Imagine a tiny Amsterdam, but with smaller canals, narrower bridges, and fewer people, and you have the essence of Delft.
First established in 1246, the name Delft is typically associated with Delft Blue Porcelain, the local work inspired by Chinese Porcelain brought to the area by Dutch East India (Tea) Company about 400 years ago. Art history majors, on the other hand, will wax poetic about Delft being the home to Johannes Vermeer and the setting for some of his best paintings. I’m here to tell you that the real story about Delft lies in its “think tank” attitude — two universities specializing in civil engineering and IT along with several world class research companies working on applied hydraulics call Delft home. Overall, I found the vibe to be one of historic significance peppered with a laid back college town attitude. My favorite!
Be warned, however. Parking (see above), like most of Holland, is particularly challenging since getting into a spot on these incredibly narrow streets sometimes means the driver has to exit from the passenger side of the car lest he tumble out his own door and into the drink.
Did someone say drink? Exhausted and famished from our vrijmarkt shopping escapade we head over to the Historic Town Centre (that’s a fancy way to say, ‘center’) and duck behind the Plexiglas wind break of a delightful outdoor café. That is one thing I enjoy about Europe in general — all of the outdoor cafés. Fresh air, sunshine, good friends, people watching and so much more. (Deep sigh)
This particular town square looks like page out of a history book, or, for you youngsters out there, Wikipedia. From our vantage point we could gaze wondrously at the many stone buildings dating back centuries, this one 1487 that one 1642, the architecture sublime. There were churches and monasteries, along with monuments and finely restored homes too.
Rested and fed, we wander around old town marveling at the sights: house boats lining the canals seemingly permanent in their berth, the leaning bell tower of an old church, a family of ducks living happily in the waterway, nest made of flotsam. Yes, the red brick streets meandered on for miles, but alas, it was time to return home for tomorrow is yet another day.
Next up: Panorama Mesdag, a museum with one (1) painting.
TRAVEL FACT: Sad to say, virtually nothing is left standing that Vermeer immortalized in his View of Delft—once proclaimed “the most beautiful painting in the world” by Marcel Proust—other than the soaring Gothic spire of the town’s Oude Kerk.