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In Delft tweaking a Tauck tour, continued…

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 1/8/2014
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Art Travel, Europe, River Cruise

I recently wrote about a visit to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where I joined a Tauck crew working out changes to our Belgium & Holland in Springriver cruise itinerary. In the year ahead, guests will have the option of going on an excursion to the town of Delft for an experience of Dutch life outside the big cities. Here’s why Delft is worth seeing.   

old town delft

Heading northwest from Rotterdam by coach, our next stop was Delft – a flourishing city of arts, crafts and science as early as 1602, when the Dutch East India Company opened an “office” here, introducing spices, coffee, tea and Chinese porcelain.

Scan ahead some fifty years later and you’d find 21-year-old Johannes Vermeer being accepted into the Delft painters’ guild, made exceptional because he had never apprenticed with a senior member. Vermeer spent his entire life in Delft (43 years), leaving behind fewer than 40 paintings in total. But what paintings they are!

vermeerKurt Anderson, writing for Vanity Fair, describes them as “masterful, singular, uncannily realistic pictures of light-filled rooms...” You’ll find a brief, watchable YouTube overview of his works by searching "Johannes Vermeer: A Master".

Typically Dutch, Delft’s center is lined with canals and historic buildings but void of car traffic, makes it a pleasure to walk. As you do, it’s as easy to imagine the intimate scenes captured by Vermeer on canvas, as it is to get a sense of modern-day Dutch life.

Delft’s central square is bounded on either end by its 17th-century City Hall and the 14th-century Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), where nearly every member of the Dutch monarchy has been laid to rest – from Prince Willem I (assassinated in 1584) to Queen Juliana, a beloved national figure who died in 1980. But if royal history is not your thing, there are plenty of inviting shops to browse and outdoor cafés to enjoy along the square.

Delft is a living, breathing town, where locals and visitors shop side by side for delicious cheeses, fruits and breads – and flowers, electronic gadgets and more. Pubs and terrace cafés invite stopping in for a freshly brewed kopje koffie (cup of coffee), but ordering in English is never an issue.

delft porcelainJust outside the historic center lies De Porceleyne Fles, in operation since 1653. This is the last remaining Delftware factory dating back to the 17th century, a time when Delftware – whose classic blue and white were inspired by those of imported Chinese porcelain – was a favorite way of showing off one’s wealth.

On a visit to the Royal Delft factory, you’ll learn about its history and production and then enjoy a prime collection of Dutch earthenware – along with Dutch two modern-day Dutch favorites, coffee and apple tart.  

Next stop: Zeeland, meaning “sea land” – where large parts of this Netherlands’ province are below sea level and the last great flooding took place in 1953.

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