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The Europe Series, Part 3 - One Day as a Tourist

Posted on June 05, 2019 by Maggie Erickson

ski country europe blog series part 3

After four solid days of antiquing, we were ready to spend our last day in Europe with a bit of sightseeing. It was late March and we had left a very snowy Colorado behind us (little did we know that winter in Colorado would be extended well into May!) but everything in Belgium seemed to be ready for spring. The newly budding trees and sunny faces of daffodils were a most welcome sight.

Lovely magnolias and forsythia.
These trees were shaped into privacy fences in front of and in between many homes.

We began in Haarlem, the capital of north Holland. It is located in a major flower bulb growing district but we were unfortunately a bit too early in the season to visit the large blooming fields of tulips. In the city square, the Grote Markt was in full swing with an eclectic variety of items for purchase. Fresh fruit, locally-made cheese and preserves, fresh seafood, clothing, and of course, more flowers!

Oh-so tempting bouquets of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and ranunculus.

It would be impossible to overlook the massive gothic church that sits beside the city square. De Grote of St. Bavokerk was constructed in the late 14th century and features a wooden tower that is 256 feet high.

De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
A view from the outside. The tower can be seen in the center of the photograph on the left.

The exterior of the church may be impressive on its own, but step inside and prepare to have your breath taken away.

De Grote of St. Bavokerk
The exquisite wooden vaulting of the ceiling dates back to the 16th century.
De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
Impressive gates enclose the lectern.
De Grote of St. Bavokerk
A brass lectern in the shape of a pelican (far left).
De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
Rows of benches line both sides of the lectern and are adorned with a variety of carved faces.
De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
Soaring stained glass windows.
De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
The floor consists entirely of gravestones (approximately 1,500) of some of the most wealthy residents of Haarlem. The oldest stone dates back to the 15th century.
De Grote of St. Bavokerk
De Grote of St. Bavokerk De Grote of St. Bavokerk
15th century paintings cover many of the pillars, archways and sections of the ceiling.

The most impressive feature of the church is the towering organ that was made by Christiaan Müller. G.F. Händel travelled to Harleem in 1740 to play this gilded organ and in 1766 it was played by a then ten-year-old Mozart.

Christiaan Müller organ Christiaan Müller organ
The organ stands 98 feet high, has over 5,000 pipes and is adorned with more than 25 larger than life statues.
Christiaan Müller organ
The two lions at the top hold the coat of arms for Haarlem.

Our next stop in Haarlem was the Corrie ten Boom House. During the Second World War, the ten Boom family turned their home into a refuge for Jews and other members of the Dutch underground who were trying to escape the Nazi regime.

Corrie ten Boom House Corrie ten Boom House
A false wall was constructed in Corrie’s bedroom, the bricks of which were smuggled in one at a time. This false wall created a hiding place which could be accessed through the bottom panel of a cabinet.
Corrie ten Boom House Corrie ten Boom House
Ration stamps and a yellow star, or Jewish badge.
Corrie ten Boom House
A map showing the number of Jewish lives lost during the Nazi occupation.

The ten Boom family was eventually betrayed, arrested and sent to concentration camps. Corrie was the only family member to survive and was freed from Ravensbrück when it was liberated by the Red Army. Corrie’s faith was unwavering and her messages of forgiveness profound, saying, "God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies." She spent the remainder of her life as a public speaker, spreading the word of God in over 60 countries. It is estimated that the ten Boom family saved the lives of 800 people. It is a sobering, yet remarkable story.

Haarlem train Haarlem to Amsterdam train

By train, we left Haarlem and headed to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with an abundance of character, canals, bikes, museums, and shopping. We took a boat tour through the canal system but most of our visit was spent wandering through the streets, admiring the architecture.

Amsterdam canal Amsterdam tour
Our boat captain joked that the canals of Amsterdam are three meters deep; one meter of water, one meter of mud and one meter of bikes.
Amsterdam buildings Amsterdam buildings
Left: The leaning buildings of Amsterdam. Study them long enough and you will notice that many of the buildings tilt to one side or another, some even appear to be resting on their neighbor. Most buildings were built on wooden piles, creating foundation issues as they rot in the water-logged ground. Right: Also noticeable are the cantilever beams and hooks protruding from the top of each building. During Amsterdam’s days as a “staple port” goods were typically stored in the attic and this was a handy way of hoisting materials up to the top level. They are still used today as the steep staircases inside these narrow buildings are tricky to navigate.
Palace on Dam Square
The Palace on Dam Square, a bustling place on a Saturday afternoon.
Magna Plaza
Magna Plaza, the former Amsterdam main Post Office, circa 1895.
Oude Kerk
Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam, circa 1213.

As the sun began to set, we headed back to our hotel to await our morning flight back to The States. The end of our travels is always bittersweet - the readiness to be home combined with the reluctance to leave such a beautiful part of the world.

I hope you enjoyed a look behind the scenes of our buying trip! And if you missed Part 1 and 2, you can find them here:

The Europe Series, Part One - Adventures in Antiquing
The Europe Series, Part Two - The Odd and the Opulent

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