Monday, October 12, 2009

Holland: Day 6

Until Thursday, Sept. 10, I never knew that the nation of Holland was born in a little city called Dordrecht, bordered by five rivers. Dordrecht is, I discovered, not only the oldest city in Holland, but also a charming place with sailboats in the canals, lovely shopping streets, and plenty of historical landmarks.

My uncle C and aunt L took me and my mom to Dordrecht as a day trip. First, we visited the local Tourist Bureau, known as the VVV in Holland. It was a very nice building with lots of information on the historical significance of the area. Then, we ate lunch at La Place, a department store eatery that usually has good lunches. After that, my uncle led us on a tour of the city, pointing out landmarks and incredibly old houses dating back to the 1600s.

We then took a wonderful "whisperboat" (fluisterboot) — so named because the boat is very quiet — tour down the canals of Dordrecht.

We saw picturesque scenes of boats decorated with Dutch flags.

A fireboat is docked along a Dordrecht canal.

Wouldn't it be nice to live along a pretty canal like this one?

The tour we took included replications of Dutch artworks along the canal walls.

A Dordrecht resident displays a Michelle Obama sign in his or her window. (It's always interesting to see items from where I live (the U.S.) in other countries—like the time I saw a man in Brisbane, Australia, wearing a Barack Obama shirt.)

Dordrecht's City Hall ("Stadhuis") is a beautiful building visible from below as one sails underneath it on a canal boat.

After the boat tour we walked around the city some more and stopped in a little chocolate shop called Oh La La, in which one of the two men working there placed fresh, handmade bonbons into boxes while a machine along the back wall mixed a truly yummy-looking batch of liquid chocolate. The shop was small and smelled wonderfully like cocoa. We bought some chocolate-covered nougat and a couple of bars of berry-and-nut-filled chocolate, which tasted as if it had been made by hand only hours before. It was probably the best chocolate I have ever eaten in my life.

We also stopped in to see a couple of art exhibits and an exhibit about Calvinism, a religion that greatly influenced Dutch culture centuries ago.

The weather cooperated with us that day, lending us sunshine and enough breeze to keep us cool. Dordrecht was a pleasant place to spend a Thursday, and I hope I'm able to go back one day and see the rest of the sights and museums that we didn't have time for on this trip. As the city where Holland first declared itself an independent nation in the 1500s, it has a lot of history to share. Imagine a city where people are still living in houses that are 400 or 500 years old. Amazing.