Hello Haarlem, I Am In Love With You
I do love Seattle as a home. Born and raised in Washington, I have never had a strong desire to move, but on my recent trip to Europe I discovered a city that in the most cliche way, stole a piece of my heart. A place I most certainly could call my home...away from home.
I actually said out loud "I think I'm cheating on you Seattle." Everything about Haarlem just resonated with me, a familiarity that I don't quite know how to express, mingled with the excitement of exploration, absolutely defined my wonderful experience. Whether clear or convoluted, I need to tell someone about it. I need to spread the news on just how much I love this city.
So, about 40 minutes west of Amsterdam, Haarlem is like a gateway into a quintessential Dutch experience. It was my first stop on my backpacking journey and I was so refreshed by the character of the close tucked buildings, the bustling cobblestone streets, sprawling galleries and shops, I found myself walking with no purpose but to take it all in.
It reminded me a lot of Amsterdam, but on a quieter note. The pace was a little slower, though filled with life, the presence of tourism less paramount, yet the locals were supremely welcoming. I enjoyed every minute and discovered that 3 days is definitely not a enough time to get to know this city.
Where I Stayed
Hello I'm Local
By far the coolest and most charming boutique hostel I've ever stayed in, Hello I'm Local Boutique Hostel, is part Scandinavian simplicity and antique shop nostalgia. Since starting this blog I've learned the value of branding, of creating a message that says something meaningful and lasting. The unique brand that focused on the people of the Netherland's history and the continuous simple greeting was so charming. It felt more intimate, meeting these amazing people in every way possible, whether through the staff or through tid-bits of history. Hello I'm Local was a bridge connecting you to the Dutch world and culture.
I stayed in the Tante Leen room.
"Tante, the "Nightingale of Willemsstraat" was a housemaid during the 1950s, hardworking and resourceful during a time of poverty and hardship. She won second place in a singing competition for the best voice of Jordaan. She became the voice of a generation particular for housewives of that time."
This was part of the introduction so cleverly written outside the dorm room. I absolutely loved it. The black and white plaque is reminiscent of a museum and the text is so whimsical, engaging the reader as if in a conversation. The informality and friendliness makes you feel a part of it, an invitation to not only read the story, but retain and cherish it.
The staff were wonderful and friendly with lots of advice and recommendations for places to visit. They made me feel so welcome and the hostel a place of comfort that I looked forward to returning to after a long day of exploring.
I ate breakfast there almost every morning, my favorite of which was their Hello I'm Loving It All, a wholesome combination of breads and cheeses all made fresh and acquired locally.
Hello i'm the Gallery :)
what I did
Teylers Museum & Frans hals museum
If you've got the time, museum packs are the best! I devoted about half a day to these two museums and I honestly could have spent more time, each deserves a full day. Both of these museums are full to the brim of interesting work.
T E Y L E R S
The oldest in Haarlem, dating back to 1784, this museum is devoted to art and science. Archaeology, portraiture, paintings, and technology fill the halls and in the first room you are met with fossilized sea creatures, sea shells, crystallized stones, and large animal skulls. The architecture and layout is beautiful. As you enter the hall, you meet a long rectangular glass case that stretches the length of the room. It steers you to the right or left into small alcoves with tall glass cases framed in dark wood. It is akin to a library, its vast collection of fascinating objects lining the shelves. Look up, and you'll see robust rich molding and glass ceilings with gilded details. Here in this place, you are invited to step back in time.
The technological room might have been my favorite. Here you'll find dozens of old mercury vials, early models of telephones, light bulbs, telescopes, and in the middle a large electrical mechanism, created by Noble Laureate Hendrik Lorentz. He used the museum to study electromagnetic science in the early 20th century. I felt like Einstein or Edison should have been standing there alongside Lorentz and I pictured the marvel that must have been felt in such a creation. I marvel at it now.
Teylers museum also has an awesomely creative video introduction on their site. Seriously, go check it out. My favorite description of Teylers: A "museum of wonder".
F R A N S H A L S
Established in 1862, this museum has a beautiful collection of paintings and interesting exhibits with a lot of focus on Dutch artists, though not exclusively. One of my favorite features of the museum's layout was how they combined different periods of art in the same room. Classical portraits lined the walls while a detailed sculpture made out of plastic and tech gadgets drew your eye to the center of the room. I'm used to seeing works of the same time period within one space, but with this juxtaposition there was always cohesion, and it kept my interest piqued.
They had an exhibit that was really interesting called Humour. 101 Years of Laughing In Art. It involved a collection of modern works that were parodied after classic pieces inspired by the Dadaism period. They have photography, sculpture, and paintings, all capturing some element of humour that draws your attention. It never felt like an insult to the original works (though of course that could be argued) but to my mind brought it new life. And well captivated, one of my favorites below.
Corrie ten boom's home
I knew some of Corrie Ten Boom's life, most specifically during WWII when she helped the Frank family and other Jewish residents hide from the Gestapo. The details of her life and the significance of her impact on so many parts of the world is incredibly moving. After WWII, now one of the few surviving member of her family, she continued to fight against injustice in places far from home. She could have succumbed to grief or anger, but she utilized so much of her strength for the greater good (I'll be talking more about her in my Thank You series for sure).
They offer tours in both English and Dutch. It is all donation based and the guide was very humorous and informative. At one point we stood in Corrie's room and got to see and walk into the hiding place. It was so small, 1 x 5 ft at most, and was such a sobering moment to know real people stood in this real place facing a very real danger. I hope I never forget it.
ate a cheeseburger with a cool American couple
This is quite American of me to eat a cheeseburger in a foreign country, but I am not ashamed because my love for cheeseburgers is so great I am grateful to eat them in any part of the world, especially getting to taste the local style. I've discovered many of the large cities have restaurants devoted to gourmet cheeseburgers and there have definitely been some burgers that have surpassed my favorites in Seattle ( I think I need to share more on that).
What made the experience a highlight was the opportunity to have lunch with a really cool couple from Denver, Colorado. As I walked through the café tables looking to ask where best to sit, we made eye contact, and I decided to ask them if they knew whether we could sit ourselves. I didn't know they were American, but when we heard each others accents we all smiled, enjoying the instant commonality we shared.
They are wonderful people, who graciously invited me to join them, and we shared stories about travel, what life is like in Denver compared to Seattle and elsewhere in the states. We also marveled at the rhythm of Haarlem. We watched the flurry of people walking and riding their bikes through the streets, the "rush hour" after work, and the atmosphere so vibrant yet relaxed. At least in the heart of Haarlem you won't hear nearly as many car horns or watch exhaust pour into the air. They mentioned the idea of moving to Haarlem as a second home. It totally inspired me. Who knows, a year from now we could become neighbors :)
shops & frites
I tend to travel with food and antiques on my mind. And Haarlem has so many of them. I had a few favorite shops, each a discovery that were full of character and charm. In almost every instance I got to talk with the shop owner, which was a great treat, to hear a bit of their own history, their love for the city, and an appreciation for travel that made me appreciate my fortune. They made me feel very welcome and encouraged my exploration.
The owner of this antique shop is such a kind woman. I was on my way back to a bookstore when I walked down Keizerstraat street and saw this beautiful shop. She gave me such great information about Haarlem, pulled out a visitor's map and marked the places to visit that had their own story and history to tell. A perspective that I cherish because it only happened from a happenstance glance at a window beautiful bold letters that said VINTAGE.
Schagchelstraat is another street full of interesting shops including this awesome art shop, My Deer. Owned and orchestrated by Maaike Koster, a Dutch Interior Designer and Art Director, the whole aesthetic is so cool and natural. Beautiful prints line the walls, some humorous, all creatively detailed and so much green! Plants hung from the ceilings, tucked in corners, and strewn along the surfaces throughout. You'll also find lovely jewelry, vases, and home products. Check out her beautiful instagram account too.
where are the Frites.
Oh yeah. Frites. Delicious fried potatoes with your choice of sauce, the most common and notable of which is mayonnaise. This delicacy is a staple in Holland with its origins in bordering Belgium. I ate just a few of these (three tops) while traveling, but this particular one from Friethoes in Haarlem really hit the spot. I think it was the slight hint of dijon that made the mayo extra flavorful. It sounds a little weird, but take a leap and try it. It's heavenly.
musical appreciation and people watching in grote market
People watching will never grow old for me. I love to sit in communal areas and just enjoy witnessing the events of the day unfold, much seemingly simple, yet beautiful. I get a glimpse into life the Haarlem way. As people walk by I like to imagine what their life is like, and whether they find their city as extraordinary as I do. I get to witness others exploring and appreciate the character and mannerisms of the locals and travelers alike. It's the simple observations that often stay with you the most.
Also, whenever there is a street performer I try to take a moment to watch and listen to them to play. I was so taken by the music in the square that morning of July 7th that I felt compelled to not only meet this man, but take home some of his music. His name is Peter Blanchette and he's a professional archguitar player. He invented this 11 stringed instrument that is built like a guitar, but emits the sound of a lute. Originally from New Jersey, He has worked in vast fields of media from film scores, public radio, and recitals. Looking back I feel fortunate to have witnessed his work in such a relaxed setting, he also travels through Europe playing on many cobblestoned streets, filling the air with his unique melody. Like a distinct scent that pulls you back to a place, so his music takes me back to Grote market.
for next time
- Visit Zandvoort beach. It is about a 40 minute bike ride, scenic and lovely. Bikes are available to rent right next to the train station or you can take public transportation (buses run throughout the day and take about 10 minutes).
- Learn a little more Dutch. English is very prevalent in the city so you won't find difficulty in navigating and conversing with people, but I always think it is worth making the effort. At least in the intro of a conversation, I wanted to confidently say "sorry I only know English", instead of having a pained and regretful look on my face. People were very kind and welcoming nonetheless!
Sorry, I only know English.
Sorry, dat ik weet alleen Engels.
- Listen to some Jazz at Cafe Stiels. I have some jazz lovers in my family so I've come to appreciate it over the years and listening to live music is a great way to connect to the locale of the city. I'm an appreciator of many forms of music, so when I stumbled across this jazz, rhythm, and blues club that features artists who combine different styles, I was super excited. Combinations like Jazz with Pop, Jazz with Hip-Hop/Funk, even Jazz with Electronica. A most intriguing set of mash ups that will have to happen on visit No. two.
- Stay again at Hello I'm Local. I kid you not, I'd stay there again. I loved the environment and though I would not expect them to remember me, the staff were so kind I would love to see them again and really apply their suggestions.
There are many reasons to go to this wonderful city and I can't wait to revisit because if that old adage is true, if home is truly where the heart is, then I need to go back to Haarlem and come to know it better.