Delft is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the Netherlands, this is partially due to its importance in the middle ages as a trading place first for agricultural products and later for fabric and pottery. They were very big on imitating the Chinese blue and white pottery that was popular at the time. The other part why it is so well preserved is that after being a large and important town up to the 17th century, it lost that importance quickly due to the plague and the growing relevance of the ports in Den Haag and Rotterdam.
We cycled to Delft on what is, conveniently, called the Delft path. Reaching the city after about an hour, we dropped of our bikes and started walking around. Without even trying, we found ourselves in the center of the city on the huge market place. The ‘new church’ in front of us, the mayor’s mansion in the back. The sun shining down on us and plenty of crazy activities around us. People dressed up in clothing from the 14th century to today. People dressed up as presents or clovers. People playing mini golf on the market place, making giant soap bubbles and what looked like Delft’s very own bike gang having their weekly meeting in the center of it. The market place was bustling with all kind of activities, one crazier than the others.
We stepped out of the market place and into the new church.. New only by comparison, the church is from 1396! Or at least the first stone is, the last one was put down in 1496. It is also an unfortunate church.. 1536 lightning struck and burned down most of the roof, 20 years later the protestants stormed the church, destroying all windows, statues and art inside. And because that wasn’t enough the French revolution brought a bunch of mad farmers who were eager to destroy all evidence of aristocracy. They went to the trouble of scraping off every single coat of arm they could find. In 1654, a huge explosion destroyed the roof and the barely restored windows.. After that things quieted down. Another lightning struck in the 19th century, but only parts of the roof burned down. The ‘new church’ is also the church in which the royals are buried to this day.
The old church, on the other hand, is from the 13th century, at least parts of it. It was expanded four times, more or less successfully. The big tower tower was built around 1350 and the foundation proved to be not quite strong enough to hold it. It is leaning strongly. The next few building phases proved about as successful for other reasons.
In the 15th century, it was decided to transform the church into a gothic church by adding a basilican cross-coat. However they stopped half way through, so there’s only one half of the cross coat built.
Just behind the old church, we found this lovely building which was unique in its exaggerated ornaments. This house houses the regional water authority since 1645 and shows that it’s not just the noble men that knew how to go over board at the time.. The governmental institutions were no better. From there we moved to the city walls.. Not much of them exist any more.. Really the only thing still standing is the eastern gate. However that is actually quite a pretty sight, surrounded by water.
Delft is a lovely day trip from The Hague or even a half day trip, if you’re in a hurry. It has lovely old houses well over 500 years old and lovely old Cafe’s which make lovely hot chocolate.