Haarlem, in the Netherlands, has long been on my must-visit list. I am particularly fond of the full-of-life paintings by Haarlem native Frans Hals. Unlike his contemporaries, such as Rembrandt, Hals did not travel to paint his subjects. He preferred to stay at home in Haarlem, requiring his sitters to come to him. Consequently the majority of his best know work has not strayed from Haarlem. So if you want to see it you also have to go to Haarlem.
Fortunately we were already in Amsterdam, and Haarlem is not much further from the center of Amsterdam as Harlem is from downtown Manhattan. So we hopped on the local commuter train for the short trip.
Arriving at Haarlem’s central station you are already in one of the city’s historic landmarks. The train line from Haarlem to Amsterdam was the first in Holland, and special attention was given to the stations along this historic route. Haarlem’s station today is virtually the same as the day it opened in 1908. A fitting introduction to the history of a city that saw tremendous growth in the late 19th century.
If, when you arrive for the first time, the station feels familiar, it may be because it was used as a substitute for Amsterdam’s station in the film “Oceans Twelve”.
The town is a smaller, more compact version of Amsterdam, today with slightly less of an emphasis on canals as a means of transportation. It used to be much more of a canal city but many years ago, on the occasion of a cholera outbreak, the city fathers deduced that the polluted canals were the cause, and those that were stinking, black and stagnant were filled in and made into avenues.