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My solo trip to Holland - fantastisch!

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Mar 20th, 2016, 08:09 AM
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My solo trip to Holland - fantastisch!

I recently returned from first solo trip to Europe. I explored the Netherlands, didn’t get lost, met a Fodorite and a friend from home - and had a great time.

I started in:

S’Hertogenbosch

About a year ago, I read about the Bosch500, a year long festival planned to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the painter Hieronymus Bosch. The centerpiece was an exhibit of his most of his works at the Noordbrabants Museum. As Bosch is one of my very favorite painters, I really wanted to see this! So I made plans, and this was the main reason for my trip.

I flew from PHL to Schiphol and got on a train to den Bosch. The first day I spent wandering around the main square and the town – there are crazy figures from Bosch’s paintings all around town and along the canals. The shopkeepers joined in and many of their windows/stores had a Bosch theme.

St. Jan’s Cathedral

I went inside – this Cathedral is more ornate than most churches in Holland.

Bosch Art Center

I had been here before, and highly recommend this place. There are no original artworks on display, but all of Bosch’s paintings and drawings are represented in high quality, life-sized photographic reproductions. There was also a Bosch and Bruegel themed exhibit of works by other artists.

I did not recall from my last visit the Astronomical Clock here. Part of the clock opens up on the hour, and the 3 Magi come out of a door, bearing their gifts. Another part of the clock opens up to reveal a Last Judgment scene. On the bottom are a row of graves. Heaven is located on the upper left, and a Hellmouth opens on the right. Figures move up out of the graves, and enter into Heaven, or the less fortunate ones go into the Hellmouth. Fascinating!

Bosch Exhibit – Noordbrabants Museum

This was a really great exhibit. I read this exhibit had 17 of his 24 known works – including a recently discovered painting from the Kansas City Museum of Art. (That painting had been kept in storage!) They also had many of his drawings – also including one that was in a private collection and has recently been attributed to Bosch, and not a follower. I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to his drawings before, and they were fascinating.

The exhibit was packed! I noticed before leaving that many dates through until the end of the exhibit have already sold out. It is, understandably, extremely popular.

The Wonderful Climb – the roof of the Cathedral

As part of the Bosch500 festivities, a structure was set up allowing access to the rooftop of the Cathedral, allowing a closer look at the gargoyles and the 96 whimsical figures that perch on many of the flying buttresses. These figures are difficult to see, if not out of sight, from the ground. I had seen pictures and had been fascinated by the figures – some representing occupations and others more whimsical (including dragons, monsters and an eagle). I didn’t realize there were so many! Bosch was said to be influenced by these.

The Tuighuis

This is an archeoglogical and historical museum, and had a small exhibit featuring figures from Bosch’s paintings (a child, a pilgrim and housewife) explaining how they lived during Bosch’s time. (Unfortunately for me, their explanations were in Dutch).

Bossche bol

In a bakery window, I saw an interesting looking pastry and walked inside to enquire what it was. I was told it was a Boscche bol, and is what the city of den Bosch is known for. Picture a large tennis-ball sized pastry, covered in dark chocolate - and filled with whipped cream. I had to try one. Of course, it was good!! (The food in this neck of the woods is very good overall, IMO).

Next stop: Delft (which I visited over the course of the next 4 days, with side trips to other towns in the Netherlands).
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Mar 20th, 2016, 10:56 AM
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looking forward to the entire report!
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Mar 20th, 2016, 12:42 PM
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Me too, though I already know part of it .
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Mar 20th, 2016, 01:23 PM
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Great start, looking forward to more!
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Mar 20th, 2016, 03:36 PM
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Count me in!
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Mar 20th, 2016, 06:43 PM
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I am reading along too and hoping you visit Amsterdam. The Mr & I will be there in July!
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Mar 20th, 2016, 08:14 PM
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Sounds like my kind of trip! Looking forward to the next chapter.
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Mar 21st, 2016, 05:17 AM
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Hello, all. Teacher 91 - I did go to Amsterdam, but just for a 1/2 day. I did go to Amsterdam a couple years ago and I know you will enjoy your visit. (I did do a trip report about our visit, which we combined with Paris, Ghent and Brugge).

On to....Delft
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Mar 21st, 2016, 05:21 AM
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Delft

The main square is jaw dropping with the elaborate Town Hall and New Church. I went into both the Old and New Churches.

New Church

Many Dutch churches are not elaborately decorated, as much Roman Catholic imagery was destroyed during the Iconoclasm. This church was sparse, with tall white columns. I have seen many architectural type paintings of the Dutch Golden Age from the inside of Dutch churches, so I liked being able to see the “real thing” in person.

This church had the tomb of William of Orange, which was huge.

Many Dutch royalty were buried inside this church.


Old Church

The churches did have some stained glass, which was gorgeous. The stained glass created colorful patterns on the white walls and columns of the church.

The painter Vermeer and the inventor the microscope, Anton von Leeuwenhoek, are buried here.

What I noticed about Dutch churches in March – they are FREEZING. I can’t imagine attending services in such places, I could barely stand to be inside for more than 10 minutes.


Vermeer Art Center

This is located in the former artists’ guild house. It is nicely done – it contains reproductions, exhibited in chronological order, of all of Vermeer’s works. (The reproductions don’t “glow” like Vermeer’s paintings do!) On other floors, there are exhibits about the symbolism in his work and his use of light.

Prisenhof

I toured this museum, where William of Orange was assassinated. The bullet holes are still preserved in the walls. It contains exhibits on the history of his time, many paintings, and a collection of Delftware.

Old Gate

I walked down to Oostport – the only section of the town gate that still remains.

Vermeer’s View of Delft

I went in search of the viewpoint where supposedly Vermeer painted his famous “View of Delft” in 1660. It looks very different today!

I did a lot of walking around Delft – the streets, squares, and its canals are very picturesque.
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Mar 21st, 2016, 04:41 PM
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Haarlem

I spent a ½ day walking around this picturesque town.

Grote Markt (Market Square) – the architecture is gorgeous here!

Grote Kerk church – Frans Hals is buried in this Gothic church. There was a very interesting art exhibit on display in the front of the church.

Frans Hals Museum – I really enjoyed this museum, containing works not only by Hals but many other Dutch artists.

I didn't get to Belgium, but I did get great chocolate in Haarlem!

Leiden

This was an unplanned stop for me. I originally was planning a couple days around Antwerp, and that morphed into a planned day trip. But, on a whim, I checked the art exhibit I wanted to see and discovered it was closed the week I was there so the museum could set up another exhibit! With the extra day, I decided to instead stay in Holland and visit the birthplace of Rembrandt.

I didn’t research Leiden much, but knew it had several good museums. I basically visited 2 museums and wandered around a lot. It was a Saturday and warm-ish and a lot of people were out and about, so I just wandered along the canals and where I saw people going. I passed an attractive looking church, but don’t know which one it was.

Windmill – I did walk to here, and all around the base, but didn’t go inside the museum.

Lakenhal – I really liked this small art museum. I am fascinated by Last Judgment scenes, and there were a few here – the most famous by Lucas van Leyden. I also liked the period rooms and the exhibit upstairs about Leiden’s cloth trade.

Ethnological Museum – I thought this was very well done and contained many interesting exhibits. I focused mostly on the Oceania and South American sections, and often perused the interactive computer displays to learn more about what was on display.

(I am now looking at a map of Leiden and know that I walked down the Oude Singel and I must have walked back to the train via the Haarlemerstraat, which was filled with people.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 08:27 AM
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Did your days feel packed or okay, given that it must have been getting dark fairly early still? And maybe I missed it, but where did you stay?
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 11:30 AM
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I have never done any research on this area of the world so found it quite fascinating to travel along with you. The museums sounded so interesting, along with the churches, and different archtecture, it must have been a real eye-opener into that time in history.

Oh, and the "Boscche bol"----I could definitely get into that.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 11:40 AM
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I'm also interested in where you stayed & also how you got around.
Probably by train....was it difficult? We're there signs in English?
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 01:11 PM
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We are in Amsterdam now, on an 8-day trip to the Netherlands. Everybody speaks flawless English (and French and Italian and Spanish and...), but Dutch isn't horribly hard to read or understand, either. Signs everywhere are in both Dutch and English.

I am finding Amsterdam to be a lot more annoying than on previous trips. Maybe because it seems to be Spring Break in America and there are hordes and hordes of American students roaming around, clogging up the sidewalks while talking on their cell phones and taking selfies, drinking too much and smoking too much in the evenings, and generally being loud and inconsiderate. Not only Americans, for sure, but they do stand out if only because they talk so loudly.

I also don't recall on previous trips having so many near-death-by-tram-and-bicycle experiences as we've had in the past few days. I know perfectly well to keep a keen eye out and wait for traffic lights, but it really is a wonder that there aren't bodies strewn all over the place.

The food, though not brilliant, is very good, and there are restaurants of every ethnic variety. The staff in shops and cafés and restaurants are incredibly gracious and hospitable. It's a beautiful city, with a collection of museums that can hardly be rivaled. Unlike in France, however, ATMs are few and far between, and almost all of them are run by Travelex, a company I abhor. We came with plenty of euros and a European credit card, so no problem for us, but the Americans friends we're traveling with have spent a lot of time trying to get cash.

We are getting around by train. The system is efficient and reasonably priced. We are taking the train tomorrow to Appeldoorn, then a bus to Otterloo to go see the Van Gogh Museum in Hogue Veluwe. After that we will take a train to Den Bosch to see the JHieronomous Bosch exhibit, and then we were supposed to take a train to Antwerpen, Belgium, but we'll see how that pans out. Then to Rotterdam and back to France.

It's a lovely part of the world. Not my favorite in Europe, but well worth a visit for so many cultural and historical reasons. And the canal culture is unique and fascinating.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 01:38 PM
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runningtab, you will find ATMs in many supermarkets and shops like Hema and Bijenkorf. Bank ATM that do not charge extra. I am surprised you have struggled to find any in Amsterdam, I know there are Rabobank and ABN Amro ATMs on the Dam and on Damrak, and an SNS bank on Singel, to name but a few.

Enjoy the Kroller Muller museum - so much more than Van Gogh! Have a bike ride through the park too, if the weather isn't too horrible. Are you stopping in Apeldoorn to see 't Loo while you are there?
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 03:02 PM
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Yes, we're stopping in 't Loo. Bike rides are not my style, LOL.

We haven't struggled to find ATMs, but our friends have. And it's certainly not like France, where there is an ATM every 25 feet or so, even in small villages. I saw one Rabobank ATM two days ago. We haven't been in a HEMA yet, but will try that when we come back from Otterloo. Thanks for the tip.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 03:35 PM
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Let me know how you like den Bosch, and the exhibit, runningtab and St.Cirq!

Probably by train....was it difficult? We're there signs in English?

Hi. I was going to post logistics at the end, but I can do that now. So:

Hotels:

Den Bosch (2 nights)

Golden Tulip - this was located off the main square, in easy walking distance from the train station. Would recommend - great location, nice place.

Delft (4 nights)

Bridges House Hotel. It is said that the painter, Jan Steen used to live here. Great place that I'd highly recommend. It's very close (1/4 mile) from the train station and another few blocks to the Town Hall, main square, etc. - very close to the sites. This hotel included breakfast, which is always nice. (At the Golden Tulip, breakfast was 17 Euro extra, which was not worth it to me).

Last night with my friend outside Amsterdam. My friend lives between Amsterdam and Schiphol and I spent my last night at her place in a lovely village. She is only about 20 minutes from Schiphol.

Trains:

I exclusively got around by train. It is very easy in this neck of the woods. I found the DB Navigator app *very* helpful with this - I put in my starting and ending place and it gave me my options - and included what direction I would be traveling (i.e. station name on the train), if I needed to change trains, and it gave platform numbers. The platform numbers were accurate every time I used it, except for when I changed trains in Rotterdam to go to Utrecht. (But, I was able to figure out on my own another alternative, and I only had to wait 15 minutes for another train, on a Sunday).

I did not find there was any English on any signs in Dutch train stations. In fact, when we were in Amsterdam a few years ago, we couldn't even figure out how to use the kiosks b/c we didn't see an English option. There is now, so I found the kiosks easy to use (Before I left, I did write down the directions to follow, in Dutch, in case I couldn't get an English option on a kiosk). Announcements were all made in Dutch, no English. On my one transfer, I believe again in Rotterdam, an announcement was made and everyone on my platform started to leave, so I just followed them. It was a platform change announcement, which I realized when I got to the other platform everyone moved to.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 03:42 PM
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Leely - it did get dark around 7pm, so I did end my days fairly early. I didn't felt likd my trip was too rushed, but toward the end I did get some fatigue b/c I did A LOT of walking. The day I went to Haarlem I figured I walked over 6 miles, b/c after I walked around Haarlem, I came back and later took an hour walk around Delft. These are very picturesque towns in this area and I enjoyed walking around and just taking everything in.

I did do/see less as my trip progressed; I did run out of steam a little bit.

The last time I was in this area, we did an Amsterdam-Brugge-Ghent-Paris trip, and that trip was exhausting. It was in the summer, when it was light out until 10pm, and there was just so much to see in Paris and Amsterdam that some days I was really, really tired, wanting to see as much as we could.
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Mar 23rd, 2016, 12:31 AM
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If you have data on your phone and you travel by train, the TREIN app is indispensable.

Weary commuters use it all the time because it scrapes its information off the NS websites and has information on delays, platform changes etc earlier than the official announcements. It gives the departures by station, which you can set manually or the app sets if you use location services.

Train managers in NL rely on an internal communication system for their info, usually the TREIN app is faster, to the dismay of Dutch Railways. And it's free.
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Mar 23rd, 2016, 01:32 AM
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And of course many trains offer free WiFi . When we travelled into Utrecht to meet PhillyFan we were surprised to be on a double decker with free WiFi. Normally, as it is a boemeltreintje, we get the oldest rolling stock they have. Maybe them pensioning it all off early has its advantages.

StCirq, go on pick up a witte fiets and have a quick ride .
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