PAUSING FOR CHEESE – AGAIN!
We had arrived on a Monday afternoon and knew there would be a cheese market on Wednesday, so our plan was to bracket the cheese market with a visit to The Hague (Den Haag) on Tuesday and Delft on Thursday – both towns by train. We’d only have limited time in each place, so we were pretty selective in what we visited. And still conscious of time, we didn’t think we could afford to take Catharina with us. We also knew that mooring spaces would likely be at a premium, or only outside of the towns.
The Hague is the administrative centre of the Netherlands, with the government, embassies and kingly activities centred there. But it is not the capital – according to the Dutch constitution, that belongs to Amsterdam. We had been told last year that the stone that was transported to build the big expansion of Den Hague at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries was transported on katwijker barges, similar to our Catharina Elisabeth. Our plans for our short visit were to see the Escher Museum and visit the International Court of Justice.
The Escher Museum
Escher in Het Paleis is a museum collection of Escher’s works, including some of his notebooks and tools. It is housed in, and doing double museum duty with, the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands.
A modern palace, but by a long shot not as ornate as many other European palaces.
Ian was first introduced to Escher during a lecture on crystal structure in his Inorganic Chemistry course at Uni in 1973. That evening, Lisette became a fan as Ian excitedly recounted the revelation of the intricate and ingenious graphical artistry of Maurits Cornelis Escher. The opportunity to visit his museum was a shared matter of the highest priority.
Inside, the building was a mixture of Escher’s art, an ornate royal house, and a celebration of chandelier design.
While in each room there was a description and history of the royal use of the palace and all lit by elegant, sparkling chandeliers.
The second floor was devoted to a number of interactive works that challenged one’s perspective using physical art objects.
The whole museum was a wonderful collection of art and information and we spent several leisurely hours there. Indeed, so much time, that there was no opportunity to go to the World Court, which would likely have been closed by the time we arrived. But, it was a memorable visit to The Hague, and primes us for another visit, sometime in the future.
The next day we spent around Gouda, first moving Catharina from one side of the harbour to the other, mainly to access on-shore power for a couple of days. And there are always some onboard chores. With that out of the way, we spent a little time cruising the streets.
We were very pleased to discover another huge beer and wine shop, allowing us to drool over all the varieties of alcohol, the glasses for every beer and to restock/overstock Catharina’s bar.
The Catharina Gasthuis is now an art museum but was once a hospice for a colony of lepers. Its ornate gate now forms the back entrance to the museum.
Further around there was an interesting instrument shop.
However, the highlight of the promenade was a tour inside the Sint Janskerk.
Saint John’s church in Gouda is listed as a UNESCO monument on the grounds of its extensive and detailed stained glass windows. Often churches in the Netherlands lack such ornamentation because, at the start of the reformation, the protestants destroyed much of the statuary, paintings and ornamentation (including stained glass) as they were deemed idolatrous. The main part of the church contains moe than 60 large windows depicting a wide range of religious and secular subjects. The small chapel linked to it also has a series of six windows depicting stages of the passion of Christ.
To us Aussies, with limited exposure to 500-year-old anything including stained glass windows, it was a revelation as to how much detail is in each pane. First, the example is one where Jesus is being flogged whilst carrying the cross, partly supported by Simon of Cyrene with Saint Veronica nearby. The soldiers are in german uniforms of the time (16th century) and grieving Mary and John are nearby with Jerusalem in the background. Lots of important detail.
Another revelation was that almost always there was a sponsor’s message – these windows were not cheap, and those that donated the money to have them made, wanted their generosity known. True for individuals, families or organisations. So in the bottom pane, is a representation of the ancestors of the donor, Nicolaas van Nieuwland.
It is also the longest church in the Netherlands and is thought to have the most stained glass windows.
Blue and Cheese
It was Thursday now, cheese market day – and the last one of the season. We trotted down to the market square, past the ubiquitous but very welcome draaiorgel, piping out its music.
On to the reenactment, in front of the marvellous Gouda Stadhuis. It was quite a lot quieter than the week before inAlkmaar, and a much smaller market overall. Nice to see, but not a patch on the detail of the one to the north.
So, we were happy to move on to catch the train to Delft.
It was somewhat rainy that day, but we trotted into the centre of town from the train station and were firstly struck by a most interesting view of another church. From beneath our umbrellas, it appeared a church belfry was on the verge of collapsing into the sweet little canal. Another example of a church constructed on reclaimed land. Still, it has stood for seven centuries, so it’s probably not going anywhere soon.
Scattered throughout the cobbled streets of Delft and into the main square, there were large numbers of shops selling blue and white pottery. But we were keen to visit the factory and asked the tourist bureau for directions. It turns out there was a shuttle to take visitors from the centre of town to the site of the porcelain works, and with no sign of the rain letting up for a while, we were happy to take advantage of this. The shuttle was a little electric cart which had room for four behind the driver, and cafe blinds drawn right down to keep us from the rain. As he drove us along, the driver gave us a potted history of Delft and even took us past the place where we might have tried to moor Catharina, had we cruised here.
Royal Delft was fascinating. From dioramas, and theatrical re-enactments of the story of Delft, through galleries of museum pieces, and their provenance. We were able to walk through the workshop, where pieces were in various stages of firing and cleaning, and saw an artist hand paint a design. Only one blue is used, which appears almost black prior to firing the piece. The blue is diluted to the various shades required and a pattern is used to ensure the design is reproduced on each item, and each piece is hand painted. The artist we spoke to had to paint five identical plates that afternoon, one after the other.
To honour Van Gogh in the 125th year since his death, there were a series of workshops to show how ‘Sunflowers’ could be reproduced on tiles, some versions were coloured like the original painting while others were done in Delft blue.
While the Delft painters often have to produce repeats of the same item, they also get to work on commission pieces. Some of the wonderful works they create are tile paintings of famous works of art. One amazing piece was a life-size reproduction of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’. Wow!
Last, there was some ceramic fashion. If you wanted to be stylish and get fit by lugging weight everywhere you went, Delft Blue had the garments and adornments ready for you.
We returned to the town centre, and had a little time to spare, so what to do? Go to another church! Next to us was the Nieuwe Kirk, so in we went. We were rewarded with a brilliant display of the history of the Dutch Royal House of Orange. This is because the church is where the Dutch Royal family are entombed after their death.
The first to be buried here was William I, Prince of Orange, the founder of this dynasty and the leader of the revolution that established the independence of the Netherlands from Spain. William was assassinated by handgun in 1584, the first head of state to be despatched by this now, all too common, method. A fabulous mausoleum designed by Hendrick and Pieter de Keyser features William in repose.
So, then back to Catharina, to prepare for the next stage – onwards to Belgium.