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  • Day42

    Cruising the Canals

    October 15, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Another fantastic day in Haarlem. Kicking ourselves for not spending an extra day here - one long day in Amsterdam would have been enough. Definitely want to come back though!

    Beautiful and sunny, today was definitely the day for a canal tour. On our walk to the canals, briefly perused a cloth market at the Grote Markt.

    Then opted for a tour on an open air small group boat. Guide was lovely and spoke English to our group of 9 total (others on tour were Dutch and Spanish so all understood English perfectly). He pointed out lots of interesting facts and it was great to learn more about the history.

    For example, in the olden days, there weren't any addresses so people distinguished their house by adding decorative gable stones (like an elephant for the Elephant and Castle brewery). He also pointed out some intentionally crooked houses (they lean forward so that the rain drains well and any weights being raised from the top bit wouldn't risk damaging the lower floors).

    It was also just lovely sitting in a small open boat in glorious sunshine and slowly making our way around the cute canals and the river. Very relaxing - a beer wouldn't have gone amiss.

    Saw lots of sights - including Grote Kerk or Saint Bavo-kerk (originally built as a Catholic church in 1245, turned Protestant church in 1578) and the cathedral of St Bavo (built much later from 1895 to 1930) which is much newer and Catholic and huge. The delay in a Catholic church being built was due to a massive ban of Catholics following the 80 years War of Independence of Netherlands from Spain - very interesting. Substantial numbers of Flemish men immigrated here to get work after the conversion of power to Protestantism - as Flemish Protestant labourers were in demand as many of the Haarlem men had died in war.

    He pointed out the block where textile and leather industries were once located - in the east so winds carried away the smell away from the city and residents, and surrounded on all sides by canals due to the fire risk. Haarlem used to have lots of breweries - but they came into conflict with the (Flemish) textile industry over water use (breweries need clean water while textile industry pollutes it). The result - the hundreds of breweries dwindling.

    Saw the windmill (De Adriaan)- very cool. And still in operation (although has been somewhat reconstructed since a fire).

    A lovely canal trip through Haarlem and would highly recommend.
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