Our last post covered four weeks of Den Haag explorations and this one tackles several day trips we took while staying there to places outside the city’s boundaries.
Our first trip to Delft was on what turned out to be a windy, rainy market day. We arrived just in time to have a coffee on a patio while listening to a carillon concert and then explored the market area, which fills up the main square with trailers and tents. The long bakery kiosk near the church offered up wonderful breads and pastries for very good prices. It was busy, but worth the short wait. The fish market was busy as lunch approached, with one end focused on deep-fried takeout. We tried traditional kibbling there and it was fantastic. One order (€10) provided plenty for two of us with a mound of fresh fish pieces with a tartar-sauce-like dip. We managed to finish our lunch just as the storm hit. We decided right then to plan a return trip on a non-market day so we could see the square and surrounding buildings and wander the streets and canals.
A few weeks later, we did just that. With much nicer weather than our last visit, we had time to wander the streets and appreciate the town’s offerings.
Though I knew it would be a tourist spectacle, I wanted to visit Gouda (pronounced HOW-da, not GOO-da) on Cheese Market day (Thursdays, 10-12:30, April to September). It was a good choice because the Cheese Market demonstrates an important piece of Gouda’s history of Gouda (and of several other cheese-making towns of the Netherlands). When we arrived, we found pallets of cheese wheels laid out in two rows in front of the Stadhuis (15th-century town hall). A little before starting time, a few horse-and-wagon rigs came around between the rows.
The MC provided some background (in both English and Dutch) and then negotiations began (in Dutch only). I don’t know what was being said, but the accompanying hand slapping and rhythmic patter were fun to watch and hear.
When we had seen enough of the show, we took ourselves on a tour of the rest of the historic center.
Rotterdam and Kinderdijk
We weren’t sure what to expect in Rotterdam, but really enjoyed our day there. It has a very modern feel, which is understandable since most of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport, was almost completely decimated during World War II. Historic buildings are rare, but fascinating architecture is not. We used a few sources to guide us through this fascinating city from the striking train station to the buildings that surround the Binnenrotte (where one event from the World Police and Fire Games entertained and showered the happy onlookers), through the old harbour and out to the river.
We walked to the ferry platform where we caught a ferry to Kinderdijk. The ferry no longer goes direct, but it’s easy to take the ferry to the stop across from Kinderdijk, and then pick up the little ferry that zips you around to the Kinderdijk port. The ferry from Rotterdam can be paid for with your NS OV-chipkaart, you just have to remember to check in and out of each trip.
Kinderdijk is a small village known for its many historic windmills. Nineteen 18th-century windmills, three pumping stations, dikes and reservoirs keep the area from flooding. The long dikes are great for riding along to visit the mills or just for an enjoyable day out. It is free to use the dikes and trails, or you can purchase a ticket at the visitor center to be able to visit some of the windmills and museums. Across the street from the ferry dock, a variety store/bicycle rental shop does a brisk business renting bikes to visitors (you can also bring your own on the ferries).
Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier
We were lucky enough to have a weekend day to do a road trip with our son, Kyle. He booked a car through a car-share network and drove us down to an area that isn’t easily reachable by transit known as The Hook of Holland (Hoek van Holland), about a 40-minute drive south of The Hague. Our main goal was to visit the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier, which had fascinated us since viewing a documentary where it was featured. We had booked a tour (which would allow us to get up close and personal to it) and had enough time beforehand to take a walk on the long pier that juts out into the ocean, De Pier Hoek van Holland.
The Keringhuis Water Information Center was well set up and informative, or at least it was once our English-speaking tour guide walked us through it and pushed all the buttons to activate the demonstrations. All written content is in Dutch and our guide’s English narration provided much-needed context. We were the only people who had booked a tour and our guide was excellent, answering our many questions as he explained the role of the barrier in the area’s flood mitigation and took us outside to allow us to walk under and stand beside the behemoth arms. Flood season is predictable and when we visited the arms were out of the water and undergoing maintenance. They are returned to service in September for a test closure, and then they stand ready to protect South Holland for the high-risk months.
- Delft: Den Haag Centraal to Delft is a 12-16 minute train ride. Cost is €2.70 one way with an OV-chipkaart. Carillon concerts are played every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 11:00 to noon, and on Fridays 7:00-8:00. Market day is Thursday.
- Gouda: Den Haag Centraal to Gouda takes 18-27 minutes and costs €6.30 one way with an OV-chipkaart. The historic Cheese Market is held on Thursday mornings, 10:00 am to 12:30 pm, April through August, except for public holidays.
- Rotterdam: We took different routes and transport systems there and back, but the fare is between €4-6 each way. The two boats to Kinderdijk cost a total of €3.33 each way (oddly, there were different fares on each boat depending on direction, but the overall cost was the same).
- Maislant Storm Surge Barrier: Keringhuis Water Information Center entry is €2.50 for adults; the guided tour is €4.50. Go to the website for more information or to book.