Sunday, June 26, 2016

Haarlem + The Corrie Ten Boom House

Perhaps like many of you, my knowledge of Holland (or The Netherlands) is very scant.  I knew they had wonderful tulips, and they used to wear wooden shoes.  And the windmills of course!  We ended up making our ferry journey from Hull to Rotterdam a couple of days earlier than we originally planned in order to avoid a spike in prices for the Halfterm holidays, so that left us with about three days for a little family vacation. We were just a couple of weeks too late to get a glimpse of the colorful tulip fields, but when I started doing a little research to see what was near Rotterdam I realized we'd be very near the house where Corrie Ten Boom lived, where she and her father and sister helped several Jewish people hide and escape to a safer place during WWII.  Ella was just about to start studying WWII at school, so it was a good time to introduce her to this inspiring lady.


We saw many windmills, old and new.  I don't know what the exact temperature was, but the word PERFECT comes to mind.  The air was sweet and cool and fresh.  Other observations from this day? Roads are really good and easy to drive on, even when in a British car with the steering wheel on the right side.  It felt really natural and easy driving on the right again.  The landscape was very flat where we were and reminded us a lot of driving through Florida.  You have to pay to use the restroom everywhere, even in McDonalds!  Our American selves were pretty shocked at that.


The Ten Boom family lived in Haarlem, which is a really beautiful and quaint city complete with cobbled streets, colorful houses, and a canal.  It was easy to walk in as long as you were mindful of the bike-riders and very quiet on the day we were there as older children were all in school.


This church towers over the old streets filled with restaurants and shopping.  The strangest store we passed there?  Foot Locker.  Sometimes it's funny which stores migrate to Europe.


As has become our travel custom, we walk by all the pretty cafes and all the restaurants with fun names towards the familiar and the known.


But even the familiar and the known is wrapped in an old and quirky building with the fun roof shape we began to recognize as distinctively Dutch.  KJ says he is happy to accept that we are not the adventurous-eating kind of people that others might be while traveling.  We've also come to love ordering off the self-order touch screens at foreign McDonalds.  It gives us time to figure out the menu differences without feeling like we're holding up the line with awkward exchanges when we forget and ask for French Fries.


There's some wooden shoes!  A lot of signs were in English and Dutch, as you can see, and that made it fairly easy to get around.


Members of the Ten Boom family no longer operate the jewelry store, but the name has been kept. There are still beautiful and well-made watches being sold here.

"They died in faith believing that the best is yet to come."


I remember reading The Hiding Place in college with a feeling of half-dread and expectation knowing what was coming, that eventually they would get caught.  I learned a few more amazing details to the story as told by a lovely older Dutch woman in the Ten Boom living room that day.  She told about how the Nazis searched the house for the hiding place for two days and never found it, and of the police officer(s) who knew about what the Ten Boom family was doing and managed to be there to let the what must have been the so frightened and hungry people hiding for two days in that small space out when the Nazis left.  It gave me such a feeling of admiration for the courage not just of the Ten Boom family but for all the Dutch people who bravely risked their lives to do what was right when their country and lives had been invaded by an evil regime.


The hiding place was constructed by putting a false brick wall in Corey's bedroom.  A hole has been put in the wall so visitors can see it and even crawl inside it themselves.  Corey's bed would have been against that wall, and the Nazi soldiers never found the hiding place since it had cleverly been constructed of brick and didn't sound hollow.


The very bottom panel of the wardrobe can be pulled up from the inside of the hiding place.


The small little rooftop terrace was the only safe place for the Jews living with the Ten Booms to get a little fresh air and exercise.  I met a girl from Daphne, Alabama up there who was studying at the University of Amsterdam.


We left Haarlem a bit abruptly with certain members of our family feeling a bit seasick from the ferry ride the night before, and certain members suffering from what is called Hay Fever here, but it was a beautiful and special visit I'm really thankful we got to make.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these great photos and wonderful commentary! It's such a beautiful country. I've always loved the story of the Ten Booms and The Hiding Place. Such bravery in the face of great trials.

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