The New York Times, May 9, 1880, p.1:|
THE DUTCH AND THEIR LAND.HOLLAND THROUGH A TELESCOPE.
IN UTRECHT'S CATHEDRAL TOWER--
THE WHOLE COUNTRY AT A GLANCE--
THE INSPIRATIONS OF DUTCH ARTISTS--
CLEVES AND ITS BATHS.
UTRECHT, April 23--A calm, Spring day; the air soft and balmy as June. We are standing upon the platform of the cathedral tower of Utrecht. Above us play the silver chimes; higher still, in effigy, sits St. Martin on his horse, forming the weather-cock.
He may have sat so 800 years ago, for the church was finished in 1015. It is certain that the sculptured saint was there 200 years back, and rode through one of the fiercest storms that ever swept over Holland. The nave of Utrecht Cathedral fell in during that historic hurricane, Aug. 1, 1674. It was never restored. Therefore the tower stands alone, a wide, open, unoccupied space still separating it from the remainder of the church.
We have climbed 333 steps to reach the spot, from whence we gaze upon the splendid Gothic remnant of the famous cathedral.
Utrecht, the capital of the Dutch Province of that name, with its 60,000 inhabitants, is at my feet. The people moving here and there are pigmies in appearance. They are the representatives of men who were giants of intellect and courage.
Utrecht itself, under this clear Spring sky, is a city of Old-World houses, with red pointed roofs, not the dull color of a New England town, but a bright, rich, red, relieved here and there with a blue-slated Gothic gable.
There are gardens planned like geometric puzzles, variegated with patches of tulips, "a blaze of glory." Cherry trees in full blossom give you contrasts of pure white flowers.
A long, sparkling gleam of water cuts off one side of the town from the other. It is a bit of the old Rhine, now a canal crossed by many bridges. On its banks there are willows that droop to the margin of the silent highway. Also, there are houses that have their doors opening upon the water, as in Venice, with low arches that give out black shadows.
Moored by them are two flat bulky barges. One has a gilded prow that shines and burns in the sun. Look beyond that gilded barge on the other side of the bank! You will see a gray, grim tower, from which clumps of ivy are hanging in green luxuriance.
That is a relic of the Romans. They were here before Christ was born in Bethlehem. Many remains testify to the occupation of the site upon which these red houses below us are built.
Motley will tell you how the Vreeburg, from which the square on our left takes its name, was destroyed in the name of independence 300 years ago. It was in this city that the celebrated Peace of Utrecht, which terminated the Spanish war of succession, was concluded, April 11, 1713.
In the vaults beneath the church we are looking down upon are the hearts of the German Emperors Conrad II. and Henry V., who died here. To the east of the tower upon which we are standing still stands the house where Pope Adrian VI. was born in 1459, and close by is the famous Maliebaan, a triple avenue of lime trees, which Louis IV. commanded his armies to spare when they raided this locality.
The trees in Holland offer a perpetual topic of wonder to the stranger. There are miles and miles of green avenues in all directions. Most of the roads are planted, and nearly every road in Holland is of great length, stretching away over vast flats and appearing in each picture to end in a leafy cul-de-sac, though this is only an optical illusion.
One is hardly in a position to realize the beauties of the great Dutch painters until one has seen the ocuntry itself, the characteristics of which are so exquisitely idealized by the Dutch artists, who have done as much as the Dutch sailors and soldiers of the past to make Holland famous.
I wonder if those heroic men who have found a modern Homer in Motley allowed their women to till the soil and carry burdens. It is one of the painful sights of modern Holland and civilized Germany to see women carrying loads on their heads and shoulders while their husbands look on with pipes in their mouths; and it is nearly as sad a thing to meet on every highway dogs harnessed to carts and doing the work of horses and donkeys.
But Europe is full of strange anomalies, and Holland has the one great virtue that is next to godliness so fully developed that we can afford to make allowances for her failings. The houses of the Dutch are the cleanest in the world.
The old English city of Durham has been likened unto a gentleman who has been in a coal mine, and, coming back again, has forgotten to wash his face. Holland is a sturdy, broad shouldered fellow, who is always washing his face and cleaning his boots.
There is no exception anywhere in Holland to this universal cleanliness. Every day is washing day in Dutchland, without, however, the smell of soap-suds in the houses. The linen is scoured and bleached out of doors; and the saying that a place is so clean that you might eat off the floor is literally applicable to Holland.
And what artistic color there is in the dear sleepy old cities! Brown sails on the canals, green railings before the doors, shutters of blue and brown and green, old glass, quaint steps, bulging windows, women in russet gowns and quaint white head-dresses, men in jack-boots, and children with worsted caps; you can see in the people of to-day the men and women of the genre painters, the women and children of De Hooch in the houses of De Hooch, the Dutch models of Ostade and Teniers, and the splendid "effects" of Rembrandt. Truly a wonderful country, less changed, I should imagine, than any the sun looks down upon in this nineteenth century!
While I am making these note the sacristan brings me a telescope, for the use of which I pay him 15 cents, the charge fixed by his ecclesiastical superiors. My Baedeker's Guide, which, like its French rival, Le Guide Conty, only gives me bare tantilizing facts, simply informs me that from this platform through a telescope I can see "almost the whole of Holland, and part of Guelders and N. Brabant."
The sacristan is a polite and obliging person, and with his telescope and the aid of his experience I am enabled to pick out the chief landmarks of this wonderful "northwestern corner of the vast plain which extends from the German Ocean to the Ural Mountains, occupied by the countries called the Netherlands," to quote the first lines of the best historical work of this century, The Rise of the Dutch Republic by John Lothrop Motley.
To be great and powerful a nation need not occupy a vast territory. Russia, with its unwieldy empire, is a dwarf in history compared with Holland, nearly all of whose land and water can be seen through a telescope from the cathedral tower of Utrecht. It is not to be wondered that England feels a tremor of anxious sympathy witht the Dutch as often as there comes about a rumor of the desire of Germany to annex the land of the Hollanders, which is one of the links in the chain of human progress and liberty forged in the glorious revolutions which maintained the right in Holland, Zealand, England, and the United States of America during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. And you may literally see nearly all this remarkable country of Holland through a telescope, standing on the tower of Utrecht Cathedral.
The reader should not forget this the next time he finds himself in Europe. You can take a ticket from London to Harwich at 7 in the evening, step on board a steamer at 9, and be at Utrecht the following day. In the meantime take up your map of Holland, find Utrecht, draw an imaginary circle with a radius of about 30 miles from the centre, and follow the sacristan's telescope.
Yonder, away toward the south, is Hertogenbösch, the fortified capital of Brabant, with 25,000 inhabitants. It is situated on teh Dommel, the Aa, and the Zuid-Willems Canal, and its railway across the River Maas, whose brown sails and broad Dutch beams have given inspiration to many an artist. At almost every exhibition in London you will find reminisences of the Maas.
Cast your eyes eastwardly, and you will see the towers of Rotterdam, a city in some parts more artistic than Venice itself. Intersected with canals, Rotterdam has many points of view that suggest the Italian city of the sea. The water-ways are so deep that vessels of heavy tonnage discharge their cargoes in the very heart of the quaint, busy old town. Opposite the quarter called the Boompjes (concerning which look up your William Makepeace Thackeray,) fleets of steamers are continually plying to and from the local towns, and to England, the Rhine, France, Russia, and the Mediterranean. If one might judge the wealth of Holland by Rotterdam, the Dutchman hereabout is a far more prosperous person than most of his neighbors in Germany. It may be that these descendents of the Dutch Republic are chiefly indebted for their wealth to their colonies; for in the streets of Rotterdam &c. they are all the time unloading coffee, tobacco, sugar, rice.
The splendid quay of the Boompjes, which takes its name from the trees that adorn it, extends for a mile along the bank of the Maas, a stretch of fine houses, stores, and offices that recall bits of Old World quays in England, such as the Welsh Back, at Bristol, and also remind you somewhat of the Norman part of Havre; though Boompjes is infinitely more striking and picturesque than either, and is as clean as the most aristocratic street in the city or suburbs.
In the Groote Market there is a statute to the illustrious Erasmus, who was born close by in a house which is now used as a tavern. Another memorial here is a handsome fountain, erected in 1874, in honor of the three hundredth anniversary of Dutch independence.
If you are thirsty when you visit Rotterdam, you will find too many opportunities of drinking. Should you be wise, you will confine yourself to beer, or to aerated waters, modified with schnaps. The beer is not as good as that which you drink at home, and your bourbon whiskey is better than the coarse ginèvre of the Dutch tavern.
Further east we turn the sacristan's telescope, dwelling for a moment on endless avenues of trees and long flashes of water that intersect each other upon vast green praries, and focus it upon the little town of Oudewater, which is known to theologians as the birth-place of Arminius, the founder of the sect called Remonstrants. In the Stadhuis, or Town Hall, is the famous picture by Dirk Stoop, recording, in vigorous color and composition, the brutal excesses committed at Oudewater by the conquering Spaniards in 1575.
Another turn of the telescope, and we bring within our ken the commercial capital of Holland, on the Zuyder Zee. It has a population of 286,932, of whom 63,000 are Roman Catholics, 28,000 Germans, and 3,200 Portuguese Jews. They live in 30,000 houses, which are literally built on 90 islands, connected by 300 bridges. When Erasmus of Rotterdam said he knew a city whose inhabitants dwelt on the tops of trees like crows, he referred to Amsterdam, which is built on foundations of timber-piles. Beneath the loose upper soil there is a sandy bottom, which you must reach by driving piles to secure a safe foundation. It costs several thousand florins a day to keep the city free from the dangers of hourly inundation.
Here is the central point of the national system of fortification, a special feature of which is the power of putting all the environs under water. There is also a series of detached forts, and the Dutch would no doubt make a splendid defense if attacked.
The daily life of Holland is a daily defense against the sea. The Dutch carry on a perpetual campaign with the ocean for their enemy and also their ally. It is the lowest country in Christiandom, in the world perhaps. Most of the land is reclaimed, rescued from the sea, and looking at the dikes, and locks, and bulwarks that oppose or control the waters, it would seem as if the town, city, and village were subjected to an everlasting siege by Neptune.
It costs 75,000 florins a year to maintain the principal embankments of defense, those of the Helder and of West-Cappel, on the coast of Walcherin Island. The total cost of all these works, or the tax imposed by the besieging sea upon its conquered bed, is 6,000,000 florins annually. The first Napoleon's excuse, you will remember, for annexing Holland was that it had been formed by the alluvial deposits of French rivers.
The chief Dutch colonies (envied of both France and Germany) are Java, Sumatra, Bornea, and Celebs, in the East Indies, and Surinam, St. Gustache, and Curacoa, in the West. They have also important factories on the coast of Guinea. The area of their possessions amounts to 660,000 square miles, and the population to 23,500,000 souls.
The towers of Amsterdam, which we see through the sacristan's telescope, command views of Zuyder Zee, which furnishes the ballad-monger with the similie as to a Hollander's capacity for drinking:
Singing, O, that a Dutchman's draught might be
As deep as the rolling Zuider Zee.
Now sweeping the horizon by the north, passing over many windmills and long, straight roads we come round in a westerly direction to the busy town of Amersfoort on the Em, thence to Wageningen, and finally glance round to the south, catching distant glimpses of the Rhine and the Lek, with villages dotted here and there on the plain, and we have made the circle complete at Rotterdam.
There are some distant points which the telescope does not reach; but from this tower of Utrecht you may see enough for months of reflection, and when you grow tired of the scene at your feet which has become to your familiar gaze almost like a painted panorama, you may descend 30 steps and enter the sacristan's cell, accompanied by the sweetest bell-music you may here in Holland.
It will surprise you, the sacristan's cell. It is a bar-room under the belfry, with a snug private apartment, where you may retire with your beer, your long Dutch pipe, or your long Dutch cigar, to "rest and be thankful." A practical people, these modern men of Utrecht!
It is a successful temptation, the squat gin-bottles of Holland, the tall ale-glasses foaming over with creamy beer-froth, the liqueur-glasses waiting to be filled with schnapps or curaçoa. Mr. Grissel, in the tower of St. Stephen's for breach of Parliamentary privilege in London, was probably as high up in the world as we are in this fine Gothic erection; but having the liberty to provide himself with luxuries, "he did not quite begin to get near" the comforts we possess under the equestrian figure of St. Martin.
We are waited on by the sacristan himself, who evidently considers America and England entitled to all the honors he is free to show. In "doing" the wonders of Europe, one is accustomed to "tip" all kinds of persons; but it has never before fallen to my lot to have my beer handed to me by a sacristan, nor did he blush or grow confused when I "tipped" him five-and-twenty cents...
see also: Amsterdam News|
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The Kingdom of Netherlands (also known as Holland), Europe, is bordered only by Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea. The capital is Amsterdam. The area of the Netherlands is 16,164 square miles (41,864 square km). The estimated population of Netherlands for July, 2007 is 16,570,613. The official language is Dutch, and, in parts of the country, Frisian.
The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world.
After a 20-year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II.
A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.
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