We went "Home" to Holland!
It was Wonderful!!!
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We went. We saw. And we were conquered!
Time: 8 p.m. April 2001
Our first stop was for a canal cruise of Amsterdam. Although we were having trouble staying awake we had "lost" a night's sleep this was our first glimpse of Amsterdam and it is as beautiful and as charming as the pictures in my mind. This is the place where the Amstel river was first dammed (hence, Amstel-Dam). Sixth-Cousin Hans Niemantsverdriet met us at the boat and came along with us helping to describe the sights we were passing. The antique buildings, many built at the same time our Pilgrims were first coming to America, stand three and four stories high, with high gables, large windows, and narrow fronts. You see, they were taxed by the amount of front footage, so they built the houses tall, deep, and narrow. One very frugal man built his home little more than a meter wide! They are called canal houses and they face the canals. They sorta have streets in front more like one-way alleys on each side of the canal, but historically the life of the city focused on those canals. Ranged along the sides of the canals, permanently anchored, are houseboats. As we floated past we gazed in the windows of the houseboats at pots of geraniums, cats, and interiors.
We drifted under beautifully arched bridges, silently through the capital city of Holland. What a great beginning to our tour.
In the morning, we hurried out to the Aalsmeer flower auction. Well, we missed all of the auctioning and only saw them moving around the carts of flowers. A few guys seemed to have a job consisting of riding bicycles, weaving in and out among the trains of flowers, evidently doing nothing but riding amidst the flowers. This is the site of the world's largest flower auction, and if you get there early enough you will see the bidders purchase planeloads of flowers to be delivered worldwide the same day. They use what most of the world calls the "Dutch Auction" system (they call it the Chinese Auction method) starting at a high figure and going down until someone buys at that price. The barbershop was busy, as was the gift shop full of other busloads of tourists who missed the bidding but found their own trinkets to take home.
We next stopped at the Dam Place, built from 1648-1665, as a town hall, and in 1808 King Louis Napoleon turned it into a palace. Today, it is used for receptions, etc., but the royal family doesn't live there. They'd have difficulty finding a place to park their cars for one thing. And all those pigeons could be a problem! To one side is the Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, construction began about 1380, which today serves as a museum and restaurant. Are there still religious services in this Dutch version of Westminster Abbey? I'm not sure. (The Oude Kerk or Old Church was started about 100 years earlier.)
. Above: The Dam Place on left, Niewe Kerk straight ahead; Westerkerk is pictured to the right. Jessica is petting pigeons at the Dam Place in picture below right. Lunch below.
We all split up, and five of us headed to lunch the deli at the grocery store across the street and then off to the Westerkerk. (See Mike's pink sign above.)
The Westerkerk was officially opened on Whitsunday 1631, after 11 years of construction. (See, it is much younger than the Oude Kerk or the Nieuwe Kerk!) It is one of the oldest churches especially built for the Protestant services, and the largest such church in the Netherlands. The church is built in Dutch Renaissance style, which is characterized by a combination of brick and stone. The long vertical lines are reminiscent of the Gothic style. The building is in the shape of a rectangle. Two rows of triplet- pillars support a clerestory in the form of a Greek cross. The church is 29 meters wide, 28 meters high, and has 36 windows. The nave is covered by a wooden barrel vault, of the type used extensively in coastal regions of the low countries, where the soft soil did not allow heavy vaulting. From 1985-1990, when the church was more than 350 years old, it was completely restored. The electric chandeliers were then replaced by 12 replicas of the original chandeliers. The tower, which occupies a unique place in the affections of the people of Amsterdam, bears the symbol of the imperial crown of Maximilian of Austria, which was his gift to the city in gratitude for support given to the Austro- Burgundian princes. It has inspired songs and poems and remains a symbol of the city for Amsterdammers abroad.
Other things of interest about this church: Rembrandt, one of the world's most famous painters, was buried in the church, originally in a pauper's grave. Near the church and in view of the tower, Anne Frank wrote her diary in the Annex, her hiding place from the Nazis. She could see the church tower and listen to the ringing of the bells while in hiding. In 1966 Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus were married in the church. This church most definitely still has regular services and is well attended.
We then wandered back to our meeting place at the Dam Place where we soon poked around the Palace, watched the extremely friendly pigeons, and learned that my sister Sandra has no sense of direction she can't find her way back to the bus. (Gosh, wish I'd known that years ago when I might have wanted to lose her!) In the evening we visited the Anne Frank House, just around the corner from the Westerkerk. Anne Frank and her family hid in the attic of the family-owned business for almost two years during World War II.
I was surprised at how spacious the annex they lived in was, but I imagine it didn't feel very large to eight people unable to leave its confines. It was almost eerie walking through these rooms where the families had hidden for so long and yet realizing that the impact of their story was, perhaps, heightened by their tragic end. Shortly after our return home, a new story of Anne's ordeals was on television and the depiction of the house was quite accurate.
The Cheese Market in Alkmaar, held in only the warmer months of the year, still features the traditional negotiating techniques between buyer and seller, and the four groups of "cheese porters" whose guild members have been helping to bring cheese buyers and sellers together for at least 600 years they wear differing colored hats to identify their membership. The amount of cheese available for sale was greatly reduced due to the hoof and mouth disease.
This was the scene of one of our more remarkable meetings of the trip. Mike had made that pink sign shown earlier which stated "Niemantsverdriet Family Tour" in English (and possibly "Beware, Stupid Tourists" in Dutch). Anyway, it was very attractive in that it attracted several people from Lafayette, Indiana, to come back to the bus with him they were firemen friends of Uncle Bud's I knew they should have come on the trip with us!
One evening we went to the notorious Red Light District of Amsterdam. The following quotation is from an Amsterdam web page, and I take exception to that remark about marketing!
"Most of the history of the Red Light District - of which there is plenty, this being the oldest part of Amsterdam - has been greasily veneered with that oldest of trades: marketing. Sex, while the hook upon which the area hangs its reputation, is actually secondary to window-shopping. People do buy (it's a f1 billion per year trade) but mostly they wander in groups, stopping here and there to gawp open-mouthed at the live exhibits. The choice is ample: an astounding 5,000 professionals ply their trade from here, of which 2,000 are available on any given day. Most of these window girls are self-employed, and even though prostitution is technically illegal, the women are taxed and have a union, De Rode Draad, that has represented them since 1984. They are, indeed, mostly women: despite attempts to launch male and transsexual prostitution, men have so far found it difficult to get into this particular door of opportunity." Well, we were one of those groups of gawpers and it was like walking down a street with girls from the pages of a catalogue advertising bikinis. Perhaps we were simply there too early in the evening to see the open-mouthed gawping stuff thank goodness!
One of the most beautiful spots we visited was the Keukenhof Gardens. It was wonderful early in the morning when we arrived, but by the time we left it was gate-to-gate humanity. We estimated over 2000 busloads of people were probably there that day that is a lot of folks getting in the way of your picture. Nonetheless, I think these photos speak for themselves.
Above: Mike Ohm, Sandra Branch; Doris and Russell Niemantsverdriet in the pavilion. Jim Bauer tiptoes through the tulips.
Delft pottery is currently made at only very few sites in Holland, and we visited two. Delft is traditionally thought of as blue on a white background, but other colors are possible. The artist actually paints in black on the white pottery, and when it is fired, the color magically changes to the blue we are familiar with.
In the sixteenth century factories were established in a
number of Dutch towns to produce "Majolica". This
"Majolica" was made with a tin-glaze and found its origins
in Italy and Spain. The Dutch East Indian Company began
importing porcelain from China in the seventeenth century.
This porcelain, especially the blue and white became very
The "Majolica" producing factories started to imitate this Chinese porcelain, for several reasons: the imported Chinese porcelain meant competition, Civil war in China meant that imports from China declined, and customers asked for specific items which took a long time to deliver and, when received, was not always what was ordered.
In Delft, in the seventeenth century 32 factories were producing Delftware. These factories were often established in breweries, which had stopped their production. In the nineteenth century due to competition from other factories, like Wedgewood in England, and lack of innovations, the highpoint of Delftware had come to a close. Now, only a very few companies still produce the entirely hand-painted traditional Delftware.
Sandra Branch with one of the colorful Delft pieces on display at the Delft factory museum.
Our visit to the Rijksmuseum was all too brief, but we did have the opportunity to quickly view a large portion of their display including their renown Rembrandt painting "Night Watch". We also had the opportunity to see artworks from as early as 1180 and to surreptitiously touch that particular stone piece, the oldest dated thing I have ever touched. The building itself looks like a wonderful old castle, and is a treat to behold. With close to one million objects and 1.2 million visitors a year, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is the largest museum of art and history in the Netherlands. It is perhaps best known for its collection of 17th-century Dutch masters, with twenty Rembrandts and many other highlights of the period, including works by Vermeer, Frans Hall and Jan Steen.
The Night Watch, the most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum, actually has another title: the "Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch'. The picture is a militia painting: a group portrait of a division of the civic guard. Rembrandt depicted the group of militiamen in an original way. He did not paint them in neat row or sitting at their annual banquet, rather, he recorded a moment: a group of militiamen have just moved into action and are about to march off. Photographs of these masterpieces cannot do them justice. The abilities of those masters is amazing.
Another museum, the Kroller Muller museum in de Hoge
Venen, was a bit more difficult to reach because much of
the surrounding park had been closed because of "The
Disease." Generally, the gates and paths at the many park
entrances are open and one may hop on one of the
numerous white bicycles and cycle at whim all over the
park, returning the bicycle to whichever exit you choose.
We, however, had to find the one open gate, have our bus
tires disinfected, walk over the disinfectant carpet
ourselves, and then finally were allowed into the park. The
paths, however, were barricaded by red-and-white "crime
The museum is home to a quite large collection of works by Vincent van Gogh. We, and most especially Nita, learned that bells go off when one touches these paintings, even though the painting is protected by glass. The guards, however, do not cut off the offender's fingers, especially if they aren't sure who she is.
Our short visit to Middelburg included a tour of the town hall. This splendid building is considered one of the most beautiful in Holland. The Gothic part dates from 1452 - 1458 and was designed by several members of the Keldermans family, the famous architects from Mechelen. Middelburg was home to the Dutch East India company early in the company's history, but the process of reclaiming land from the sea has now rendered Middelburg an inland community. The town hall was bombed after the surrender of the Netherlands to Germany during World War II, nearly destroying it except for the front facade. The townspeople have not only rebuilt the hall, but have also generously donated furniture, artwork, and other artifacts to again lavishly furnish this beautiful building. Our guide is shown demonstrating some of the hidden drawers and panels in this particular furniture piece. In front of the town hall is this ancient sculpture, which when the observers peer inside they witness the 13th century sewage system. Perhaps that should be participate in it as indicated by the stream under the chairs. Michael and Jessica Harris demonstrate this exhibit on the previous page.
Het Loo Palace, in the woodland setting of Apeldoorn in
the heart of the Netherlands, was the favorite summer
residence of the Stadholders and Royal Family of the
Netherlands from 1686 to 1975. First to live there
was Stadtholder William III, who was to become king of
England in 1689 and for whom it was originally built as a
hunting-seat. When the Stadtholder's family was in exile
during the French Revolution, the palace was inhabited
from 1806-1810 by Napoleon's brother, Louis Napoleon,
the first King of Holland. He had the garden re-done in the
English landscape fashion. In 1814 the palace became the
property of the state and was used by members of the
House of Orange until 1975. On the death of Queen
Wilhelmina it was turned into a national museum.
The palace with its interiors dating from King-Stadtholder
William III and Queen Mary II up to the reign of Queen
Wilhelmina, reflects the lifestyles of the members of the
family of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau over three
centuries. The wings with their permanent and visiting
exhibitions of historical objects, documents, paintings,
china, silver, royal garments and court costumes present a
picture of the historical ties of the House of Orange-
Nassau with the Netherlands. The spring and summer
planting of the baroque garden, statues and vases, in
exactly the same Dutch fashion as in the seventeenth
century, is unique in Europe. Just as in the seventeenth
century, the fountains and cascades are always playing.
The stables house royal carriages, hunting carriages,
sledges and vintage court cars, including the famous
'wagon' in which Queen Wilhelmina went out on painting
excursions and her white state-funeral coach.
Unfortunately, they closed the stables as we approached
Dutch people are very prompt! A trait that has been lost
on some of the family over the years!
This palace is designed so that one room opens into another rather than each opening into a hallway. The accurate reconstruction of this garden is a great contribution to the understanding of 17th century gardening. The design reflects contemporary philosophical thought that a garden should be a reflection of Paradise, in addition to showing a combination of French and Dutch influences on layout and ornamentation.
On the death of King William III in 1702 there was disagreement about his inheritance, but eventually, in 1732, Het Loo descended to Willem IV (1711-1751) who was, from 1747, Stadtholder of all the provinces. Both Willem IV and his son Willem V (1748-1806) used the palace in the 18th century as a summer residence. The Queen's sister and her family now live on the grounds of the palace, but not in the palace itself. The palace is often used for official receptions and parties, as it was the evening of the day that we were there. They had forgotten to invite us to the party, however.
A bunch of us at the beach. Nita Calvert, below, frolics in the sand! One rather cool afternoon was spent at the North Sea beach near the Hague. You can tell from our attire that we forgot to pack our bikinis and beach towels. April is not an especially good beach month in the Netherlands.
A brief stop was made at the Gasson diamond factory. Some of the family did procure elegant pieces of jewelry that day; most of us simply drooled. The diamonds are actually transformed from their rough-cut condition to a special 57-faceted cut at this location. The guide/sales person told how diamonds have been cut and polished for only the last 400 years prior to that time they were used only in the rough condition. The diamond dust from cutting one diamond is used in the process of cutting others. They also don't give out any samples and they lock the doors when they have the diamonds out!
Above: 1953 Flood
The Netherlands is located in a low-lying delta. The history of the country has obviously been determined by the struggle against the water. In 1953 the southwestern part of the Netherlands was struck by huge floods, in which 1,853 people were drowned. The Dutch population was devastated. Shortly after the disaster the Delta Plan was drawn up containing measures to prevent such disasters.
The sea inlets in Zeeland were sealed off and with the completion of the Eastern Scheldt Barrier in 1986, the province of Zeeland was safe, but South Holland was not. Soon after the 1953 disaster the dike reinforcements in South Holland proceeded smoothly. In the 1970s, however, the people protested against the elevation of the dikes in urban areas. Under the plans, historic buildings would be lost in numerous places. The idea of a movable storm surge barrier - an old plan dating from the 1950s - surfaced again. Following a technical and financial feasibility study, a storm surge barrier was selected. When not in use, the steel gates are stored in parking dry docks on each side of the channel. When a major storm risk is evaluated by computer, the dry dock is flooded and the steel gates are pivoted toward each other into the port channel. Water then is admitted into the ballast tanks in the gates, which sink slowly onto a foundation 17 meters below normal water level. When the storm is over, water is pumped out of the ballast tanks and the gates are floated back into the parking docks. Engineers predict they will only have to close the barrier once every 10 years under current conditions. But in the future they expect more frequent closures -- perhaps at five-year intervals -- as water levels rise due to global warming.
One day we abandoned Holland for Antwerp in Belgium. Belgium had not been infected with the Hoof and Mouth disease, so we had to hide the cow as we crossed the border. The beautiful 'Grote Markt' or Town Square of Antwerp is still the heart of the old city. The Grote Markt is surrounded by the Town Hall and the houses of the Guilds or corporations. In the background the tower of Our Lady's Cathedral completes the magnificent view. The houses of the Guilds are unfortunately not the original ones. A large part of the Grote Markt burned down in 1576. Most of the houses were rebuilt afterwards in Flemish Renaissance style. In the 19th century the houses were again renovated. One of the houses was the house of the guild of Archers and is crowned by the statue of St. George. Today the Grote Markt is one of the most pleasant squares in the city (certainly since traffic has been banned from it). During beautiful warm summer days many people choose this spot to enjoy a refreshing drink at one of the many terraces. In the middle of the 'Grote Markt' stands the Brabo fountain. The statue was made by sculptor Jef Lambeaux in 1887. According to a legend, a terrible giant, called Druoon Antigoon, lived on the banks of the river Scheldt in ancient times. Whenever sailors on the Scheldt river refused to pay toll to the giant, he punished them by cutting off their hand. A Roman soldier, Silvius Brabo, managed to kill the giant. Brabo cut off the hand of the giant and threw the hand away in the river. Hence, according to the legend, the name of the city Antwerp means "hand throwing" in English. A nice legend. Hence, the 'hand' is the symbol of Antwerp. There are hands in the town flag. Also there are several sweets in the form of a hand (cookies, chocolates). In any case, without the Brabo fountain, the Grote Markt would not be complete. The water of the fountain is not caught in a basin, but just simply disappears under the stones of the monument where it enters in a closed water circuit. Antwerp has vacillated between French and Flemish languages throughout its history, and the two versions of the name "Antwerp" -- Antwerpen and Anvers are both used. The dual (duel?) languages make reading road signs in Belgium quite a sport. And, of course, the Euro is not in use until next year, so we once again had to change currency -- from dollars to Belgian francs although some shops would accept the Dutch guilders.
Jessica and Michael Harris, Doris and Russell Niemantsverdriet at the Belgian bank.
Yes, that is a bunch of us gathered around french-fries some
folks go to Antwerp to buy diamonds or chocolate or lace, but
Ronald directed us to the cafι serving the best potatoes!
The enclosure of the Zuiderzee by the "Afsluitdijk", or
enclosure dike, on May 28, 1932, meant the end of that
famous sea and the creation of the Ijesselmeer, a lake
separated from the North Sea by only this narrow strip of
land 31 KM in length. We followed the enclosure dike into
Friesland an area of Holland not particularly fond of
tourists and one which insisted on having road signs in
both Dutch and Friesian. When driving along the dike,
below sea-level, one has to trust in the abilities and
ingenuity of Dutch engineers!
Two open air and drizzly museums were included on our itinerary, where we could wander through buildings or participate in activities such as riding an old velocipede, a fisherman's boat, or enjoy the bakery and stores. One of my favorite finds was in the old laundry what must have been an early Maytag washing machine! That is one heavy-duty agitator! There were also examples of fishermen's cottages that were barely large enough for two people and, of course, Klompen makers and windmills!
Another outdoor park was nicknamed "Holland in Miniature". All of the great attractions in the country were there in miniature. We took pictures of the miniatures just as we did of the originals! Maduradam, shown below with a normal size baby, makes everyone feel like Gulliver in Lilliput!
We stopped very, very briefly in the Hague a city just
over 750 years old. The Hague is home to the Peace
Palace, the Dutch Parliament, and Queen Beatrix but we
didn't have time to stop to see her.
The Peace Palace is aptly named. Surrounded by manicured gardens and fenced off from the surrounding neighborhood, the cathedral-like building oozes calm. Even when international lawyers are engaged in what amounts to frenzied battle before the World Court in the palace's Great Hall of Justice, voices are rarely raised. Politeness is paramount. We stopped very briefly in front of the gates to take pictures, and, in some cases bricks. In 1899 the First Hague Peace-Conference was held, on the initiative of Nicholas II of Russia; ever since, The Hague has been a center for the promotion of international justice and arbitration. The Vredespaleis (Peace Palace) was built between 1907 and 1913. Every country in the world contributed something (building material, furniture, paintings and more), so it is truly an international building. One year after it was finished, World War I started --so it did not bring much peace in the beginning. It now houses some offices of the United Nations (International Court of Justice).
Another quick stop found several of us at the house of Parliament. Throughout the centuries and even today, the "Binnenhof" has stood at the center of political life in The Netherlands. The buildings, very interesting themselves, fascinate because they formed the backdrop against which some of the most important events in Dutch history took (and are still taking) place. Dominating the center of the Binnenhof is the Knights' Hall, built by Count Floris V in the 13th century. The Knights' Hall is probably the most famous building in Holland. On the third Tuesday in September, or "Prinsjesdag," Queen Beatrix makes her annual trip through The Hague to present her address from the throne at the historical Knights' Hall, officially opening the new parliamentary year. The castle has survived almost eight centuries, but two times in history there have been plans to demolish the castle and to build something new. Circa 1650 Prince Frederik Hendrik wanted to replace it by a Royal Palace and in 1850 there were plans to replace it by modern government buildings. In 1945 English bombs missed it by just 500 meters.
When we returned to the spot we had last seen the bus, all we found was Gary and the familiar pink sign our bus had been "encouraged" to move. Below, Jan Casper on the right closely watches the pewter manufacturing process.
A pewter factory with a great large salesroom was a very busy stop for us. We were able to stand right next to the workman pouring the molten pewter into the molds no OSHA here! Mike and I were quite surprised a few nights later when we were presented with engraved pewter bowls by the group! Thank you all so much for such a memorable tour.
The village of Giethoorn was founded about 1230. The first inhabitants found great horns of wild goats -- which had probably died in the flood of St. Elisabeth in 1170. They called their settlement "Geytenhorn" (horn of goats), later corrupted to "Geythorn" which still later became Giethoorn. The nearby large lake is the result of peat cutting. Peat was removed to a depth of several feet and the lowered terrain filled with water. Waterways and canals were dug to transport the peat. Many houses have been built on little islands which can be reached only over the bridges that are characteristic of Giethoorn. Traditionally, transport in Giethoorn has taken place by water in so-called "Punters" which can be poled through the canals rather than using motors rather like in the canals of Venice.
We were able to help two of our newly "adopted" cousins celebrate their 30th birthdays during the trip. We were especially fortunate to have Renee Feese and Mary Nehls, and their grandmother Marji Nehls, with us. So far in this newsletter, I've described only the touristy places we visited and we did see a lot of them. But, the best part of the trip was the two days we spent in Charlois, Numansdorp, and Rotterdam with the wonderful people of Historisch Charlois. The rest of this is in honor of and in thanks to them.
Tuesday, April 24, was the single day that made this entire trip the most significant for me, for on that day we truly went home to Charlois. You will recall that several months ago I found a web site for Historisch Charlois and Henk van Eijk (both he and his wife are distant Niemantsverdriet cousins). It is difficult to describe the emotions that some of us felt that day and the welcome extended to us was overwhelming. We arrived at the quiet, modern building with anticipation and excitement. They welcomed us with hugs and kisses we were indeed at home! I cannot thank Henk and Conny van Eijk, Arij (Harry) Wols, Geer and Dick Zwaan, Bas and Conny Tol, and Wim de Jong enough for all that they did for and with us. Many of them spent two full days with us, even taking time from work to do so. In addition, joining us that morning were Hans and brother Rob Niemantsverdriet, our sixth cousins, and Peter Niemantsverdriet (I haven't yet done the cousin calculation for Peter.) who had owned a shop in Charlois until his retirement. And, they greeted us with Dutch pastries if they hadn't already captured our hearts, that would have done it! After viewing the museum exhibits, we toured the historic area of Charlois suddenly we were walking the paths that our ancestors had trod. We stopped at one corner where we could see the tower of the Oude Kerk built between 1461 and 1467 before America was even "discovered"! There are family insignias from some of the founding families we aren't there because we don't have a family insignia and also because at that time we don't know where our family was living the earliest sighting of the Niemantsverdriet name is in Klaaswaal in the 1600s. So, this church was standing here when our ancestors moved to Charlois. And, now we are back. Across the street from where we have stopped is a nice brick house being renovated years ago it had belonged to the local doctor. I wonder who will live there next. We walk along a block of warehouses with boarded windows to stand in front of the town hall or police station. This is a lovely brick building and would make a great location for the historical museum. They just have to convince the authorities to move!
Further around the block we can see off to the left rows of brick apartment buildings much of Rotterdam (Charlois is now part of Rotterdam) was destroyed during the war. Very few buildings are as old as the homes we saw in Amsterdam. On the edge of the church property is a tiny fire house moved from its original location. Across the street are two houses, typical of the homes that Hendrick and his sons may have lived in while here in Charlois. A small lane runs between these homes and the old church rectory. We walk down the lane and see more small homes, all well tended, with flower in the gardens and windows. Even a kitty or two. It is still a quiet and pretty area, even though the rectory is now a drug treatment facility.
Above: Peter Niemantsverdriet of Charlois and Hans Niemantsverdriet of Amsterdam. Hans is the one who visited us in America in March to interview for his radio program.
Arij Hols pointing out the sights of Charlois.
We approach the front of the Oude Kerk the Old Church and I am informed that someone is looking for me. Rob van de Ven Renardel de Lavalette and wife Bonita another cousin met through the internet they have made the trip to spend the day with us.
Oude Kerk showing the ancient tower.
Oude Kerk entrance above. Russell, Pam, Jim, and Doris Niemantsverdriet at left.
We enter this beautifully restored building the renovations were finished just the week before we arrived and find a group of church members waiting to show us around and to share the history of their church of our family church with us. Although few if any of us on this tour are today Dutch Reformed church members, we all share the feeling of coming home this is the church they had worshipped in. This would have been a center of their community. Here they would have pondered the move to America.
Mike Ohm, Bonita and Rob van de Ven Renardel de Lavalette
The organ began to play and a soloist performed for us. We climbed to the choir loft and then on up into the bell tower some of us are not comfortable with heights, but this was a chance of a lifetime.
Michael and Jessica Harris in the choir loft. Below an old organ at the church.
Jim and Karen Perry with Arij Wols at front of church under the organ pipes. You can just see the soloist to the right of the pipes. Below Mike ringing the church bells. Remember he had to climb the tower first!
Gary Kottman and Pam Niemantsverdriet above.
Karen and Jim Perry below.
Rob Niemantsverdriet of Rotterdam and Jim Niemantsverdriet of Wabasha at the Historisch Charlois museum.
Next stop was for lunch at Landhuis de Oliphant on Krommezandweg. The restaurant had been constructed in 1592 and later moved, brick by brick to its current location and rebuilt. Lunch was provided by the aldermen and council of Charlois and Rotterdam and we were met by reporters from the Rotterdam Dagblad (newspaper). As we emerged from the bus, we spied a windmill just down the road a piece.
The windmill was built in 1723 our family would have known it. After lunch, we called Jo Zandstra van Gelder who had been unable to join us. When she realized where we were calling from, she told us of a Niemantverdriet farm just down the road. We had been told of this farm at the museum, but didn't realize how close we would be so we went down the road and stopped at the farm. We believe that this farm is over 100 years old, but was not necessarily owned by a Niemantsverdriet family member when Teunis, Arie, and Leendert left 150 years ago. But, with a little encouragement, we were ready to "drop in" for a visit! Can you imagine allowing a busload of strange Americans into your home unannounced? Well, Mrs. Gertrui Niemantsverdriet did! What a nice lady! And a cousin!
After we had been there a few minutes, a young lady rode
up on a bicycle amazed at what was going on at Oma's
(Grandma's) house! Our next stop was a cemetery
nearby. Cemeteries in Holland are not of the perpetual
care variety if there is not a family member still living to
pay rent on the grave site, the remains are removed and
the site is reused. This is not unique to Holland many
countries with land shortages follow similar procedures. At
this particular cemetery, there is a monument to those
whose graves had been moved in order to enlarge the
harbor. Also, we did locate several Niemantsverdriet
family plots here.
This stone is for Conny van Eijk's grandmother.
We were met once again by reporters this time radio reporters asking about our reasons for coming on this trip and what did we think about Holland.
Numansdorp was next you may recall the story that Hans concocted about the origins of the family name based on living near the Duke of Numansdorp. The pastor of the church met us and gave a presentation on the community and the Niemantsverdriets who had once lived there. Once again we were surprised to find more cousins had come to meet us! Cor and Harmke Niemantsverdriet arrived from Stellandam with daughter Angelique.
Stone above marks the mass grave for those moved in 1925 to enlarge the harbor.
Cor Niemantsverdriet from Stellendam half seventh cousin and his family arrive.
Cor, daughter Angelique, and wife Harmke. Cor provided some information on his lineage now I need to fit it in with ours!
Cornelia Prins Niemantsverdriet and husband. Below, Henk demonstrating taking the collection at church.
There was a cemetery behind the church that did have some older grave stones, including some Niemantsverdriets. The church had been occupied by German troops during World War II and vandalized the large Bible on the pulpit shows the wounds of a bullet fired through it. Once again, an organist was present to play for us while we visited the church and learned its history. We were shown where our family probably would have sat based on their standing in the community and Henk's regular pew at the church where he had been a member and elder for 28 years before moving back to Charlois.
What a wonderful day they provided for us they took us to the heart of the community and into their hearts. They made it possible for us to meet newly found cousins and to gaze on the resting place of long departed ones. It is impossible to fully thank the folks at Historisch Chalois for bringing the past and our family alive again. I only hope that someday we can reciprocate their hospitality. I am still in awe of all they did for us.
But, wait there's more -- we were not done! The
following Friday found us headed to Rotterdam and a
dignitaries' tour of the harbor by the Port of Rotterdam. I
surely don't know how Henk managed this, but it was truly
impressive. We had to drive across the country and were
concerned about the farmer's protesting the Dutch
government's handling of the Hoof and Mouth Disease
problem but we made it without being caught in
demonstrations. Soon the Niewe Maas pulled up to the
dock, and we boarded. This is the same boat that Bill
Clinton had used for his tour! The captain did say that we
were the most common folk he'd
had aboard his usual passengers are heads of state, but
that didn't bother us! He also informed us that the Queen
would be at the harbor that day to christen the largest ferry
in the world The Pride of Rotterdam -- to carry
passengers and vehicles from Holland to England and
Below: the van Eijk family Conny, Laurens, Henk.
Bas and Corry Tol, Geer Zwaan of Historisch Charlois more of our hosts.
The Port of Rotterdam is the largest harbor in Europe. Every year some 30,000 sea-going ships and 110,000 barges call at the port of Rotterdam. With its ultra-modern Vessel Traffic System (VTS), it can track ships on the radar screen up to 60 kilometers off the coast and 40 kilometers inland. We cruised by container ships filled with all kinds of goods from fruits and vegetables to tractors. Finally we pulled up next to a police boat docked in front of The Pride of Rotterdam and waited
Mr. I.P.L. Blom, the official speaker for the tour by the Port of Rotterdam, and Henk van Eijk.
Above: Mike Ohm and sixth cousin, Hans Niemantsverdriet. They had met the month before when Hans came to America to research for his radio program about our immigrant ancestors. Below: Brett Casper takes his hand at driving the boat!
While waiting, we practiced our royal waves. Eventually, the Queen emerged, and yes, she did wave to us. And we all royally waved back! That's her in the blue suit and carrying the flowers. She probably thought we were someone important, being on that boat.
Our last scheduled stop of the day was at the Regional Museum at Heinenoord, on the island of Hoekswaard. They have a wonderful collection donated by the people of the island and also have a genealogy research room and they have these Niemantsverdriets in their data:
Niemandsverdriet Adriaantje, Niemansverdriet Bastiaan Bastiaansz. (1741) Bastiaan Cornelis, Bastiaans Bastiaans (1707) Cornelis Jans, Kornelis Arijsse, Maayken Bastiaans (1703) Trijntje (1772)There may also be others but I need to learn Dutch to interpret what I am reading!
After the tour, we bade a sad farewell to our hosts from Historisch Charlois, and headed back to the hotel by way of Klaaswaal where the family name is first cited. Klaaswaal is a lovely and prosperous looking bedroom community for Rotterdam now. As this was an impromptu detour, we didn't have any contacts or places to visit scoped out. We did, however, note our visit for posterity:
These two days were very emotional and inspiring for me we found some wonderful cousins and friends and we truly felt we were back home. Mike Ohm wrote of his impressions that night in his journal. His thoughts follow:
Entry from Mike Ohm's Journal during the Niemantsverdriet Family Tour to Holland:
"April 24, 2001 When I began planning this trip nearly a year ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought we would have a day like today. I am in awe. I think Carolyn and I have had tears in our eyes the whole day. From the time we arrived at the Historic Charlois Museum about 8:45 a.m., until we returned there about 6:00 p.m., we've been guided by no less than 8 people at all times and met relatives we knew of, but didn't know we'd meet, and others we didn't know existed. Their welcome to us has been incredible. "We found the museum, on a quiet little residential street, not where you'd expect a museum to be located. Actually it's a couple units in a little row of retirement apartments. Carolyn and I went in first to make sure we were at the right place. It was a strange feeling, that we're actually there, walking down the little path to the door and knowing we're about to meet the people, some of them relatives, we've been in contact with in making these plans and who've done so much to make this day possible. It was the right place, and they were waiting for us, along with relatives who had come to meet us. They served coffee, showed us museum exhibits, and went with us in our bus to the older district of Charlois that would have been there when the family lived there. "We've been led down streets that our ancestors walked on and in the church they attended. We climbed the bell tower and rang the bell. An organist played a soloist sang. They came especially to perform for us. Back on the bus again, we drove by the building that had housed the Niemantsverdriet Sweet Shop, owned until his retirement by Peter Niemantsverdriet, one of the relatives who came to spend the day with us. We had lunch with the vice mayor and other delegates, the American equivalent to the city council, of Rotterdam. We've been photographed by more reporters than I can count and Carolyn and I have been interviewed by newspaper and radio reporters. "Our bus pulled up in front of a farm, actually just a farm house now, surrounded in the last 40 or 50 years now by the City of Rotterdam, that has been in the Niemantsverdriet family over 100 years. Unannounced, we were welcomed into the home by 88 year old Gertrude Niemantsverdriet, who, unable to speak English, looked just as in awe as we were. She and her granddaughter stood at the window waving goodbye as the bus pulled away, not quite sure about the thirty plus people who were strangers, yet family, that had come and gone within 15 minutes. The wooden shoe, the sign of welcome, hung next to her front door. "Next was the Charlois cemetery. We were shown graves of Niemantsverdriets, at least 10 of them. We don't quite know how they fit it the family tree, but yet they belong. "Then, we were on to Numansdorp, near where the earliest ancestors have been traced to, before some branches moved closer to Rotterdam to the towns of Charlois and Barendrecht. At the church the family attended there, we were met by the minister who had prepared handouts on the family history, and by more relatives, some of whom had come in response to the announcement in the church bulletin about this "upcoming event". The church ladies served tea and biscuits and again we were shown more family graves in the cemetery behind the church. The minister showed us the old church, the pews where the prominent families of that day including the Niemantsverdriets sat, and we climbed to the organ loft to watch another organist who had come to play for us. "The number of people involved in coordinating this day has been unbelievable, as has their welcome. Now we find out that the boat we will tour the Rotterdam harbor in on Friday is actually a yacht normally reserved for visiting heads of state. For years, I remember hearing stories of how the Niemantsverdriets had been a prominent and wealthy family in Holland, but now, after all these years, I never imagined that the name would still have the power to get us the welcome that we've seen today."Thanks Mike, for sharing your thoughts with us.
Well, that's our trip don't you wish you had come along? It was indeed, the trip of a lifetime mostly because of the people we met there. This was such a great trip -- and we are hoping to go again in a couple of years. Mark your calendars now!!! Meanwhile, we hope to entice some of those cousins and friends to visit us here.
Did you know that in Holland my name would be Carolyn Bauer Niemantsverdriet instead of Carolyn Niemantsverdriet Bauer they often retain the woman's maiden name and use it after her married name. Hence, Jo Zandstra van Gelder was born as Jo van Gelder.
Another member of our "family" on this trip was Ronald our bus driving "cousin". He was a very important part of the success of this trip, and I wish to thank him also for an interesting tour. He endured tardy shoppers, riders insisting on driving through and stopping at Klaaswaal, and an adoption. Thanks, Ronald.
Attached you will find copies of the articles from the Dutch newspapers, and a list of things I learned in Holland.
If you are interested in learning more about Historic Charlois, you can find them on the internet at http://home01.wxs.nl/~historisch.charlois/ or you can write to them at:
Thanks again to everyone who made this trip a reality and a success. Thanks to Rob Niemantsverdriet, Mike Ohm and Michael and Jessica Harris for supplying some of the pictures.