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Notes on the Geography of The Netherlands: Delft

In the wake of decline in the brewing and weaving industries, Delft (literally, "moat") found a new life in trade to East Asia and in the production of Delftware, originally an earthenware China. Like brewing and weaving, these too have declined, but traces survive.

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The Netherlands: Delft picture 1

Short of getting in a helicopter, the best way to get oriented is from the steeple of the so-called New Church, which was built between 1381 and 1510. Stairs go all the way to the steeple, built in the 19th-century after lightning destroyed an earlier one. (There had been still earlier fires, including one started by lightning in 1536 that destroyed not merely the steeple but most of Delft.) In winter, when these pictures were taken, it's windy up there.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 2

Gulp.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 3

Turning west to the Markt and Stadhuis (town hall). The old city (Binnenstad) extends only a couple of blocks beyond the Stadhuis (the modern buildings are a good indicator). A railroad track, not visible here, marks the transition on the ground.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 4

The town hall is really two structures: a medieval tower and a 17th century addition. On the ground, the addition dominates; from up here, it's hardly more than a facade.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 5

Looking northwesterly toward the Oude Kerk or St. Hippolytus Kerk, begun 1250. Vermeer is buried in it.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 6

Looking to the north, with a group of flagrantly modern buildings. They cluster behind the hard-to-see park called the Doelinplein, just to the right of the canal, near the pair of bridges.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 7

Close-up of the same canal, one of three main canals that trisect the old city and feed many branches.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 8

Looking southeasterly to the beestenmarkt, where animals were sold. The inclusion of new buildings here, as behind the Doelinplein, is nothing new. In earlier centuries Delft suffered not only the fire of 1536 but a catastrophic explosion of 90,000 pounds of gunpowder in 1654. That event not only demolished a large part of the town but blew the roof off the New Church and took the stained-glass windows with it.

The Netherlands: Delft picture 9

Looking southwesterly toward Delft's old harbor, the Kolk. This is the southwestern edge of the old city, and from its far side Vermeer painted his iconic "View of Delft."


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