There is but only one, true Harlem. It is in New York. I left Amsterdam for Haarlem on my way to Rotterdam.
Haarlem, only 20 minutes away from Amsterdam is “pretty”, manicured, and boring. It’s occupants consider themselves a cut above their neighbors and could not be snootier. Haarlem is an incredibly small city, and I think 90% of the town is made up of streets lined with shops. The other 10% is their Molen de Adrian windmill. All people do in Haarlem is shop, walk around, and sit on the terraced restaurants like beached whales. In fact, there is a beach not too far away: Zaandvoort.
The only redeeming parts of Haarlem are their Saturday market at Grote Markt, where I fed myself on free samples of cheese, bread, and a vendor gave me dates for free after I tried to buy only 2, and the Sint Bavokerk, where I happenned to stumble onto some sort of seniors event where they were serving free poundcake and coffee. The church is home to the enormous Christian Mueller organ that Mozart played in 1766 at age 10, has 5068 pipes, and is nearly 30 meters high.
The painting of the interior of the church by Peter Jansz Saenredam,1636; the Rijksmuseum:
The floor of the church is made entirely of gravestones; there are about 1500 of them and some of them date back as far as the 15th century. Frans Hals is buried here in the choir.
Saturday Grote Markt
I could not get out of Haarlem fast enough and was glad I was only staying for one night. I woke up the next morning at 6, packed it up, and got the f*$k out of town to take the train to Rotterdam, described as an urban city that is Amsterdam’s rival. Getting here, I felt much better.