I was looking forward to visiting Haarlem because when looking up a place to live in Holland this town kept coming up as our number one choice of a place to live. It’s just close enough to Amsterdam that you get the benefits of its proximity but far enough away from it that you don’t feel like you’re in a big city. However the day we visited Haarlem we didn’t really plan the trip all that well. It was one of those ‘Hey, let’s get out of the house today.’ ‘Okay, where should we go?’ ‘Haarlem?’ ‘Okay, sure!’ and off we went with no plan.
Usually we’ll look up places of interest in the city we’re visiting and try to hit all of the ones that catch our attention. We careful plan where and when we’re going and what we’re going to do when we get there including a nice place to stop and have lunch. But not this day. Nope!
We got on a train and then a bus and watched the scenery until we were there. It was really cold and the ground was icy in most of the streets but it appeared to be a nice little, sleepy town. My guess is that in the summer time this city is gorgeous and bustling. This day was pretty but barren and most of the day it almost seemed abandoned. Towards the time we were heading home it seemed to start coming alive…I don’t know where everyone was hanging out before that but they weren’t here. 🙂
Basically we walked around town aimlessly, found a place to eat called Sumo Sushi (in our travels in Holland we visited this restaurant in Amsterdam and Den Haag too…what can I say, we liked it!) and then walked around looking at the shops. I even bought a pair of cool new winter boots there because my favorite purple winter boots that I was wearing had sprung a hole letting copious amounts of icy water in. (I guess the fact that they were purchased about 7 years ago in Switzerland and worn all over the world had earned them a permanent retirement…but I digress).
As a side note, the gentleman in the picture above is Laurens Jansz Koster. At the time that we took this picture we obviously couldn’t speak or read Dutch (we still can’t) so we decided he was the inventor of cell phones. Turns out we were not far off….he was actually the inventor of a printing press in Haarlem back in the 1400’s (okay we stretched the cell phone thing a bit…but it’s still a communication tool so we’ll stand our ground.)
There was much controversy over whether he was THE inventor of the printing press. Some say it was a gentleman from Mainz that was the real inventor but I am not sure that we’ll be able to settle that now. Nevertheless he’s somewhat of a local hero in Haarlem and you can see statues of him all around town. Apparently this gentleman perished in the plague that was so kind to visit Haarlem from 1439-1440! Bummer!
After that it was pretty late in the day, the sun was setting, and it was getting even colder. So we began our return to Alphen aan den Rijn. I was a little upset with myself when we got on the bus because I have an old letter from a relative on my father’s side (I believe she was my grandmother’s niece) who had married a man named Van der Water and they were living in Haarlem back then.
The letter was dated 1969 or something like that so I didn’t expect anyone to still be living there but I thought it would be cool to visit the address, see who’s living there, and take a picture….BUT…did I mention we didn’t plan this day very well? I didn’t bring the address with me. It was cozy at home on my computer’s hard drive blissfully unaware that I needed it. I was hoping that we would have another visit there before we left Holland but that didn’t happen. Next time we visit I’ll have the address tattooed on my forearm for safe keeping! 🙂
So we returned home, took hot showers, had a nice cup of hot tea and marked another city off of our ‘Must See Before We Leave’ list!