Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A view of Delft

The town hall

A day trip to Delft, home of Vermeer, one of our favourite painters. We learned from the Delft website that the Tourist Office had a leaflet describing a walk around Old Delft and we headed straight there to buy it. It was easily the best such leaflet, in fact more of a booklet, I have ever seen.

We started in the nearby Market Square. It is a large rectangular space with the Town Hall at one end: this is the very harmonious Renaissance building in the picture above. The unusual thing about it is that is built around the 13th century gothic Earl's Tower you can see at the back. The tower was used as a prison.

At the other end of the square is the Niewe Kerk, a colossally tall building of 1383-1510. It has in fact the second highest spire in the Netherlands (that of Utrecht Cathedral is the highest).

You leave the square at the church end and pass the twin spires of the Maria van Jesse Roman Catholic church to reach the Beestenmarkt. Before it became the animal market it was the site of a monastery. A funky statue commemorates its former role.

Now we took an optional loop to see the Oostpoort (Eastgate). This led along quiet streets beside quiet canals. Many of the houses had coloured glass in some of the windows. This
beautiful art nouveau pattern caught my eye.

The Oostpoort is a lovely sight from the other side of the Rijn-Schie canal. It dates from about 1400 and is the only one of the eight city gates to survive.

We enjoyed the view back towards the Niewe Kerk.

Then we followed the bank of the Rijn-Schie canal to see the Klaeuwshofje, an almshouse with a very plain exterior.

We have seen others in Amsterdam, but this was the first time we were able to see the courtyard garden which is a normal feature.

The loop took us back to the Beestenmarkt and then round the back of the Niewe Kerk and into the Market square again. We went to the back of the Town Hall to see the medieval Waag (municipal weighing house).

A glance to the left revealed this fabulous art nouveau building, not mentioned in the guide (presumably it is not historic enough), in Oude Langedyjk, the street where Vermeer lived from 1660.

We then walked to to other end of the street to see a beautiful house of 1598 with the traditional stepped gable. This was the official start of the walk.

Now it was time to embark on a second optional loop, so we walked down the strangely named street of Oude (Old) Delft, either side of a quiet canal and full of grand houses, some of which were once breweries. The goal of this excursion was to see the spot where Vermeer painted his great View of Delft. First we passed the imposing Armamentarium, once the artillery stores of the states of Holland and West Friesland, now the Army museum.

Eventually you reach the Rijn-Schie canal again and can stand at Vermeer's vantage point. This is how it looked when Vermeer painted it. The Niewe Kerk is now the only recognisable element. The Rotterdam gate on the right is not unlike the Oostpoort we saw earlier.

For my picture, I moved my focus a bit to the right, because the buildings now on the left were fearfully dull. I suppose it is still a nice enough view.

We headed back into the centre along a parallel route and then rejoined Oude Delft to go north towards the Oude Kerk. The spire was built 1325-50 and is indeed leaning, as it appears. In fact, rather like the leaning tower of Pisa, it began to subside before it was even finished.

Just before you reach the Oude Kerk, you pass the attractive small church of St Hippolyte (1400).

To one side of the Oude Kerk is the former convent of St Agnes, also of about 1400. During the Dutch reformation, in 1572, William of Orange moved here and the building became known as the Prinsenhof. Every Dutchman knows that William was murdered here in 1584: you can still see the bullet holes. This is the view from the garden.

Just a little further on is the gateway to the Bagijnhof - we saw its equivalent in Amsterdam two days ago. Beguines were women who helped the poor and lived good lives, but without actually taking the vows of nuns. This is where they lived.

And amazingly when you walk through to other entrance, reaching the line of the old city walls, you turn right and see ... a windmill! It used be situated on the wall and dates back to 1728. This was a great point to mentally finish the walk. Only finding somewhere for lunch in the town centre and walking back to the station remained.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: about 4 miles.

Rating: five stars.

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