Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Holland: for Pot and Hookers

A Delftware Pot

Dutch hookers

I wonder if I'm the first person to take the Friday midnight ferry to the Netherlands, who didn't come home on Sunday with bloodshot eyes and a venereal disease? Anyway, Delft is famous for 2 reasons: It was the home of Johannes Vermeer and it was (and is) the source of the Delftware pottery, with its distinctive blue on white colouring. It's also known for a massive explosion in 1654 that levelled a quarter of the town, but since it didn't explode while I was there I focused on the first 2.

First, I went to the Vemeer Centrum in Delft. The Dutch Master only painted between 40 and 60 paintings in his life, and only 35 of those are known now. He left no written records so knowledge of his life is very limited. His work was locally appreciated in his lifetime, but because he painted so slowly, his large family was left in debt when he died. One of his paintings was given to the local baker to settle the family's bread debt.

The Centrum isn't bad - it has reproductions of all his works. But it seems a little lacking in detail. I guess that's a sign of the lack of overall knowledge about Vermeer. One interesting snippet was that he stayed in the town while most artists drifted away. The Centrum charts the decline in the number of local taverns beside the decline in the number of artists.

I then did the Royal Delft Pottery tour. Over the last 400 years, there were a number of factories, but there's only one left now. The pottery is still handpainted by experts who spend years learning their trade.

Delftware Plates

They used to make decorative tiles as well as pottery, so the factory had layouts of various tile patterns to act as an inspiration to clients and decorators.

Even the toilet at the factory was decorated. It was so pretty, I felt compelled to pee in the sink.

When I first walked into Delft from the campground, I went past a tall apartment building. On top of it was a large nest. Something big was periodically flapping about in it. I suspect it was a stork.

Stork's Nest

So, that was my first day in Delft.

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