Continuing my series of posts on our Dutch travels today, with two places within half an hour’s train journey from Amsterdam that provide a great day of sightseeing.
First up, Utrecht. A city dating as far back as 1st century AD, this was a simply beautiful place, and is noteable for its canals being below street level. There’s also the largest university in the Netherlands, but the centre was fairly quiet in mid June when we visited.
The Dom Tower is the highest in the Netherlands and behind that, is St Martin’s Cathedral, which was simple yet striking in design. You can climb the Dom Tower but instead, we visited the cathedral for a donation of a few euros.
Using our Museum Kaart, we visited the Speelklok Museum for our fill of mechanical music, from all kinds of machines and organs. It was a very random yet cheerful museum, and interesting to see how music has developed through the ages and the ways in which street organs were a way of whole towns and communities experiencing music together.
The musuem also had these beautiful chandeliers!
After lunch, we headed to more museums, namely Centraal Museum and later on, we indulged our inner child as we visited the Miffy Museum. (There’s also a permanent exhibition of Dick Bruna’s studio in the Centraal Museum)
We did more wandering along the main canal, and, when needing a break from walking, sat on a bench for an hour. Mr B read a book and I watched bikes whizzing past in all directions. It was nice to have the time to watch people going about their daily business, knowing that we didn’t have anywhere to be or anything to do!
After a while we went back down by the main canal and had some delicious pizza right by the canal (thankfully we weren’t at those tables right by the edge, I would have been worried about falling in!) for dinner and sat outside all evening. Being the night before the referendum, we had some voting chat with some dutch neighbours dining on our left, before taking a meandering walk back to the train station.
Our other day trip from Amsterdam was to Haarlem – which was just 20 minutes away by train.
Our main aim was to visit Corrie Ten Boom’s house where you could have a guided tour. Corrie’s family hid Jewish people behind a fake wall in Corrie’s bedroom, from the Gestapo during WWII. The tour was free and they run regularly throughout the day in various languages (though places are limited to 20, so arrive at least 20 minutes before the start time to get a place). It was quite something to sit in the Ten Boom’s lounge knowing of all they did to protect others, at a great cost to the whole family (both Corrie and her sister Betsy ended up in concentration camps, where Betsy died). After miraculously being able to leave the camp, Corrie wrote this book.
We did more wandering about the compact centre of Haarlem, before finding the canal tour company to book tickets for later in the afternoon. In between times we found Molen de Adriann – so we braved the steep laders and climbed up for our tour.
The clouds cleared just in time for the start of our canal tour. While the guide spoke dutch, we were given a english written guide so that we could understand what was being said about the landmarks we were passing!
We reached both Haarlem and Utrecht via direct train from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Trains in pretty much any European country are clean, efficient, good value, and on time – they put rail operators in the UK to shame!