For weeks I have been wanting to write about what’s going on. 2016 was a wonderfully crazy year for me with a lot of doing-things-I-never-thought-I-would-do. The first half of the year mostly involved an array of running around for university applications, bank loans, visa approval, customary MS shopping and heart-breaking goodbyes. After all the fuss, in the month of August I reached Delft – a cozy, little canal-ringed city in the province of South Holland in The Netherlands.
Ever since I started living in Delft, I have been in awe with every aspect of its dreamy unspoiled nature. So in this post, with my amateur writing skills, I thought I would write a bit about the city that makes me feel at home. If you want to know more about Delft or if you want to get a taste of the Dutch culture or even if you wanted to watch cat videos and somehow ended up here then just continue reading.
City Center: Like any other European city, Delft has a beautiful Market square in its center with a Gothic ‘New Church‘ (Nieuwe kerk) on one side and a City Hall on the other. The church has a remarkably tall tower (with a height of 85m, it is the second largest in The Netherlands!) climbing which you could get a good view all the way from Rotterdam to Den Haag (two nearby cities) on either sides. The church was also used as a burial place for the Royals.(!)
Just few meters from the New Church is the old city center with an ‘Old church‘ (The Oude Kerk) which is a Gothic Protestant church. One of the most striking features about the Old church is its 75 meter high brick tower that leans towards one side about 2 meters from the vertical.
The church also has a very powerful bell called the ‘Trinitasklok‘ or ‘Bourdon‘, which due to its strong and potentially damaging vibrations are only rung during some special occasions like burial of a royal Dutch family member in the nearby New Church.
Besides, the old church is the burial place of the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, who lived his entire life in Delft. Saying that Delft celebrates its Vermeer and his paintings is an understatement as you would come across a lot of his work throughout the city, especially the most popular ‘Girl with a pearl earring‘ painting.
In front of the New Church is a bronze statue of Hugo Grotius (1583-1648), a Dutch Jurist who laid the foundations for international law. And across the square, opposite to the new church is the City Hall which has an exquisite Renaissance architecture and is surrounded by medieval shops, restaurants and houses.
During every Thursday and Saturday the city center has an open market where people sell vegetables, flowers, cheese, Herring fish (let’s talk more about that in a minute!) and antiques.
Canals: Canals have been an essential part of many Dutch cities and Delft is no exception. Delft derives its name from the first canal ‘the old Delft’ (from the dutch ‘delven’ or digging) that was dug in 1100. Since then so many canals were dug in and around the city and today they are still used for transportation, sports and boat-trips. Tourists often rent a taxi boat and ride along the canals of Delft to experience the quaint Dutch life.
Along with canals you would find a number of old, beautiful bridges throughout the city which gives Delft the nickname “Little Amsterdam”. Walking along the streets of Delft, it is quite common that you would find centuries-old bridges decorated with colorful flower baskets and having one or two bikes parked across them. My most favorite bridge is a beautiful white Venetian bridge in Voorstraat that was said to be given by Venice as a mark of thanks for sharing a Beer recipe(!)
Bikes: Another interesting (and my most recommended) way of exploring Delft is by bike. Coming from one of the most biker-friendly countries in the world, Delft has a great network of cycle paths with dedicated red bicycle lanes. It took some strong political activism to bring such a massive change and now bicycles are part of everyday life and are hard-wired into the culture. Besides, what better way to explore a beautiful Dutch city than by biking around in a vintage Dutch bike?!
Food & Drinks: Food in Delft reflects the traditional Dutch culture. If you are a foodie like me and wouldn’t mind taking some gastronomical risk, then Herring fish would be the best start. Herring, or like how it is called here – ‘Nieuwe Haring‘, is a very traditional Dutch food. What I’m about to explain now might not sound very appetizing to the faint-hearted, so be prepared…! okay, here it goes… The ‘Nieuwe Haring’ is basically a raw, slimy, herring fish which is generally served with chopped onions or garlic. And how do you eat them? Well, when you are in The Netherlands, you eat the Dutch way and the Dutch people did not choose a very civilized way when it comes to eating their slimy, slippery Herring. So this is how it is done: hold the fish by its tail, throw your head back and dunk the fish into your mouth, head-first! Aand you are done! Now, about the taste, I leave that to your imagination…!
Apart from Herring, Delft also has other traditional dutch foods. Sweets like ‘Stroopwafels‘ (or syrup waffle, which is a delicious waffle cookie) and snacks like ‘Bitterballen‘ (small meat-balls that are crunchy in the outside and creamy inside!) are quite popular. You will find a lot of cozy and hip cafes and bars in and around the center that serve some good coffee, apple tart and a number of different beers!
Delft Blue: Delft blue is a famous earthenware with blue, mostly-floral designs on a white background, produced in Delft since the 17th century. It was then popular among the Riches of Delft who like to showcase their delftware collections. Today ‘Royal Delft‘ is the only remaining Delftware factory here. Even if you are not into ceramics, delft blue ceramics are so intricately crafted that it would be one of the most memorable souvenirs you can take from Delft.
With that I come to an end of my (rather long) post about Delft. Hope you enjoyed it! I’m writing after a long time but I made a promise that I will keep it up. Things are keeping me too busy to do anything more than studying and I am trying hard to keep up. But at the same time, I’m also trying not to forget the fact that I am finally here now and that I should be more spontaneous than ever and that I should push my boundaries and do other things that I have always wanted to do..!
See you soon in the next post. Tot ziens!