Der Nederlanden: Part 5

Meppel by way of Zwolle: Day 3

We all took the train to Amsterdam, where we left Arend, who was spending the weekend with his friends — more interesting for him than “looking at Judy’s ancestral lands” as he had put it.

We had a scenic train ride to Zwolle, where we were picking up a car so we could explore outside town from Meppel, and then three towns where I had ancestors over the German border, on the way to Venlo.

It looked like the walk from the train station in Zwolle was a pleasant walk along canals. As it turned out, we missed a turn at the beginning, where there was construction around the station, and it was a bit of a slog.

Zwolle map.jpg

You can still see on the map today that Zwolle was a classic star-shaped fort, and surrounded by a moat fed by the surrounding rivers. It was a member of the Hanseatic League.

We got the car almost instantly, but none of us had had a hybrid, and figuring out the controls took a bit.

Meppel is about a twenty-minute drive.

This was our first hotel with self-checkin. We had key-pad codes, which let us in the front door and the room doors.

We set out to explore the town and have some lunch, which we found at De Brasserie (and Huberts IJs – ice cream – we didn’t have any) near the church and market. I had a Hawaiian tosti, which I remembered fondly from our visit to Amsterdam on our 1999 Europe trip – what we would call a grilled cheese, with ham and pineapple. And cassis, a Fanta flavor you don’t see in the US. We sat outside, another pleasure common in Europe, not so here.

Here is the hobo dragon atop the world in front of our hotel.


After lunch, we wandered about the town center, getting lost, finding a bookshop with a tourist information center for maps, and finally visiting the public library, which was quite near our hotel.

We had dinner near the library, at a restaurant which was clearly a place for local gatherings and nights out, Proeflokaal Bregje Meppel, where we had Brand porter. They’ve been brewing since 1340. This picture’s for you, cousin Mark.


Der Nederlanden: Part 4

Amsterdam and Harlem – Day 2 Afternoon

We found Bake My Day, an organic (bio in Dutch) bakery and deli, just down Haarlemmerstraat.

Having done the spots we wanted, we walked down to the old market square, saw Rembrandt’s house


Train Station


Lock House (de Sluyswacht)

De Vergulde Arend


Rembrandt’s House


Street Art



We took the subway back to the station, and the train to Haarlem.

This is a plaque on our hotel, which was the house of Dirck Volckertszoon Coornheert, humanist and “fighter for freedom and tolerance.” Arend, our son, was named for several of his Dutch forebears (Arnold is an English form). Arend means eagle, and the house was “The Gilded Eagle.”


Some believe that Coornheert wrote the Dutch national anthem “Het Wilhelmus”

Haarlem Markt

Haarlem Markt

We did various things we each missed the day before, and went to dinner, improbably, at an Italian restaurant just off the square, Dodici. I was a bit snitty about it at first, but I got the lobster bisque that we had missed on our trip to New England in June, with Dutch shrimp. Judy also had the shrimp in her salad – they were about a quarter-inch long, but lots of them, and full of flavor.

We puzzled over this sculpture, which is unmarked. It is “De Zonnevechter” (Sun Fighter) by Arthur Spronken. The fountain at its base was apparently originally intended to spray high above it.

Der Nederlanden: Part 3

Haarlem and Amsterdam, Day 2

We trickled down to breakfast, a wonderful spread of fresh, slice-your-own brown bread, sliced cheese, ham, and sausages, warm boiled eggs, jam, pastries, omelettes on demand, juice, espresso and cappuccino. Why Americans think a “continental breakfast” is a Danish in cellophane is beyond me.

On the way to the train station, we stopped to look at this gasthuis gate, dated 1624. The gasthuis itself was founded in 1435, and only the gate remains.

Barbera Vrouwen Gasthuis

Barbera Vrouwen Gasthuis Gate, Anno 1624

Gasthuisen, or guesthouses, sometimes called hospitals (as in hospitality – the Dutch call hospitals ziekenhuisensickhouses) were places for refugees, the homeless, and pilgrims. It is worth using Google translate to read the Dutch Wikipedia entry.

In Amsterdam, we wanted to walk along the canal, and see, but not necessarily visit, the Anne Frank House, and visit the Homomonument, which commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality, particularly those killed by the Nazis, which is nearby. It is difficult to photograph – or even to see all at once.


Having walked down one canal, we walked up another, to find Het West-Indisch Huis (the West Indies House), headquarters of the Dutch West Indies Company. One of Judy’s ancestors worked for the company, and eventually moved to Nieuw Amsterdam.


Judy reading the West Indies House plaque


Pieter Stuyvestant, first governor of New Amsterdam, in the West Indies House Courtyard

The John Adams Institute is next door. He was the first US envoy to the Netherlands, before he was Ambassador to England, and President.


John Adams Institute

Just across the street from the Adams Institute, this building caught my eye:

Koffie Thee Cacao

Koffie Thee Cacao

Zoom in for tiles of chickens across the top, and “Koffie Thee Cacao” above the ground floor windows.

It was time to find lunch.

Der Nederlanden: Part 2

Haarlem, Day 1

Robert, my friend Judy Ball, and I arrived at Schiphol Airport quite jet-lagged early in the morning, after trying to get some sleep on the plane. Schiphol is not only an airport, but also a train and bus station and an enormous shopping center. After some confusion, we got regional transportation passes and were off on a bus to Haarlem, which gave us an introduction to the area. Public transportation in the Netherlands, like most of Europe, is a joy. The bus had its own dedicated highway for most of the route, with platforms like a train.

We got off a stop short of the train station, closer to the market square, which was a short walk and not hard to find. The hotel was another matter. After a tour, in a drizzle, through a number of streets around the square, we found it. It’s on the far right of this picture of the square, the name on the front obscured by that awning.

Markt, Haarlem

Markt, Haarlem

The church is De Grote of St.-Bavokerk, which dates from the 15th century, and became Protestant in the 16th. Its organ, built in 1738, has over 5,000 pipes and was played by Handel and Mozart. The entire floor of the church is made up of gravestones.

Gravestone, De Grote of St.-Bavokerk, Haarlem

Gravestone, De Grote of St.-Bavokerk, Haarlem

Since it was long before check-in time, we stashed our bags in a corner of the hotel restaurant and had cappuccino and hot chocolate. Arend, who had flown from Chicago the day before and spent the night with friends in Amsterdam, appeared, and we ventured out to explore and find street food for lunch, which turned out to be a pizza bread from a bakery for me, and frites at Frietkamer for everyone else, and a walk down to the river.

Robert and I visited the visitor’s center Anno Haarlem in the ground floor of the Stadthuis (City Hall) for a quick overview of the city’s history – and a long conversation with a friendly volunteer.

We also had the opportunity to be in a Frans Hals painting.

Anno Haarlem

Anno Haarlem

We visited the church, and Robert rested while I went to the archeological museum, in the basement of the Frans Hals Museum. Then we rousted out Judy and Arend for dinner, at a tiny restaurant, Balletje, where we all enjoyed stamppot – mashed potatoes and vegetables – topped with a meatball (balletje), (one of us a vegan one) and a choice of sauce.

And so back to The Amadeus and bed.

Der Nederlanden: Part 1

Robert and I just returned from a trip to the Netherlands – the nether (low) lands low.

This morning I did the service at church, and we practiced drifting, a practice defined by Phil Smith, author of Mythogeography, a practice for “for walkers, artists who use walking in their art, students who are discovering and studying a world of resistant and aesthetic walking, anyone who is troubled by official guides to anywhere, urbanists, geographers, site-specific performers, town planners and un-planners, urban explorers, entrepreneurs and activists who don’t want to drive to the revolution.  We like to make our travels pilgrimages, and I think an important part of a pilgrimage, like a drift, is not having too many expectations. We have some goals, in this case visits to places some of my ancestors lived, but we try not to know to much about where we are going, so that what we see is unexpected, and we pay more attention to what we see and experience rather than looking for what we expect.

We spent 9 days in the Netherlands, in Haarlem and Amsterdam, Meppel in Drenthe, a Sunday drive into Germany where we stopped in Bocholt, Rhede, and Dingden on our way to Venlo in Limburg, with day trips to Meerlo and Blerick, and Moers and Kaldenkirchen in Germany, ending up in s’Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) in Noord Brabant. I will be posting at least 15 posts over the next week or two, with our adventures in town and country and some stories about my Dutch ancestors, the forebears of my great-grandfather Otto deGruyter’s parents, Ferdinand Jan deGruyter and Louisa Arnoldina Alydce (Adelheide) Venhorst.