Betcha didn’t know Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland. It is, and it’s charming, too. A pretty perfect Saturday was gifted to The Netherlands this weekend, the kind of morning-afternoon that melds into one long and slow stretch. I was happy to squint at the sun; Autumn is here, I believe.
So, to Dordrecht we went. The intercity train takes you about an hour south of Leiden, jumping over to Den Haag, then through Delft and Rotterdam. The Saturday market was filling the historic district with the caramel-y smell of stroopwafels (i should ship some home, yeah?). Our first stop was het Hof, the square where Prince William of Orange organized the rebellion against King Philip II of Spain, instituted freedom of religion in Holland, and laid the groundwork for Dutch independence – all in 1572. The square itself is centuries older and remains an important part of Dordrecht (and Holland) today.
We spoke with a few locals about what it is like to live in such a historic place (still mind-boggling to me), toured the Dordrecht Museum (a gem), and stumbled upon live chorus concerts in two different open churches. It was a lucky day! The best part, though, was walking out into the wide-open Netherlands air after climbing the Grote Kerk tower. A slightly-tilted and excitingly dark stone spiral staircase takes you to the top of this church in Dordrecht. It was partially renovated after a city fire in the late 1400s and gives you the most uplifting view of the whole town – the winding streets, leaning houses, narrow canals, passing trains, tall sailboats, Oude Maas river. You just smile – the open air just makes you smile.
Little trips like these make for a day that is both jam-packed and serene – somehow, both. I have more countries to visit on my list, but my hope was to also get to know The Netherlands, the place I chose to live in. Each city (each day, really) is like putting a puzzle together. You have some amount of control, but you also just let the country show you what it is like.