On August 16 we drove Paulien’s car to Gouda and Delft. (Paulien had earlier left the car with us when she returned by train to Amsterdam.)
Gouda is of course known for its namesake cheese, and to a lesser extent, its seasonal cheese market, regularly held on the medieval Markt square. Anchoring the square is the 15th-century Town Hall, a Gothic building with red and white shutters.
We also visited the Sint Janskerk, a large Gothic church, known especially for its stained glass windows, for which it has been placed on the UNESCO list of Dutch monuments.
And of course we did some walking through the streets, visiting cheese shops and admiring the boats along the canals.
In Delft we visited the factory where the famous blue and white pottery is made. Not surprisingly, it is called Delft pottery, or Delft Blue.
We also did some street walking in Delft, including the vicinity of the expansive Delft Market Square, bounded on one side by the City Hall and on the other by the Nieuwe Kerk, a Protestant Church where William of Orange, leader of a 16th century resistance against Spanish occupation, is buried.
After Gouda and Delft, we took Paulien’s car back to The Hague. Then we took a bus to Brussels, Belgium.
Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions (the other administrative centres are Luxembourg and Strasbourg). We spent some time in their large building housing displays explaining the mission and functioning of the European Union.
And we visited The Royal Palace of Brussels, the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of the nation’s capital. However it is not used as a royal residence, as the king and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels.
As we traversed the city, we noted in the distance a strange structure. The Atomium is a building in Brussels originally constructed for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It stands 102 m (335 ft) tall. Its nine 18 m (60 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It is now a museum.
Tubes of 3 m (10 ft) diameter connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose stairs, escalators and a lift (in the central, vertical tube) to allow access to the five habitable spheres which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere includes a restaurant which has a panoramic view of Brussels. In 2013 CNN named it Europe’s most bizarre building. Upon approaching the structure we learned of its rather steep admission fee, so we contented ourselves with admiration of its exterior.
Once again we walked the streets, finding the famous Manneken Pis. Designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder, Manneken Pis has been happily peeing in Brussels for more than 400 years. His name translates to “Little Man Pee” in Marols, a Dutch dialect spoken in Brussels. The little lad is usually naked, but he was inexplicably clothed in academic garb on the day we visited. Soon after, in a nearby shop, Barb indulged in a Belgian waffle topped with whipped cream and strawberries.
And of course we could not spend time in Brussels without partaking of mussels.
We only scratched the surface of Brussels, but it was time to move on. Specifically, we took a train back to Amsterdam, where we caught an airline to Kristiansand, Norway, via Oslo. But our Norway visit is another topic for another post. See you there?