Pushing west from Wuppertal, we crossed the border into the Netherlands. Flat green German farmland gave way to flat green Dutch farmland, dotted with sheep and black & white cows, soon joined by canals. Taking advice from a Dutch co-worker, we found lodging outside of Amsterdam in the charming town of Haarlem, just a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal.
Like Amsterdam, the streets of Haarlem boast canals, stair-step gables on the roofs of the Dutch Colonial Revival brick buildings, town squares with cathedrals, but without the crowds of tourists.
Haarlem’s Grote Markt (Main City Square) is a great place to people-watch, or to have a drink. Here one finds the Grote Kerk (Great Church – St. Bavokerk), the city hall, and Vleeshal, the meat hall, now a gallery and the Archeology Museum.
Our time in Berlin served to prepare us for the incredible amount of bike traffic in Holland. If we thought the Germans were crazy for bikes, the Dutch take it up a few notches to bonkers. It appeared to us as though bikes had the priority over pedestrians as well as cars, and we became quite adept at staying out of the way. In our four days there, I think I saw about 2 people wearing bike helmets. Even children were unprotected. We especially enjoyed watching how children were driven around in various modes of bike transport. Watch this cute video.
The Dutch people are generally tall. After living in Switzerland for a year, it was hard not to notice this. On the day that it was not too hot (and we had some record-breaking weather while we were there), I looked at the leg on the tallest people and noticed that one can get right-fit pants – long enough – in this country.
Note: The terms Holland and the Netherlands are not interchangeable. Holland is the region of the country of the Netherlands where you find Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague on the western side of the country. Holland is divided into two sections, north and south. I only mention this because I learned this fact on this trip.