Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Day in Delft, The Netherlands


I slept like a baby for about 9 hours straight. Correction: I slept better than a baby, unless we’re talking about one hell of a peaceful baby. Jeroen was already awake and it was time for breakfast.

Jeroen made us some typical Dutch breakfast – slices of bread with Gouda cheese and sliced ham. Gouda is a famous cheese originated in The Netherlands, with a very interesting texture and heavenly taste. I viciously devoured whatever was on my plate – that’s usually what happens when severe hunger is collided with the provision of good food on my plate.

Jeroen took a few hours off work so we can fulfill our God-sent destiny early Friday morning: our order of Mark Knopfler’s “Get Lucky” Deluxe Limited Edition has arrived at the store and it was time to go pick it up. We walked to the downtown area of Delft – a pleasant 10 minutes walk beset by narrow canals, neat flora and gazillions of bicycles.

Dutch people love their bicycles, and that also impacts traffic regulations: bicycle-only lanes are very common, and they’re usually twice or three times wider than bicycle lanes in, say, Toronto. It is much more likely to get run over by a bicycle in The Netherlands, than by a car.

And everybody – I repeat: everybody rides them. You will see kids, youth, adults and seniors on bicycles, riding as if there’s no tomorrow. Lots of people also own folding bikes – an ingenious invention that lets you basically pack your bike and insert it into your backpack, so you can involve public transit (trains, trams, buses) in your journey.

Here is an example of how it’s done. This picture was taken just outside the Delft train station:


And another one:


Who the hell needs a car here, that I don’t know.

Anyway, we went into the music store in the pretty downtown area of Delft and asked for the packages we had ordered. They were still in a box, probably arrived just the day before. There they were – two LP-sized boxes of an album so eagerly awaited that it was very exciting to lay hands upon. Jeroen took the two boxes in his backpack with him to work (of course, riding his bicycle) and I was left to spend a day in Delft.

This is what I like doing – pack a small backpack, being thrown into a new place and simply start exploring by foot. Beats exploring by car any day of the week. Weather was perfect and there I went strolling down the streets of Delft.

The stroll took a not-so-surprising pause after two minutes when the smell of fresh pastries attacked my brain in a way that left me absolutely no choice but to enter that cafe, about 20m away from the music store where I started my stroll. Beautiful terrace (that’s what they call a “patio” in The Netherlands), and what a beautiful dish of thick smoked salmon served on fresh multigrain bread, fresh squeezed orange juice on the side.

After an hour of eating and writing in my blog, I left the cafe and started strolling the streets of Delft (for real now). Took me less than a minute to get to what turned out to be the starting point from which Delft should be explored – the huge square with the “New Church” (, facing the City Hall. This is what the New Church looks like:


Opposing it is the City Hall:


Some other views of the square, beset by coffee places, restaurants and what not:


As I’m on vacation and I prefer time to expand rather than compress (Richard: hope you don’t mind I’m borrowing this expression from you), I took some time to shift my butt to neutral mode and rested for a bit in one these cafe’s, looking at the world go by and concentrating very hard on taking deep breaths in, and out; in, and out; relaxation.

Wi-Fi is not something you usually get for free in Delft, it turns out. I was craving some espresso (who would have guessed) and therefore went to this place called “The Coffee Company”. Turned out to have very good espresso and – lo and behold – Wi-Fi for customers. Good time to catch up with emails and upload some blog posts.

It was time to go home already, as Jeroen was taking half a day off. Walking back to his house is such a pleasant walk… here, take a look:


Canals are everywhere in Delft, and I’m pretty sure that holds true for most cities in The Netherlands. I happen to have strong feelings towards bodies of water – I must have been a sailor (or a fish) in one of my past lives.

There is a term “Delft Blue”, which is a very specific shade of blue often used on ceramics. So yes, it was invented here, it turns out. Once you see the picture, you’ll understand what I’m talking about… my grandmother has tons of these:


On my way, I took some corner and saw this. Hmmmm.


Another thing I don’t quite get – and it seems to be very common in Europe, is demonstrated in the following picture:


See the doors to your right? these are entrances to actual houses. People live on the first floor, and the houses are built so you enter into the house directly from the street. Now, that might not have been so strange, however there are windows there as well – you can easily turn your head to the right and see whatever is going on in that house. This is very problematic when you’re walking in pairs. Unless you’re walking one behind another, somebody simply has to be on the right-hand side. How do you talk to him / her without having your eyes hover over those windows?

Bizarre. Anyhow, these houses along the canals cost a lot of money.

Arrived at Jeroen’s place, and he made us dinner – stir-fried chicken with vegetables, wrapped, some salsa sauce on top, with grated old Gouda cheese (Gouda’s are like wine – grows better with age). That was great.

We made plans to listen to Get Lucky at the first time once the sun goes down. We had some time to kill so I used it to play my guitar on Jeroen’s balcony, facing a nice-looking canal and lots of green.

Then the time came to listen to Get Lucky

(Continued at the next post)

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