Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boats, Windmills and Tulips… Hoorn, North Holland

Day 3 - Hoorn
The next day we woke up and our boat had docked in the town of Hoorn. Founded in 716, Hoorn rapidly grew to become a major harbor town because of its location in a protected bay with access to the North Sea,
The coat of arms of the city shows a horn held by a blue ribbon. According to a myth this is a horn of a bull that fled from Monnickendam and lost its horn while pounding the city gate of Hoorn. Upon seeing the horn the sheriff decided that the horn would become part of the coat of arms of the city. In 1538 the coat of arms of the city was shown with a unicorn which was the actual coat of arms of the bishop Jan van Egmond, bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. 
During Holland's Golden Age, Hoorn was an important home base for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and a very prosperous centre of trade. Unlike the houses in Amsterdam with narrow facades, the houses in Hoorn were often built with wide facades demonstrating the owner's wealth.
The Hoorn fleet plied the seven seas and returned laden with precious commodities. Exotic spices such as pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and mace were sold at vast profits. With their skill in trade and seafaring, sons of Hoorn established the town's name far and wide. 
Dutch explorer Jan Pieterszoon Coen (1587–1629) is famous for his violent raids in Dutch Indies (now Indonesia), where he founded the city of Batavia in 1619 (now Jakarta). He has a big statue on the Rode Steen square in the center of Hoorn. 

In 1616, the Hoorn native and explorer Willem Corneliszoon Schouten braved furious storms as he rounded the southernmost tip of South America. He named it Kaap Hoorn (Cape Horn) in honour of his home town. 
Hoorn's fortunes declined somewhat in the eighteenth century. The prosperous trading port became little more than a sleepy fishing village on the Zuiderzee (Bay of the North Sea). Stallholders and shopkeepers devoted themselves to trading in dairy produce and seeds. 
When the railway and roads came to Hoorn in the late nineteenth century, the town rapidly took its rightful place as a conveniently located and readily accessible centre in the network of towns and villages which make up the province of Noord-Holland. 
In 1932, the Afsluitdijk, or Great Enclosing Dyke, was completed and sealed off the Wadden Sea (North Sea) and created IJsselmeer Lake. As a result, Hoorn was sealed off from the sea and was no longer a seaport. 
The years after the Second World War saw a period of renewed growth. At the centre of a flourishing horticultural region, Hoorn developed an extremely varied economy. 
During the 1960s, Hoorn was designated an 'overflow' city to relieve pressure on the overcrowded Randstad region. Thousands of people swapped their cramped little apartments in Amsterdam for a family house with garden in one of Hoorn's modern new developments.
Today, Hoorn seems to be a relaxed mid-sized town filled with outdoor cafes, restaurants and small merchant shops.
It seemed like a nice place to raise a family.
Some of the local chocolate shops were preparing special designs for the Easter holiday.
And there were fresh cut tulips that could be found around the town.
Some of the merchants were obviously catering to the tourists crowds.
But Hoorn, seemed to be a gentle town where people could live at a slower pace than the lifestyle in Amsterdam.
I noticed that the locals took time to stop and chat with their friends.
And it appeared that the easiest way to get around town was by bicycle. 
There were very few cars.
There were mostly boats and bicycles.
And the streetlamp seemed to be as good a place as any to talk about the news of the day.
So while the town of Hoorn no longer holds its place as an international port of call as it did in the past. It now holds a simpler charm.
In the afternoon, my mom and I walked along the seashore, visited a maritime museum and strolled around the town at a leisurely pace. 

The next day we would be traveling to a completely different part of the country with its own significance in the history of The Netherlands.

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