Netherlands - Around Amsterdam - South And Southeast
( Originally Published 1922 )
Dutch railways—Amsterdam as a centre—Town and country—Milking time—Scotch scenery in Holland—Hilversum—Laren—Anton Mauve —Buckwheat Sunday—Dress in Holland—Naarden's hour of agony —The indomitable Dutch—Through Noord-Holland again—Muiderberg—Muiden's Castle.
THE Dutch have several things to learn from the English ; and there are certain lessons which we might acquire from them. To them we might impart the uses of the salt-spoon, and ask in return the secret of punctuality on the railways.
The Dutch railways are admirable. The trains come in to the minute and go out to the minute. The officials are intelligent and polite. The carriages are good. Every station has its waiting-room, where you may sit and read, and drink a cup of coffee that is not only hot and fresh but is recognisably the product of the berry. It is impossible to travel in the wrong train. It is very difficult not to get out at the right station. The fares are very reason-able. The stationmasters are the only visible and tangible members of the Dutch aristocracy. The disposition of one's luggage is very simple when once it has been mastered. The time tables are models of clarity.
The only blot on the system is the detestable double fastening to the carriage doors, and the curious fancy prevalent on the Continent, that a platform is a vanity. It is a perpetual wonder to me that some of the wider Dutch ever succeed in climbing into their trains at all ; and yet after accomplishing one's own ascent one discovers them seated there comfortably and numerously enough, showing no signs of the struggle.
Travellers who find the Dutch tendency to closed windows a trial beyond endurance may be interested to know that it is law in Holland that if any passenger wish it the window on the lee side may be open. With the knowledge of this enactment all difficulty should be over—provided that one has sufficient strength of purpose (and acquaintance with the Dutch language) to enforce it.
All this preamble concerning railways is by way of introduction to the statement (hinted at in the first chapter) that if the traveller in Holland likes, he can see a great part of the country by staying at Amsterdam —making the city his headquarters, and every day journeying here and there and back again by train or canal.
A few little neighbouring towns it is practically necessary to visit from Amsterdam ; and for the most part, I take it, Leyden and Haarlem are made the object of excursions either from Amsterdam or The Hague, rather than places of sojourn, although both have excellent quiet inns much more to my taste than anything in the largest city.
For the time being, however, we must consider ourselves at Amsterdam, branching out north or south, east or west, every morning.
A very interesting excursion may be made to Hilversum, returning by the steam-tram through Laren, Naarden and Muiden. The rail runs at first through flat and very verdant meadows, where thousands of cows that supply Amsterdam with milk are grazing; and one notices again the suddenness with which the Dutch city ends and the Dutch country begins. Our English towns have straggling outposts: new houses, scaffold poles, cottages, allotments, all break the transition from city to country ; the urban gives place to suburban, and suburban to rural, gradually, every inch being contested. But the Dutch towns—even the great cities--end suddenly ; the country begins suddenly.
In England for the most part the cow comes to the milker ; but in Holland the milker goes to the cow. His first duty is to bind the animal's hind legs together, and then he sets his stool at his side and begins. Anton Mauve has often painted the scene—so often that at milking time one looks from the carriage windows at a very gallery of Mauves. I noticed this particularly on an afternoon journey from Amsterdam to Hilversum, between the city and Weesp, where the meadows (cricket grounds manqués) are flat as billiard tables. If you think of lost opportunities of cricket in these parts, you think even more of lost opportunities of golf as you pass by the sand dunes between Deventer and Utrecht.
The train later runs between great meres, some day perhaps to be reclaimed, and then dashes into country that resembles very closely our Government land about Woking and Bisley—the first sand and firs that we have seen in Holland. It has an odd and unexpected appearance; but as a matter of fact hundreds of square miles of Holland in the south and east have this character while there are stretches of Dutch heather in which one can feel in Scotland.
All about Naarden and Hilversum are sanatoria, country-seats and pleasure grounds, the softening effect of the pines upon the strong air of the Zuyder Zee being very beneficial. Many of the heights have towers or pavilions, some of which move the author of Through Noord-Holland to ecstasies. As thus, of the Larenberg : " The most charming is the tower, where one can enjoy a perspective that only rarely presents itself. We can see here the towers of Nijkerk, Harderwijk, Utrecht, Amersfoort, Bunschoten, Amsterdam and many others." And again, of a wood at Heideheuvel : "The perspective beauty here formed cannot be said in words ".
Hilversum is the Chislehurst of Holland—a discreet and wealthy suburb, where business men have their villas amid the trees. It is a pleasant spot, excellent from which to explore.
The author of Through Noord-Holland thus describes Laren, which lies a few miles from Hilversum and is reached by tram : "Surrounded by arable land and hilly heathery it is richly provided with picturesque spots ; country-seats, villas, ordinary houses and farms are following one another. For those who are searching for rest and calmness is this village very recommendable." But to say only that is to omit Laren's principal claim to distinction—its fame as the home of Anton Mauve.
No great painter of nature probably ever adapted less than Mauve. His pictures, oils and water-colours alike, are the real thing, very true, very beautiful, low-toned, always with a touch of wistfulness and melancholy. He found his subjects everywhere, and justified them by the sympathy and truth of his exquisite modest art.
Chiefly he painted peasants and cows. What a spot of red was to Corot, the blue linen jacket of the Dutch peasant was to his disciple. I never hear the name of Mauve without instantly seeing a black and white cow and a boy in a blue jacket amid Holland's evening green.
At Laren Mauve's fame is kept sweet by a little colony of artists, who like to draw their inspiration where the great painter drew his.
North of Laren, on the sea coast, is the fishing village of Huizen, where the women - have a neat but very sedate costume. They wear white caps with curved sides that add grace to a pretty cheek. Having, however, the odd fancy that a flat chest is more desirable than a rounded one, they compress their busts into narrow compass, striving as far as possible to preserve vertical lines. At the waist a plethora of petticoats begins, spreading the skirts to in-ordinate width and emphasising the meagreness above.
The sombre attire of the Huizen women is a contrast to most of the traditional costumes of Holland, which are charming, full of gay colour and happy design. The art of dress seems otherwise to be dead in Holland to-day. In the towns the ordinary conventional dress is dull ; and in the country it is without any charm. Holland as a whole, omitting the costumes, cannot be said to have any more knowledge of clothes than we have. It is only by the blue linen jackets of the men in the fields that the situation is saved and the Dutch are proved our superiors. How cool and grateful to the eyes this blue jacket can be all admirers of Mauve's pictures know.
Naarden and Muiden are curiously mediaeval. The steam. tram has been rushing along for some miles, past beer gardens and villas, when suddenly it slows to walking pace as we twist in and out over the bridges of a moat, and creeping through the tunnel of a rampart are in the narrow streets of a fortified town. Both Naarden and Muiden are surrounded by moats and fortifications.
Naarden's crowning hour of agony was in 1572, since it had the misfortune to stand in the path of Don Frederic on his way from Zutphen, where not a citizen had been left alive, to Amsterdam. The story of the surrender of the city to Don Romero under the pledge that life and property should be respected, and of the dastardly and fiendish disregard of this pledge by the Spaniards, is the most ghastly in the whole war. From Motley I take the account of the tragedy --
" On the 22nd of November a company of one hundred troopers was sent to the city gates to demand its surrender. The small garrison which had been left by the Prince was not disposed to resist, but the spirit of the burghers was stouter than their walls. They answered the summons by a declaration that they had thus far held the city for the King and the Prince of Orange, and, with God's help, would continue so to do. As the horsemen departed with this reply, a lunatic, called Adrian Krankhoeft, mounted the ramparts, and discharged a culverine among them. No man was injured, but the words of defiance, and the shot fired by a madman's hand, were destined to be fearfully answered.
" Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the place, which was at best far from strong, and ill provided with arms, ammunition, or soldiers, despatched importunate messages to Sonoy, and to other patriot generals nearest to them, soliciting reinforcements. Their messengers came back almost empty-handed. They brought a little powder and a great many promises, but not a single man-at-arms, not a ducat, not a piece of artillery. The most influential commanders, moreover, advised an honourable capitulation, if it were still possible.
"Thus baffled, the burghers of the little city found their proud position quite untenable. They accordingly, on the 1st of December, despatched the burgomaster and a senator to Amersfoort, to make terms, if possible, with Don Frederic. When these envoys reached the place, they were refused admission to the general's presence. The army had already been ordered to move forward to Naarden, and they were directed to accompany the advance guard, and to expect their reply at the gates of their own city. This command was sufficently ominous. The impression which it made upon them was confirmed by the warning voices of their friends in Amersfoort, who entreated them not to return to Naarden. The advice was not lost upon one of the two envoys. After they had advanced a little distance on their journey, the burgomaster, Laurentszoon, slid privately out of the sledge in which they were travelling, leaving his cloak behind him. ' Adieu ; I think I will not venture back to Naarden at present,' said he calmly, as he abandoned his companion to his fate. The other, who could not so easily desert his children, his wife, and his fellow-citizens in the hour of danger, went forward as calmly to share in their impending doom.
"The army reached Bussum, half a league distant from Naarden, in the evening. Here Don Frederic established his headquarters, and proceeded to invest the city. Senator Gerrit was then directed to return to Naarden, and to bring out a more numerous deputation on the following morning, duly empowered to surrender the place. The envoy accordingly returned next day, accompanied by Lambert Hortensius, rector of a Latin academy, together with four other citizens. Before this deputation had reached Bussum, they were met by Julian Romero, who informed them that he was commissioned to treat with them on the part of Don Frederic. He demanded the keys of the city, and gave the deputation a solemn pledge that the lives and property of all the inhabitants should be sacredly respected. To attest this assurance, Don Julian gave his hand three several times to Lambert Hortensius. A soldier's word thus plighted, the commissioners, without exchanging any written documents, surrendered the keys, and immediately afterwards accompanied Romero into the city, who was soon followed by five or six hundred musketeers.
"To give these guests an hospitable reception, all the housewives of the city at once set about preparations for a sumptuous feast, to which the Spaniards did ample justice, while the colonel and his officers were entertained by Senator Gerrit at his own house. As soon as this conviviality had come to an end, Romero, accompanied by his host, walked into the square. The great bell had been meantime ringing, and the citizens had been summoned to assemble in the Gast Huis Church, then used as a town hall. In the course of a few minutes 500 had entered the building, and stood quietly awaiting whatever measures might be offered for their deliberation. Suddenly a priest, who had been pacing to and fro before the church door, entered the building and bade them all prepare for death ; but the announcement, the preparation, and the death, were simultaneous. The door was flung open, and a band of armed Spaniards rushed across the sacred threshold. They fired a single volley upon the defenceless herd, and then sprang in upon them with sword and dagger. A yell of despair arose as the miserable victims saw how hopelessly they were engaged, and beheld the ferocious faces of their butchers. The carnage within that narrow space was compact and rapid. Within a few minutes all were despatched, and among them Senator Gerrit, from whose table the Spanish commander had but just risen. The church was then set on fire, and the dead and dying were consumed to ashes together.
" Inflamed but not satiated, the Spaniards then rushed into the streets, thirsty for fresh horrors. The houses were all rifled of their contents, and men were forced to carry the booty to the camp, who were then struck dead as their reward. The town was then fired in every direction, that the skulking citizens might be forced from their hiding-places. As fast as they came forth they were put to death by their impatient foes. Some were pierced with rapiers, some were chopped to pieces with axes, some were surrounded in the blazing streets by troops of laughing soldiers, intoxicated, not with wine but with blood, who tossed them to and fro with their lances, and derived a wild amusement from their dying agonies. Those who attempted resistance were crimped alive like fishes, and left to gasp themselves to death in lingering torture. The soldiers becoming more and more insane, as the foul work went on, opened the veins of some of their victims, and drank their blood as if it were wine. Some of the burghers were for a time spared, that they might witness the violation of their wives and daughters, and were then butchered in company with these still more unfortunate victims. Miracles of brutality were accomplished. Neither church nor hearth was sacred. Men were slain, women outraged at the altars, in the streets, in their blazing homes. The life of Lambert Hortensius was spared out of regard to his learning and genius, but he hardly could thank his foes for the boon, for they struck his only son dead, and tore his heart out before his father's eyes. Hardly any man or woman survived, except by accident. A body of some hundred burghers made their escape across the snow into the open country. They were, however, overtaken, stripped stark naked, and hung upon the trees by the feet, to freeze, or to perish by a more lingering death. Most of them soon died, but twenty, who happened to be wealthy, succeeded, after enduring much torture, in purchasing their lives of their inhuman persecutors. The principal burgomaster, Heinrich Lambertszoon, was less fortunate. Known to be affluent, he was tortured by exposing the soles of his feet to a fire until they were almost consumed. On promise that his life should be spared he then agreed to pay a heavy ransom ; but hardly had he furnished the stipulated sum when, by express order of Don Frederic himself, he was hanged in his own doorway, and his dissevered limbs afterwards nailed to the gates of the city.
" Nearly all the inhabitants of Naarden, soldiers and citizens, were thus destroyed ; and now Don Frederic issued peremptory orders that no one, on pain of death, should give lodging or food to any fugitive. He likewise forbade to the dead all that could now be forbidden them—a grave. Three weeks long did these unburied bodies pollute the streets, nor could the few wretched women who still cowered within such houses as had escaped the flames ever move from their lurking-places without treading upon the festering remains of what had been their husbands, their fathers, or their brethren. Such was the express command of him whom the flatterers called the ' most divine genius ever known'.. Shortly afterwards came an order to dismantle the fortifications, which had certainly proved sufficiently feeble in the hour of need, and to raze what was left of the city from the surface of the earth. The work was faith-fully accomplished, and for a long time Naarden ceased to exist."
The Naarden of today sprang from the ruins. Mendoza's comment upon the siege ran thus: " The sack of Naarden was a chastisement which must be believed to have taken place by express permission of a Divine Providence ; a punishment for having been the first of the Holland towns in which heresy built its nest, whence it has taken flight to all the neighbouring cities ". None the less, " the hearts of the Hollanders," says Motley, " were rather steeled to resistance than awed into submission by the fate of Naarden "; as Don Frederic found when he passed on to besiege Haarlem and later Alkmaar.
To Muiderb erg, between Naarden and Muiden, I have not been, and therefore with the more readiness quote my indispensable author:___
In summer is Muiderberg by its situation at the Zuiderzee a favourite little spot and very recommendable for nervous people. The number of those who sought cure and found it here is enormous. It is the vacation-place by excellence. There is a church with square tower and organ. About the tower, the spire of which is failing, various opinions go round how this occured, by war, by shooting or storm.
The beautiful beech-grove in the center of the village, where a lot of forest-giants are rising in the sky in severe rows, is a favorite place, in the middle of which is a hill with fine pond.
A couple of years ago Geertruida Carelsen wrote in her Berlin letters that Muiderberg perhaps is the only bathing-place where sea and wood are united. There are three well-known graveyards.
Of Muiden's very picturesque moated castle—the ideal castle of a romance—Peter Cornellissen Hooft, the poet and historian, was once custodian. It was built in the thirteenth century and restored by Florence V., who was subsequently incarcerated there. As the Noord-Holland guide-book sardonically remarks, " He will never have thought that he built his own prison by it ".