's market square known as the Markt was the towering New Church which we'd also visit shortly! The look of the city was defined in 1536 after lightning struck the church spire caused a fire that destroyed two-thirds of Delft. Therefore everything Steven and I saw in the square ringing the church was built after the fire. During the Netherlands' Golden Age in the 17th century, Delft was a thriving market town with an economy based on textiles and breweries. Even now, Delft has 200 breweries who export 80 percent of its beer.

The Town Hall was rebuilt in the 1620s in the Renaissance style after a fire. We could see it was a law court from Lady Justice and her scales on the facade. Above was the coat of arms with the red lion. Of the 17 states in the Spanish Netherlands, 7 seceded and created the Dutch Republic. One of these was Holland which contained Amsterdam and 85 percent of the newly independent nation’s economy. 

Because the hall's tower was originally built around a prison, the latter needed to be built of heavy stone which was a potential problem in the marshy Delft soils. As this spot had a clay foundation, the town hall and thus the county seat were established here. 

Under the stone canopy was Delft's banner which featured a canal because that was what 'Delft' means. 

Even though it was a chilly and rather dreary day, coming to Delft on the Thursday turned out to be a perfect choice. It was decided long ago in the 16th century, there would be a market every Thursday every week and that tradition still held. There were three markets that day with a huge general market in the main square. Antiques and flowers were sold on side streets. Markt, the historic center of Delft, was bookended by the 14th century New Church at one end and the 15th century Town Hall at the other. 

Markt square was never renovated as it always had to be ready on a day’s notice to host a day’s funeral. That started after William I of Orange who was born in 1533 was assassinated in Delft. As the Spanish occupied his home city of Breda, he was instead buried in the New Church in Delft as have all subsequent members of the royal family or the House of Orange.

The Market played a central role in life of the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer as his family moved to a home facing the square so the Market became his playground from the age of nine on. The 2003 Oscar-winning film Girl with a Pearl Earring, filmed in Delft, was about a 16 year-old girl played by Scarlett Johansson who went to work as a maid in Vermeer's home played by Colin Firth and posed for the famous painting of the same name.

The statue in the square was of Hugo Grotius, the Delft native who was the first to establish international rules of the sea which culminated in today’s maritime laws that the sea within the range of a cannonball fired from one country’s shore was theirs and any waters beyond that were international waters. 

Above the Subway shop in the square was a Bible representing the first Dutch Bible that was printed in Delft in 1477 because the city's economic heritage was in printing.

How could you NOT want to eat a cupcake after reading this?!

The Waag was the city’s medieval trading center with the weighing or customs house upstairs. 

At the end of the street was the meat market decorated with cow heads above its doors!

Behind and below the Waag was the water gate where produce could be immediately weighed and taxed. Merchants knew that before they traded, they first had to be weighed and get paid. Much as high British taxes infuriated the American colonists in the same period, during Spanish rule taxation got so out of hand that the Dutch also revolted.

On the black iron fence was a tribute to Anton van Leeuwenhoek who, after inventing the microscope, used it to discover bacteria. 

In the distance was the Old Church with its tilting spire caused by being built on an unstable foundation over a filled in canal.

I wonder what the story was behind this stone lady?

This lovely stone home, built in 1505, has been the headquarters of the Dyke Conservancy Board or water authority since 1645. It was responsible for keeping waterways dredged and managing water levels in both towns and lowlands. The colorful coats of arms decorating the exterior wall belonged to some 17th century water authority directors. 

On the yardstick across the canal were the red letters NAP which stood for 'normal Amsterdam point' which meant the average sea level in Amsterdam. According to the NAP, we were above sea level and the canal was below so we were standing on what had been an island. The Dutch countryside plots that have been reclaimed from the sea were about ten feet below this level. 

What a brilliant idea - a photo cube that recalled the life of the famous Dutch painter Vermeer!

The white railings looked rather stark against the idyllic Oude (Old) Delft Canal which used to be used by boats passing the city.

Learning about the city was fun from the tilted informational panels like these.

After ducking under this brick arch into a tiny, covered brick lane, it opened up into a very long and wide courtyard called the Prinsenhof, once the convent of St. Agatha. 

The area is important to the Dutch because William of Orange sought refuge here when the king of Spain put a bounty on his head in 1580 for his role in the revolt of the Netherlands. Thinking it was a safe place, William stayed here but was found by an assassin in 1584.  

The three blue and white lampposts, made in Delft's sister city in China, were a reminder of the 400 year old relationship between porcelain makers in Delft and China. Have you ever wondered why you always see so much blue and white porcelain from China? That was because blue was the only color that could withstand the Chinese porcelain technique's extremely hot fire and that also became the color of the famous Delftware porcelain. 

In the middle of the square was a peaceful park and herb garden with a statue honoring William, considered to be the founder of the Netherlands. When the provinces broke away from Spain and the Roman Catholic Church, the Dutch became 'reformed' and dissolved the Catholic convents and monasteries like this one. Even though the Dutch had declared their freedom in 1579, a treaty ending the war for Dutch independence in 1648 only then officially established their freedom. 

Leaving the peaceful Old Town, we were excited to see our first and only windmill even though twenty of them used to stand on the 11th century city wall. Dating from the 13th century, they were used to grind the city's grain.

If you read the two previous posts about our visit to Amsterdam, you'll remember our visiting two of the city's Hidden (Catholic) Churches when that religion was disallowed in the Protestant Netherlands for 200 years. One was built here in 1743 behind a home to obscure its presence. 

The exit from the courtyard had a severely damaged bas-relief representing John the Evangelist at Patmos.

The peaceful swan gliding along was the perfect complement to the tranquil canal!

Earlier, we hadn't been able to enter the Old Church so returned. By the Middle Ages, Delft was a busy city by the water with many breweries and inns. Delft's oldest parish church, the aptly named Old Church, began as a tuff stone church in 1050 and, over the years, developed into a much larger church and was now the Dutch Reformed Church.  Its "sober and clean" interior was because all vestiges of its former Roman Catholic past were violently destroyed between 1566 and 1572.

Compared to the opulence of all the Catholic churches we'd seen throughout Spain and Portugal, the interior of the Dutch Reformed church was quite stark yet still beautiful in its simplicity. 

The church's earliest stained glass windows dated from 1406 with more added throughout that century. In the Middle Ages, church services were conducted in Latin which most people couldn't understand. The 'glass windows' were deliberately used by the church to tell a story and educate the people. A devastating fire in 1536 melted the windows so new ones were commissioned. 

The wooden canopied pulpit that dated from 1548 was one of the finest in the Netherlands because of the superb carvings on its sides.  During any service, there was always a visible Bible on the pulpit as a symbol of the word of God. The main scene on the pulpit was therefore from the Bible and was the story of John the Baptist who baptized people in the Jordan River and instructed them to follow Christ.

The bottom of the pulpit was supported by chained devils who were meant to demonstrate that, when the word of God was being preached, the devil was chained up. The devils were evident from their horned heads, and the wings and hooves of goats!

In the French era around 1800, because people wanted liberty, equality and fraternity and resisted class distinctions, all the coats of arms, flags and other class symbols were removed from the gravestones. 

The Old Church contained the tombs of two local sons who made their mark in the world: the first we noticed was this 18th century pyramid-shaped monument that was a tribute to van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the microscope. We read that his bust was placed on an obelisk as a sign of power, perseverance and virtue; the skull and crossbones emphasized the shortness of life and the relativity of all earthly goods. 

Van Leeuwenhoek's tombstone:

It would have been so easy to miss the simple stone plaque in the floor that marked the tombstone of Johannes Vermeer, the other native son and Delft's favorite resident.

Owing to his greater popularity compared to previous generations, the church installed a grander Vermeer monument in 2007. The painting in the middle was the Girl with the Pearl Earring I wrote about earlier. 

In front of the Old Church was this statue of a particularly devout 14th century nun whose deep faith was meant to inspire worshippers. Apparently, she was so moved by Christ's power that she lactated at Christmas and the Crucifixion wounds appeared on her hands and feet at Easter. 

Some interesting shots caught my eye on our way to the New Church whose interior had also been closed earlier.

Returning to the Markt a few blocks away, we were able to enter the second of Delft's grand churches. Because, when construction began in 1381 Delft already had a church, this centuries old building was called the Nieuwe Kerk or New Church. The church tower, which was constructed in 1396 and subsequently renovated, has been a recognizable landmark in Delft for centuries and is the second tallest church tower in the Netherlands. The loud chimes of the New Church ring out over the center of Delft at regular intervals, and its carillon plays different tunes automatically three times an hour. In addition, the town's bell ringer has live performances at certain times.  

We walked immediately to the front to view the ornate, canopied tomb of William I of Orange, the founder of the House of Orange which still rules the Netherlands. It was he who encouraged the Dutch to start the revolt against the Spanish Hapsburg rulers. The monument to his greatness was twofold: the strong king cast in bronze and one of him in white marble resting peacefully.

The adorable dog at William's feet represented loyalty as it refused to eat and died after William was assassinated. 

The corners of the impressive monument were marked by female statues that represented Liberty, Justice, Fortitude, and Religion, the values William fought for.

Though the Delft town council planned to erect a tomb in honor of Hugo Grotius, the father of international shipping laws, at the end of the 17th century, it was never done for some unknown reason.  This memorial covering his last resting place was executed in 1787. The silver wreath, added in 1899, was a gift from the American delegation at an international peace conference that year.

Until 1829, city leaders were buried under the stone floor. But when the stench of the decaying bodies of the "stinking rich" wafted into the church, only the royals have since been buried in the church. 

The magnificent organ had 3,000 pipes.

It was odd seeing the giant apple in the church until we read that it symbolized eternity when the church was completed in 1496, one hundred years after it began.

The royal funerary monument of William I used to reside in Amsterdam's magnificent Rijksmuseum until it was transferred to the New Church in 1905. William was featured wearing the royal robe, the highest military medal, carrying both a scepter and orb and with the royal crest at his feet. He was leaning against a Dutch lion although I wasn't sure what was a 'Dutch' lion!

The mausoleum to the beloved ruler attracts 250,000 people per year as William is known to his countrymen as the Father of the Nation.

The New Church also had a wonderful collection of stained glass windows. One included the Wilhelmina window that was a tribute to the former queen. The artist placed Wilhelmina in the center of heavenly life, depicted by the archangels, evangelists and apostles, and earthly life as shown by the 'working' man. It was created to mark the 25th anniversary of the queen's reign and unveiled in 1927.

The Prince Window featured William of Orange surrounded by five prominent contemporaries. Others had traditional Biblical themes such as the Blessing Christ and Moses and the Law. 

It was odd in my opinion seeing what looked like conference tables and chairs set up toward the back of the church. I couldn't figure out their purpose. 

The Old and New churches were obviously so very different from each other, and, while they each appealed to us for their striking features, I preferred the simplicity and starkness of the former though the spectacular William of Orange mausoleum almost tipped the scales toward the New Church.

I could hardly believe my eyes seeing so many flowers blooming at almost the end of December!

I shall always associate our day trip to Delft with the characteristic blue and white pottery that we saw examples of throughout our fun walk in the city. I could hardly wait to make our way via bus to the Delftse Pauw Delftware Factory, one of two of the original 32 factories in the city. 

The Dutch East India Company, partly headquartered in Delft, used to import many exotic goods from China and elsewhere in the Far East. After the Chinese designs became popular, they were copied by local potters.

At the factory we were treated to our own private tour where we learned that Delft Blue earthenware is made from a soupy mix of imported clay and water. The goop is rotated on a spinning disk until it flattens like a pancake which is then placed on a plate mold with a design pressed into it. 

Liquid clay is poured into hollow plaster molds when making pitchers and cups. The molds act like a sponge to suck out the water, thereby leaving a layer of dry clay on the mold walls.

Once the clay object is removed from the mold and completely dried, it is then fired for several hours in the kiln which results in its turning from gray to white. 

The company has 125 designs; one of them was the tulip mold with spots for individual stems.

The guide mentioned the peacock has been the company's symbol since 1651. A sheik from Dubai ordered two plates with mirror images of the peacocks facing each other. I bet that would have cost a pretty penny! You can see the difference between the glazed on the left and the unglazed side on the right.

Painters with sable hair brushes then trace traditional decorations on the pottery which are then painted with black paint containing cobalt and copper oxide. The guide said some painters prefer to paint at home because they get nervous having people watching them. In addition, as the paint is soaked up very quickly, it makes it unforgiving for mistakes. 

The objects are then dipped into an opaque white glaze and fired a second time. The black paint is transformed into the iconic Delft Blue from a chemical reaction and the white glaze melts into a translucent, outer layer that looks like glass. 

Each piece is signed and comes with a guarantee but against what, I didn't ask. Most of the company's work is sold abroad except for the mass produced pieces that were destined for the local market. I definitely wanted an original signed piece from the showroom but this $250 plate was a little rich for my blood! 

This striking octagonal plate was 'only' $135! I ended up buying a small souvenir which fortunately came home unscathed.

When we entered the factory and upstairs showroom, I hadn't paid much attention to the peacock. After learning of its significance, its presence made more sense. 

From the porcelain factory, we made our way back to the very modern train station where we didn't have long to wait for the train back to Amsterdam. Right across from the station was the old station - I wish I'd asked someone when and why the new one had been built as the old stone one had so much character in my opinion. 

As much as we'd enjoyed our time in Amsterdam the previous few days, it was special getting out of the big city for most of our last day and exploring a smaller city in the Netherlands. The highlight of the day for Steven was seeing our first windmill! For me, it was the two churches and how Delft Blue pottery was made.

As this was our last day in Amsterdam and on our long trip, we wanted to see a bit of the city's oldest neighborhood, the Red Light District, which hosted the world's oldest profession. Prostitutes in Amsterdam, according to Steves, are self-employed, i.e. entrepreneurs who rent their own space and run their own business. Many belong to a loose union called the Red Thread. They are required to maintain clean premises, avoid minors, and ensure clients use condoms. They are licensed by the government as prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Therefore the law protects the workers, not pimps. 

While standing at sea level on the Zeedijk we looked down at the canal side lanes to see how much below sea level Amsterdam mostly was. This waterway was part of the city's system of locks - a worker daily pushes a button inside a box here to open up the locks which in turn flush out the canals.

As we continued along the Zeedijk, it was evident the area had become pretty gentrified compared to the 1960s when Amsterdam was the world's capital of sex, drugs and experimental lifestyles and this stretch was known as Heroin Alley for the thousands of hard-drug addicts. The Dutch eventually decided to address the problem by legalizing marijuana, allowing 'coffee shops' to sell small amounts of pot and cracked down on all the hard drugs. Now, with pot smoking not having gone up, hard drug use decreased, the policy had evidently worked and the the Zeedijk once again belonged to the people of Amsterdam. 

According to Steves, Cafe 't Mandje was one of Europe's first gay bars when it opened in 1927 though it closed from 1985 until a few years ago. Though the bar became a hangout for gay people and still is, all are welcome. Apparently, ties hang from the ceiling as a reminder of the original owner's cutting off customers' ties.

We took a quick detour into the city's surprisingly vibrant Chinatown where we had lots of choices to figure out where to eat.

If we hadn't known this area was popular for prostitutes, their clients and curious sightseers like us, the upscale shops, restaurants and bars might have fooled us into thinking we were in another area altogether of the city. 

After spotting the Banana Nightclub sign, I'm not sure I'll ever think of bananas as I used to!

Yup, there were lots of red lighted windows as we expected but no blue lit windows which indicate transvestites work there.

Even if we weren't tired after spending the day in Delft, we would've had no interest in the Museum of Prostitution located in a former brothel. 

We didn't want to get too close to this entrance!

This was a different type of clothing store than what we were used to!

Granted we willingly chose to walk through part of the Red Light District but still it was pretty darn creepy going quickly down this narrow alley, Dollebegijnen, and passing window after window of women in panties and bras winking at horny men and hearing them knock on their windows to attract men's attention.

When it was established in 1975, the Bulldog Cafe Coffeeshop claimed to be Amsterdam's first marijuana coffee shop though there are now several more around the city. Customers must initiate the transaction by asking the bartender to see the cannabis menu as it's illegal to advertise it. Only then is the display case shown with the pre-priced baggies of weed or pre-rolled joints, both of which can be smoked on site or taken to go. 

In the heart of the Red Light District was the Oude Kerk or Old Church whose steeple sailors could see on the horizon and know they were home. Church construction began in the early 1200s with a humble wooden chapel that grew into an impressive stone structure by the time it was finished in 1306. 

Though the New Church was built a short walk away just a century later, the Old Church still boasted of having the tallest spire, the biggest organ, the most side altars, etc. As there was a pretty steep admission fee, we chose not to enter what had been the Catholic church until the Protestants during the 16th century religious wars gutted it and removed all the politically incorrect statues they considered 'graven images.'

As the neighborhood around the church had the densest concentration of prostitutes, it didn't seem all that odd to see in the pavement around the church a bronze breast being fondled by a bronze hand.

This shot looking toward charming central Amsterdam will be my takeaway of the city, not the Red Light District we'd just come from.

I couldn't resist taking such a 'cheesy' photo!

What a long and exciting trip Steven and I had that started in Paris back in August of last year and then continued on through much of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan for about a month, before exploring the exciting, developing countries of Central Asia for about six weeks, and then it was off to Spain where we had a spectacular time touring much of the Iberian Peninsula for well over a month before ending up in Amsterdam for some jam packed days among hidden churches and canals. 

You must know by now that trip just whetted our appetites to wander through even more of this fascinating world and so we're off to mostly Ireland for seven weeks at the end of next month, and in early November to our last continent, Antarctica, and also Patagonia and Paraguay for another seven weeks. Next year is also already booked with a multi-month long trip in March to parts of Asia we've yet to discover like Bhutan, Tibet, Brunei, and many more lands. I hope you'll keep checking the blog from time to time to see where we are and also to let us know how YOU are doing as you are missed when we're away from home on one of our frequent jaunts. www.bergersadventures7.blogspot.com

Posted much, much later than I ever thought I would on July 17th, 2019, from my hometown of Ottawa, Canada, where I've come for a wonderful week to visit my four brothers and dear friends who date back to kindergarten!