Hanging out with Hals

This morning we took the train to Haarlem to visit the Frans Hals museum. It is breathtakingly easy and efficient to travel by train in this country, and it made me want to hang my head in shame at the state of US train service. Everything here is done virtually or with a credit card, and the resulting ticket is simply scanned as you enter the station and/or again as you leave. We never did clap eyes on a conductor, and we didn’t need to. It took us approximately 30 minutes to buy a ticket, find our platform and sit back as we were whisked along to Haarlem.

I admired these tiles in the Haarlem train station, echoes of an earlier time. The first celebrates the first 100 years of the railroad, and the second is the sign for the first class waiting room. Find out more about this Art Nouveau station here.

It was cold and blustery today, so we huddled down in our coats and hoods and walked along the streets to our destination. We saw some interesting storefronts,

including this inviting cheese shop (with cheese, wine, bread and charcuterie, what else could you need?),

but we didn’t stop.

Finally at the Hals (yes, a nice flower shop owner pointed us in the right direction), we started out with a very well designed film about the man, his times, his subjects and his techniques. He’s well known for his lively group portraits of militia men, whom Hals painted as individuals rather than a dull lot of wealthy men wearing lots of black and looking stern. This museum has the most of these militia paintings, and they’re quite impressive as a group.

We aso saw the Regentesses group portrait, which our History of Western Art lecturer covered in great detail, drawing special attention to their hands and posture.

Of course, his ordinary characters are the most appealing portraits, at least to 21st century eyes. Several of these are at the Rijks, with the Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen being perhaps the best known and most loved.

Also on view was a fancy Poppenhuis, or dollhouse, which was of particular interest to me because one of the beds was covered by a tiny (scale of 1 to 10) palampore, a type of chintz made in India for the export market, including the US, and often quilted. #quiltsareeverywhere

We liked the gently curved back streets of Haarlem

and found our way to a small restaurant that served a most delicious mustard and cream soup (recipes, anyone? here’s one and here’s another one) and assorted small sandwiches, the perfect lunch.

A short stroll took us to St. Bavo,

a former Catholic cathedral turned Reformed Protestant church, with its stunning fan-vaulted ceiling

and enormous organ that was played by Mozart when he was young.

The three model ships hanging from the ceiling recall the country’s shipping history, as does a memorial nearby to hydraulic engineers.

Among the carvings, we appreciated (?) this one showing a man biting a pillar.

Find out what the heck that is all about here.

We also enjoyed the pelican lectern, which as Rick Steves points out was made by someone who had probably never seen a pelican, shaped as it is like an eagle.

The cathedral was so filled with stories and iconography that we could have lingered longer, but instead exited through the gift shop and headed back through the Haarlem streets to the station, which we had no trouble finding!

On the way home, we stopped at Centraal Station to pick up some delicious carrot cake to have with tea at home. Dinner consisted of little pies from the market. So nice to warm up dinner rather than actually cooking…

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