Final days in Europe: Belgium and the Netherlands

Hello once again! We have finally come to the last post of my trip through Europe! Everyone say ‘awwww,’ then say ‘hooray!’ The final week of my trip was split between Belgium and the Netherlands. In the first half, I stayed in a university town called Leuven (don’t ask me why, there was no real logic in the end), and used the last few days of my rail pass to jaunt all over the two countries; on the final day of the pass I took myself over to Brussels for a few days, and finally on the 3rd of August took the very lengthy bus ride up to Edinburgh. Here we goooooo!

Delft

My first Dutch canal
My first Dutch canal
I don’t know what happened to this photo, but I like it. The Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, where large portions of the royal family are buried!
I don’t know what happened to this photo, but I like it. The Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, where large portions of the royal family are buried!
Tomb of Willem the Silent, founder of the Dutch royal House of Orange and instigator of revolt that after 80 years led to the independence of the Netherlands from Spain in 1648
Tomb of Willem the Silent, founder of the Dutch royal House of Orange and instigator of revolt that after 80 years led to the independence of the Netherlands from Spain in 1648

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Defltware - a special kind of Chinese-influenced Dutch pottery only produced in this town
Defltware – a special kind of Chinese-influenced Dutch pottery only produced in this town
Cheese… and more?!?
Cheese… and more?!?
Imperial stained glass in Delft’s other church (wait for it) the OUDE Kerk!
Imperial stained glass in Delft’s other church (wait for it) the OUDE Kerk!
The pretty unostentatious grave of my favourite artist, in the floor of the Oude Kerk
The pretty unostentatious grave of my favourite artist, in the floor of the Oude Kerk

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Bonus: can you guess which photo has been run through Instagram?? 99% of people can’t!
Bonus: can you guess which photo has been run through Instagram?? 99% of people can’t!

The Hague

So it’s been a long-time ambition of mine to visit the International Criminal Court, since learning about it in year 12 politics. I finally got the chance to go there on this day. It was rather a long walk from the train station, but it was fine weather and I was armed with some podcasts and lots of energy, so I remained unperturbed. I was glad to see a group of schoolchildren entering, confirming that it was in fact open to the public. I went straight up to the door. Apparently I’m not the public. But here’s a photo of the outside, before all my hopes and dreams had been shattered.

Curse you, Mondays!
Curse you, Mondays!

Leiden

An historic university town, where Scots had gone to study for hundreds of years when Oxford and Cambridge were the only universities in the British Isles, and after that when there were some Scottish ones but all they taught was theology. The Scots came here for medicine and law, and took that knowledge back, leading to Edinburgh becoming a world leader in medicine over the next few hundred years!

My first Dutch windmill (they’re so uncommon now that they’re all museums) except for that one in Paris!
My first Dutch windmill (they’re so uncommon now that they’re all museums) except for that one in Paris!
Red roads?
Red roads?
Significantly heftier canals
Significantly heftier canals
The site of the house where John Robinson, leader of the group of Puritans who fled from England and emigrated to the USA aboard the Mayflower in 1620, lived from 1609-1625.
The site of the house where John Robinson, leader of the group of Puritans who fled from England and emigrated to the USA aboard the Mayflower in 1620, lived from 1609-1625.

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The Church where John Robinson preached, its lovely courtyard where I sat and read for a while, and this cat who came to make friends.
The Church where John Robinson preached, its lovely courtyard where I sat and read for a while, and this cat who came to make friends.
The school where Rembrandt received his first drawing lessons
The school where Rembrandt received his first drawing lessons

Haarlem

A brief interlude to the town for which the New York neighbourhood is named the following day left me once again dismayed by opening times, on this occasion my inopportune arrival directly between the only two daily tours of the Corrie Ten Boom house, where a group of Jewish people were hidden during the Holocaust (it’s an amazing story, which I read about as a kid). Having no other way to get in, and this being my only chance to go to Amsterdam, I took a photo of the house, had a quick wander round, and then hightailed it out of there once again.

My phone camera does not cope with bright sunlight
My phone camera does not cope with bright sunlight

Amsterdam

The Blues Brothers, rhythm and weed revue
The Blues Brothers, rhythm and weed revue
Children, avert your eyes. This is Amsterdam.
Children, avert your eyes. This is Amsterdam.
Casual abandoned gatehouse right in the middle of the city
Casual abandoned gatehouse right in the middle of the city

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On the left, some awful architecture from the 60s and 70s  - Amsterdam got off pretty lightly from WWII bombing, but this particular district had a very high Jewish population so it was completely levelled. If you can believe it, this was reconstructed in its place after the war to fit in with the carefully preserved tone of the neighbourhood. Just with more garish colours and plate glass. Oh, and they also had plans, upon the ‘great success’ of this building project, to demolish many other houses and build freeways and wide boulevards through the city. While this worked for Paris, I’m very glad they didn’t do it to Amsterdam!
On the left, some awful architecture from the 60s and 70s – Amsterdam got off pretty lightly from WWII bombing, but this particular district had a very high Jewish population so it was completely levelled. If you can believe it, this was reconstructed in its place after the war to fit in with the carefully preserved tone of the neighbourhood. Just with more garish colours and plate glass. Oh, and they also had plans, upon the ‘great success’ of this building project, to demolish many other houses and build freeways and wide boulevards through the city. While this worked for Paris, I’m very glad they didn’t do it to Amsterdam!
In the centre - the world’s narrowest canal house, just 1.8m wide. The idea of these houses was to minimise frontage and avoid a frontage tax. They’re usually two rooms on each floor, and since it was impossible to get furniture in up the stairs, they are all built with big windows, a slight lean forwards and a stout hook protruding from the top floor so that everything could be hoisted from the outside!
In the centre – the world’s narrowest canal house, just 1.8m wide. The idea of these houses was to minimise frontage and avoid a frontage tax. They’re usually two rooms on each floor, and since it was impossible to get furniture in up the stairs, they are all built with big windows, a slight lean forwards and a stout hook protruding from the top floor so that everything could be hoisted from the outside!
Zaanse Schaans - a park much like St. Fagans, where historic mills and houses have been transplanted and restored, with people working in them in traditional ways. The mills, for example, were all processing different things, from flour to dyestuffs.
Zaanse Schaans – a park much like St. Fagans, where historic mills and houses have been transplanted and restored, with people working in them in traditional ways. The mills, for example, were all processing different things, from flour to dyestuffs.
Wild rocket? Or just a filthy weed? Not going to eat it to find out.
Wild rocket? Or just a filthy weed? Not going to eat it to find out.

Leuven

On my penultimate day of train ticketiness, I first took a stroll around the town that I was staying in. There are a number of things I was (as usual) pretty bewildered by. Enjoy!

Bit more eclectic, but I like it!
Bit more eclectic, but I like it!
Terrifying
Terrifying
A new form of art?
A new form of art?
This is what I’m talking about. Love that Dutchiness
This is what I’m talking about. Love that Dutchiness
Yes, that is a scarab atop a mighty needle in the middle of the town square
Yes, that is a scarab atop a mighty needle in the middle of the town square
The university hall - destroyed by war and rebuilt by worldwide donation!
The university hall – destroyed by war and rebuilt by worldwide donation!
This is a record shop that never opens - just a shopfront museum that the owner has set up as a shrine to rock’n'roll
This is a record shop that never opens – just a shopfront museum that the owner has set up as a shrine to rock’n’roll

Antwerp

…Until I realised that I could probably go around the city I was literally in later, after everything was closed everywhere else, so instead I hopped on a train out to Antwerp. I’d been travelling through this city on the way to everything else, so I had seen the splendour of the train station, and was keep to scope out the rest. Antwerp (or Anvers, or Antwerpen) is best known as the diamond capital of the world (80% of the world’s rough diamonds come through it), the third-largest port in the world, and the cradle of my favourite art style, Dutch Golden Age. Excellent. Also, a whole lot of things were free on the last Wednesday of the month, which is what this was!

Could this be fancier?
Could this be fancier?
There is something super badass about Dutch.
There is something super badass about Dutch.
A synagogue sandwiched between two giant diamond exchanges - the diamond trade, though now a bit more cosmopolitan, was traditionally a Jewish enterprise in Antwerp
A synagogue sandwiched between two giant diamond exchanges – the diamond trade, though now a bit more cosmopolitan, was traditionally a Jewish enterprise in Antwerp
The whole four-block diamond district has been pedestrianised and is guarded at every entrance
The whole four-block diamond district has been pedestrianised and is guarded at every entrance
A functional workshop in a diamond showroom that will give you a free personal tour through their museum!
A functional workshop in a diamond showroom that will give you a free personal tour through their museum!

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The fanciness of the Rubenshuis museum, where Peter Paul Rubens lived and where many of his paintings and those of his collection, his influences and his students are displayed.
The fanciness of the Rubenshuis museum, where Peter Paul Rubens lived and where many of his paintings and those of his collection, his influences and his students are displayed.
Everyone should do this with their electrical boxes
Everyone should do this with their electrical boxes
Another historical house, the Mayer van de Bergh gallery, which houses the best of this 19th-century collector’s collection, from paintings to etchings to carvings to historical artefacts and documents. Also well worth a look.
Another historical house, the Mayer van de Bergh gallery, which houses the best of this 19th-century collector’s collection, from paintings to etchings to carvings to historical artefacts and documents. Also well worth a look.
Antwerp Castle - not very strategic, now a theme restaurant
Antwerp Castle – not very strategic, now a theme restaurant
The splendour of 16th-century guildhalls, the headquarters of the groups that ran the city (and indeed, most of the country) throughout history
The splendour of 16th-century guildhalls, the headquarters of the groups that ran the city (and indeed, most of the country) throughout history
So many spikes
So many spikes
Try saying this ten times fast
Try saying this ten times fast

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And finally, a return to Leuven for some art deco towers and some Belgian frites with Flemish stouflveesaus
And finally, a return to Leuven for some art deco towers and some Belgian frites with Flemish stouflveesaus

Bruges

Cliché and very busy, but genuinely pretty good.

The towering mound and moat defences of Bruges, now a park with a moderately interesting tower in it
The towering mound and moat defences of Bruges, now a park with a moderately interesting tower in it
Using my Use-It guide to go off the map to areas where none of the tourists go - a bit eerie!
Using my Use-It guide to go off the map to areas where none of the tourists go – a bit eerie!
Houses sitting in the canal?
Houses sitting in the canal?
Guess the oldest house in the street! That brown and black one? False! It was built in the 70s
Guess the oldest house in the street! That brown and black one? False! It was built in the 70s
Back in the busy area, with Bruges’ market
Back in the busy area, with Bruges’ market
My first Belgian waffle - there are actually three kinds!
My first Belgian waffle – there are actually three kinds!
Some crazy windows.
Some crazy windows.
Part of a contemporary sculpture series within the above church about themes in the Bible: “In the bible a large place is given to the poor, the small, the sick, the disabled, widows and orphans. In this art piece, could the survival blanket evoke a mass of gold from the living God?"
Part of a contemporary sculpture series within the above church about themes in the Bible: “In the bible a large place is given to the poor, the small, the sick, the disabled, widows and orphans. In this art piece, could the survival blanket evoke a mass of gold from the living God?”

Ghent

Ghent has been recommended as the thinking man’s alternative to Bruges – equally historical but far less touristy, and with a lot of students. Always a good recipe.

Instagram again. Here’s some of the fancy historical and the fancy modern that characterises Ghent
Instagram again. Here’s some of the fancy historical and the fancy modern that characterises Ghent
Legal graffiti lane
Legal graffiti lane
An enormous red cannon left by the Portuguese, and a local meeting place (a la the Flinders Street clocks)
An enormous red cannon left by the Portuguese, and a local meeting place (a la the Flinders Street clocks)

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The formidably named Gravensteen Castle, also not very strategic, though it does have a moat
The formidably named Gravensteen Castle, also not very strategic, though it does have a moat

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Gent’s answer to the Bruges marketplace
Gent’s answer to the Bruges marketplace
Now THAT is how you advertise for a movie
Now THAT is how you advertise for a movie

Brussels

Now, finally, my train pass, two months long, had come to an end. I took a train to Brussels and spent my last two days in Europe there.

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Brussels town hall and guildhalls in the Grand-Place (a favourite place for youths to hang out and get smashed at night, since drinking on the street is legal)
Brussels town hall and guildhalls in the Grand-Place (a favourite place for youths to hang out and get smashed at night, since drinking on the street is legal)
Tintin mural!
Tintin mural!
The Manneken Pis - famed for various stories where a small boy saved the army/the city/the country by pissing on something, and regularly stolen
The Manneken Pis – famed for various stories where a small boy saved the army/the city/the country by pissing on something, and regularly stolen
A mural from another Belgian cartoon - this mural was altered to look more like a straight couple (still pretty androgynous) but not before the gay community in the 60s took it as positive reinforcement and made this area their party centre. Still is!
A mural from another Belgian cartoon – this mural was altered to look more like a straight couple (still pretty androgynous) but not before the gay community in the 60s took it as positive reinforcement and made this area their party centre. Still is!
Brussels Royal Palace - not enough for the king though, he moved out a while back and built a new one farther away
Brussels Royal Palace – not enough for the king though, he moved out a while back and built a new one farther away
Tesla cars!
Tesla cars!
Visiting the EU - this is the Rue de Luxembourg!
Visiting the EU – this is the Rue de Luxembourg!
The European Commission
The European Commission
In the European Union Experience: signs to every EU capital
In the European Union Experience: signs to every EU capital
A sample assembly room with simulated debates and votes
A sample assembly room with simulated debates and votes
An explanation that not all the EU is in Brussels - there is stuff in Strasbourg and in Luxembourg as well!
An explanation that not all the EU is in Brussels – there is stuff in Strasbourg and in Luxembourg as well!
A temporary exhibition from the very touching and engaging Museum of Broken Relationships, where people have donated things that were part of a relationship for them, and told the sad story about how they began and ended. Beautiful. The real museum, when it moves away from here, is in Zaghreb, Croatia.
A temporary exhibition from the very touching and engaging Museum of Broken Relationships, where people have donated things that were part of a relationship for them, and told the sad story about how they began and ended. Beautiful. The real museum, when it moves away from here, is in Zaghreb, Croatia.
A sign that people in Oz won’t want me to read! Still could happen - the sign refers to an exchange student from Australia who met someone at the start of December and had to leave at the end :P
A sign that people in Oz won’t want me to read! Still could happen – the sign refers to an exchange student from Australia who met someone at the start of December and had to leave at the end 😛
Bonus: my delicious breakfast at the hostel
Bonus: my delicious breakfast at the hostel
THIS IS THE END
THIS IS THE END

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