"The happiest place on earth"

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Friday, June 16, 2006

I've got to hand it to Deutsche Bahn. I've always dreamt of traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway!
I went to Delft on the 6th of June. Due to usual inertia and laziness, coupled with a train delay, I only reached there at just after half past 11. I'd seen a Domino's from the train and went looking for it, only to find that it only opened at 4.

Canal in Delft

As I walked through the town centre, I heard the Wedding March played on church bells for the first time.


Ice skates

Nieuwe Kerk from square

Stadhuis from square

Stadhuis detail

Inside Nieuwe Kerk
The bells I heard earlier were ringing from here


Stained glass

Stained glass featuring a man. I don't read Latin.

Tomb of William of Orange

Windows. The first features Prince William III, Stadholder and Mary, Queen of England
They're all 20th century (a fire in 1536 and gunpowder explosion in 1654 shattered the old ones) but still nice

William's Effigy


Memorial to William I

The Dutch seem fond of their monarchy - there was a lot of gushing in an exhibition on them.

Beatrix: "In a time of very critical conception the kingship means an additional, heavy burden for a ruling sovereign. It is remarkable how queen Beatrix performs her task with great commitment. Even in the early years after her coronation her demeanour commands great respect. Her zest and know-how deserve admiration. In all fields of society she develops activities and thoroughloy informs herself of what happens in society. She controls the main issues in her government, but, besides, she has a strong sense of detail, which is also apparent from her artistry. These are features which are to e found in her parents, grandparents and other ancestors"

William: "In some years young William of Nassau-Dillenburg develops into the prominent Prince of Orange, whose name stands for all that is smart, courteous and diplomatic in the whole of Western Europe."

The Dutch queens love to abdicate. Wilhelmina abdicated in 1940 for her duaghter Juliana who in turn abdicated in 1980 in favour of her daughter Beatrix.

Entrance to the vault
The vault is closed and isn't for visiting, but as a consolation they erected a map of the vault near its entrance.

Miracles were ascribed to an image of their lady, but unfortunately the item wasn't powerful enough to prevent its destruction. Pity.

The Nieuwe Kerk was built because burning morass (marsh?) gas in the marsh area was taken to be of a divine nature and a sign to build a church to Mary there. I wonder what 'divine signs' will be understoof in the future.

I then climbed the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk. This is the first tower I've climbed with such precarious-looking steps. Instead of concrete or stone, the steps were just pieces of wood rammed into the wall and didn't feel that solid to boot, so I held the railing a bit more tightly:

Room in the middle of the tower

View from the top
It was 109m high. No wonder it was so xiong.

Me at the top

Maria van Jesse kerk

View from the middle

Painting Delft pottery at De Candelaer

These had flaws in firing and so were on reduced. I asked what the flaws were but the woman refused to tell me if I couldn't see them since she said if I knew I'd only see the flaws. The blue angel was €75 and the coloured €75. Shipping would've cost €26 for 0-2kg. There was a 19% discount for shipping to outside the EU, though (VAT).
The coloured stuff was invented at the same time as the blue stuff, but the latter is more famous.


"Hugo Grotius (Huigh De Groot) was a Dutch legal scholar, playwright and poet. As a natural law philosopher, he is generally credited as the originator of "natural morality" and the "social contract" theory of the State. His 1609 book promoted idea that seas should be free for the innocent use and mutual benefit of all -- an idea disputed subsequently disputed by some Mercantilists. Grotius's 1625 treatise is acknowledged as the first in international law. More famously, Grotius argued that "property" was only the outcome of social consent, and thus had nothing "inalienable" in it. This conclusion was disputed by Pufendorf."

"Het wapen van Delft" was very proud of being visited by Clinton.

Outside of Amsterdam, Delft seems the most touristy city I've been to in the Netherlands. I heard voices speaking in American, French and German and the menus were multilingual - one can in 6 languages. The brown plaques on walls with information on places are bilingual (those in Utrecht are only in Dutch). And there was even a shop selling the risque Amsterdam T-shirts.

I then went to the Army museum. There were 2 temporary exhibitions - one called 'Boem' and about 1000 years of gunpowder and another a medieval one for kids. The former was nice because there was a video on sulphur mining and refining (melted in a pot over a fire), which really brought the process to life.

Guns of the type that killed William of Orange, Franz Ferdinand, JFK and Pim Fortuyn

'Boem' was also full of other videos: of buildings being blown up by gunpowder (it was quite weird) and of someone in medieval garb making firework rockets.

The medieval exhibit had nice videos also - one of a tournament melee (fun, but too bad no blood and gore was visible - they should've brought in the makers of Faces of Death VII) and one of a joust; I loved these filmed reenactments, but who pays for them? They must be very expensive, and museums aren't that rich. There were also the usual hands on exhibits - I tried pulling a bow string but failed because so much pressure was needed.

The temporary exhibitions were only in Dutch, but when I entered the 2nd floor of permanent exhibition I found it had English panels.

The gun below is the longest I've ever seen. It's for hunting floating water birds.

Ivory pistols from Maastricht

There was a 5m long iron pike. I've seen long pikes before but I'm not sure if they were 5m. Also, they're usually mounted vertically or diagonally so it's hard to get a sense of their size. This one was mounted almost horizontally, so I could get a better sense of how long it was. Unfortunately it was placed at the side of a sand table (for placing miniatures), and a good view of it was blocked by the sloping glass walls of the sand table.

"Spain my native country, Italy my hopes, the Netherlands mygrace" - Saying among Spanish soldiers, c. 1590

The first and ground floors of the permanent exhibition had no English panels. I felt a bit cheated, but I didn't really have time to look at everything in detail anyway.

When I exited the museum one woman at the counter was helping the other do makeup/eye manicuring. Tsk.

I then went to Prinsenhof, where William of Orange used to live (and was murdered). There were 18 lockers for visitors' use, but only 5 of them were not defective! The ground floor was dedicated to William of Orange and his life.

Model for a statue of William of Orange, Louis Royer, 1847

There was a video which interestingly enough was available in 4 languages and the versions could be toggled between by pressing a button in front of the TV.

William the Silent survived a 1582 assassination attempt and his third wife nursed him back to health. Unfortunately she died in the process. !@#$ He also financed his eventual death - he gave money to his future assassin to buy clothing to go to France, but the guy used the money to buy 2 pistols. The angry Dutch did morbid things to the assassin - they cut out his heart and threw it in his face.

'The horrendous state of the Netherlands', 1627.
This is very funny. The Duke of Alba is on the throne and a devil holds an imperial crown above him. The papal tiara is above Cardinal Granvelle, who is blowing revenge and bloodlust into the Duke's ear with bellows to incite him to religious persecution. In front of the Grote Markt (this scene is in Brussels), Margaret of Palma is fishing the possessions of the condemned out of a poll of blood. In front of the Duke we have shackled Dutch maidens and sacred writing on the ground like torn-up privileges.

The personality cult surrounding William of Orange was annoying. One 1620 painting had an "allegorical representation of the virtues of William of Orange" and the personifications of faith, hope and charity on elephants.

Bullet holes in the wall - 2 of the 3 bullets passed through William of Orange's stomach and into this wall

The first floor of Prinsenhof was a general museum of Delft, which got boring fast. My not leaving the house as early as possible thus didn't really matter. After all, once you've been to the Louvre, little in the Singapore Art Museum will be of interest and nothing will impress. I did pick up one or two things however; for example, when there're individual portraits of a man and his wife, they are painted and arranged so that it looks like the pair is turning to each other in silent union, honouring the divine ideal of marriage.

Apparently still life painting was at the bottom of the ranking order, and paintings with themes from history, the bible of mythology got the most respect.

Walking through the first floor, I entered one where all the panels were in Dutch. They probably figured no one not Dutch would bother going so far into the museum.

Street outside Prinsenhof. The church tower belongs to the Oude Kerk.

Oude Kerk

Smiley Wheelchair

The Oude Kerk wasn't as interesting as the Nieuwe Kerk, but what was noteworthy was that half of the walkable area was made up of gravestones. I hadn't found a church with so many gravestones embedded in the floor since Temple Church in London. If stepping on things (eg Da Vinci Code poster with a painting of the Last Supper in the background in Orchard MRT) is a sign of disrespect, then those who're buried in church floors must be really unlucky.

Main Organ, 1857, Silver
There're 3 organs in the church. Siao.


Pulpit - "the only thing that survived the iconoclasms". One of the "two of the most beautiful [pulpits] in the Netherlands"

I tried looking for the plaque marking Vermeer's grave's presumed location. The pamphlet said it was opposite the pulpit but I only found pews and carpet. Maybe they covered it.


The church had a 9 tonne Bourdon bell which is rarely used since its chime is so powerful that regular use could damage the church.

"For many years the subject of reptiles was practically taboo in the Netherlands. Snakes, lizards and crocodiles were considered to be nasty creatures. Only turtles could boast a moderate popularity" - Book in the Oude Kerk bookshop which I will not name since the salesgirl closed it on me.

Gemeenlandhuis van Delfland, 1505

There was an amaxing 'nightmarketdelft', a convenience store open till midnight 7 days a week, even on public holidays. It's the first 24 hour place I've seen in Europe open for so long. Naturally it was run by 2 immigrants (Indians). When they saw me writing, one of them came out to confront me. Maybe he thought I was a rival copying prices.

I was quite excited to see this in the window of a Delft restaurant which also had menus backgrounded with the Spanish and Italian flags. It's almost impossible to find Dutch food in restaurants, even in the Netherlands (though oddly enough this is not true of British food in the UK).

The menu reads:

- T-bone steak with cold garlic, Oriental sauce or garlic butter
- Enitecdte Entrecote with cold garlic, Oriental sauce or garlic butter
- Rib-eye with baked mushrooms or cold garlic, Oriental sauce or garlic butter
- Veal liver with baked onions
- Lamb cutlets with pepper sauce
- Goulash (?)
- Vienna Schnitzel with peppers' sauce (Wait a minute...)
- Beef steak with Stroganoff sauce (!)
- Tournedo with Stroganoff sauce
- Pork hare (? - I know it's the most expensive cut) with mushroom sauce
- Shasliks with 2 cold sauces
- Chicken fillet with curry-peanut or ginger sauce

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