Saturday, October 24, 2009

HAARLEM: A Rainy Day in Holland

Another rainy day in Holland made it another great day for indoor activities.

Early on the Saturday morning of my recent trip to Amsterdam, I took a side trip to Haarlem -- a €7 round-trip (second class) that took 15 minutes on the "sneltrein" or "fast train." The town square is about 1/2 kilometer from the Haarlem central station, which is an easy walk.

Before I arrived at the town square, I passed the home of Corrie ten Boom, which is above Ten Boom Juweliers located at Barteljorisstraat 19.

Ten Boom was a young Christian woman who, during World War II, was part of the Dutch Resistance and would hide or help relocate Jews who were suffering or likely to suffer persecution at the hands of the Nazis.

The house, which has been turned into a museum, is really quite remarkable. Unlike the Anne Frank house, visitors enjoy a tour guided by a docent, which can make it more interesting than a self-guided tour.

The guide spoke frankly about the ten Boom family's faith, the issues they encountered, their losses, and the help they were able to provide to their neighbors who were in danger of or were already being persecuted.

Although ten Boom and members of her family were eventually arrested and spent time in a concentration camp, it's less grim than the Anne Frank house in many ways, but no less interesting.

While Anne Frank died as a teenager, essentially bringing her story to a close, Corrie ten Boom survived, wrote about her experiences and, until dying a natural death at the age of 91, traveled the world speaking of her experiences.

After the tour, a walk to the town square was in order -- and proved quite enlightening when I realized the Gestapo had taken over the City Hall, which was only a few minutes' stroll from the ten Boom house.

Others I've spoken to were right; Haarlem seems more authentically Dutch than Amsterdam, which is charming city, but a big city nonetheless.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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