Please also read Penny Sandford’s comment on the Christian Müller organ. My post contains some factual errors; and Sandford, being a guide in the St Bavo church Haarlem, has kindly corrected my observations.
A distinctive feature of the Netherlands must be its bikes. In fact, bikers seem to rule the streets and sidewalks. Some sidewalks have huge biking lanes which take up three quarters of the path. Pedestrians are confined to a small sliver of concrete:
Every once and a while, we will be surprised by the sound of a bell behind us, as we are inadvertently walking on the part of the path belonging to bikers. It would be nice if we too could ride bikes. However, I am unable to ride them as I am very bad at balancing.
There were also a number of streets featuring Chinese signs. This Chinese area seems to be intertwined with the red light district. I am always amazed by the spread of Chinese culture (especially food) throughout the world:
In Haarlem, we went to Grote Kerk van St Bavo. The church was painted by Pieter Jansz Saenredam in his painting titled “Interior of the Church of St. Bavo in Haarlem”, which we saw in Rijksmuseum yesterday:
Seeing the church itself allowed us to compare the painter’s vision with the real thing. From the picture I took below, it seems that the painter may have manipulated the space a bit to highlight the magnificence of the “Christian Müller orgel“. But we felt that the colours and the contrasts between light and dark in the painting were very close to reality:
According to the museum, the painter had wished to emphasize the grandeur of the pipe organ. Having seen the real object, I can see why he was so impressed with the musical instrument. The Müller organ is considered to be among the most impressive of such organs in the world. The church guide says that “In 1766 Mozart, who was 10 years old at that time, played the Christian Müller organ. Händel played this organ too. The organ counts 5068 pipes and is almost 30 metres high.” When we arrived in the church, the organ was being played and the sound was very heavenly:
While in St. Bavo, I was struck by the contrast between it and Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury Cathedral was much darker and more ornate; its design a little oppressive. The Dutch church, on the other hand, had a very open and light feel to it. There were huge stained glass windows which allowed a lot of light. The light reflected off the white walls to make the whole church feel welcoming and airy. To me, the Dutch design was much better for bringing people closer to God. To be honest, I was moved to tears by the atmosphere.
For lunch, we first had a coffee near a lovely canal:
During this time, a nearby bridge turned to allow a number of boats that had lined up to pass. The accumulating bikers on both sides of the road waited patiently, although had they biked about 200 meters down the canal they could have crossed at a different bridge.
After the coffee, we visited Grote market in the city centre. We tried some local snacks such as patat with curry sauce and the famous raw haring; the fish was very yummy indeed. For me, the curry sauce was reminiscent of the sauce HongKongers put on fish balls (I miss HongKong-style fish balls!):
Tomorrow, we will leave Amsterdam for Middelburg.