A lot of tourists start and finish their trip in Holland in Amsterdam and often overlook visiting other interesting places in the country. Lovers of culture come from far and wide to tour the renowned Dutch museums. The cities will charm you, just as they did the great artists, while other attractions such as Keukenhof Gardens, the Delft Blue potteries and Gouda cheese market are equally memorable.
The Zaanse Schans is a delightful old hamlet on the banks of the river Zaan with green wooden houses, stylized gardens, small hump-backed bridges, tradesmen’s workshops, historic windmills and engaging little shops. Zaanse Schans is not just an open air museum but a living and working neighborhood. The hamlet has not always existed though. The museum was established in 1949 by the Stichting Zaanse Schans, a private organization concerned with preserving historical structures threatened by industrial development. Typical old wooden houses and windmills of the 17th and 18th centuries were taken down, re-erected here and carefully restored.
The old market town of Gouda lies in a fertile polder area between Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague, at the point where the Gouwe flows into the Hollandse IJssel. It is a very typical Dutch town with picturesque canals and many historic buildings in the old part of the town. After receiving its municipal charter in 1272 Gouda rapidly developed into an important trading town. In the 17th century, however, it declined. Later, after the traditional cloth-making industry had given way to the manufacture of pipes and the production of cheese, Gouda again developed into an important economic centre. Gouda is famed for its cheese.
Delft lies on the Delftsche Schie with the old part of town ringed by canals. In the 17th century, the town’s canal water became tainted, leading to a decline from 200 breweries to 20. In 1654, the “Thunderclap”, an accidental gunpowder explosion levelled half the town and killed hundreds. But Delft quickly rebounded, thanks to riches the city amassed as the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company. The porcelains brought back by their traders from the Far East proved irresistible, and in 1645, De Porceleyne Fles started making and exporting the blue and white earthenware that was to make the town famous. Civil war in China had dried up the source for porcelains, and Delft potters leaped in and created the blue faience that soon became known as Delft Blue. The manufacture of Delft ware, which was world-famed from the 17th to the mid-18th century, has recently been revived.
The town of Aalsmeer lies on the ring canal of the Haarlemmermeer polder, a third of its area occupied by water. At Aalsmeer, the Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer (Aalsmeer Flower Auction) is held 5 days a week from early to midmorning. The largest flower auction in the world, with an annual turnover of more than $200 million, it has 3 continuously operating auction halls in a building the size of several football fields. You walk on a catwalk above the rolling four-tier carts that wait to move on tracks past the auctioneers. The buying system is what is called a Dutch auction – the price goes down, not up, on a large “clock” on the wall. The buyers sit lecture-style with buzzers on their desks; the first to register a bid gets the bunch.
For six weeks, from the end of March to the middle of May, the 17-acre Keukenhof (Kitchen Courtyard) park and greenhouse complex, founded in 1950, is one of the largest open-air live flower exhibitions in the world. As many as 7 million tulip bulbs bloom every spring, either in hothouses or in flower beds along the sides of a charming lake. In the last weeks of April you can catch tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and narcissi all flowering simultaneously. In addition there are 50,000 square feet of more exotic blooms under glass.
Haarlem, the capital of the province of Noord-Holland, lies between Amsterdam and the North Sea, on the little river Spaarne. It is one of the most beautiful and oldest cities in Holland, and is home to the Frans Hals Museum founded in 1862 with its vast collection of Old Masters. Other highlights include St. Bavo’s Cathedral on the main square, where both Handel and Mozart played the magnificent Muller organ, and the many boutique shops.
Chris Gant is Marketing Manager at European Waterways Ltd..