Hip, hip, hoera! Je bent jarig, mooie meid! (It’s your birthday, beautiful girl!).
On November 23, 1245, Haarlem, now the capital city of North Holland, received city rights from Count Willem II. This made her older than Amsterdam by 55 years and Rotterdam by 95 years. Haarlem is the second largest city in the Netherlands after Dordrecht.
Before COVID19 struck, many cultural events were lined up to celebrate the old dame’s birthday but they had to be scrapped. On the evening of the celebration, the mayor Jos Wienen just led the virtual toast after a 15-minute video showing the beautiful Haarlem and the faces of this lovely city. There was also a recognition of Haarlem children who have been doing something to help their community. The medals were officially handed by the kid-mayor. Prior to the big day itself, residents were asked to fill up a small zigzag book with anything about Haarlem. Participants printed, drew, posted photos, comics and songs about Haarlem. The filled-up zigzag books will be displayed at Haarlem museum and each participant got a Haarlem en Ik (Haarlem and I) commemorative book about the history and secrets of the city.
Haarlem in the past had been one of the riches and powerful cities in The Netherlands. It was the home of merchants and artists but also great heroes who fought against invasions. It is home to the oldest museum, Tyler’s , in the Netherlands which was owned by one of the richest Dutch at the time. Frans Hals, a world-renowned impressionist painter, also lived here while doing most of his business painting for rich clients in the city and the neighboring Amsterdam. Many critics believe that Rembrandt had taken inspiration from Hals’ works. Fans of Hals would always argue that he was the better painter than Rembrandt and much more ahead in his techniques.
“Haarlem wat ben je mooi” (Haarlem you are so beautiful)
This song summarizes the beauty, the calmness and the total package that comes with her. Everyday, there are weddings… the River Spaarne streams with all the ships and boats along the Droste (oldest chocolate producer) and Scheepmakersdijk (shipmakers dike)… A city full of terraces…new buildings along the water… restaurants expand in the city center…where artists get busy… Haarlem you’re so beautiful — both the villages and city are the same… Some Haarlemers even added a line to the song, comparing it to Amsterdam: “natuurlijk Amsterdam is ook prachtig maar het is te groot and onrustig…” (Naturally Amsterdam is also beautiful but it is too big and wild.)
The song also mentioned breweries in the line: “there are so many weddings but no brewers except along the Spaarne River where the church can drown on it”. During the Golden Age, there were at least 100 breweries within its walls and brewery was the biggest industry for 500 years. Trivia: Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer, the greatest heroine of the city who fought in the brutal 80 Years War against the Spanish in the 1500s, was a daughter of a Haarlem brewer. Haarlem beers were always consumed in North Holland but the industry slowed down in the 18th century due to the popularity of other drinks like coffee and tea. Good news is, in recent years, the beer brewing culture in Haarlem has been rediscovered. Go to Jopenkerk (an old church converted into a bar and brewery) in the city center to discover Haarlem’s beer brewing culture once more.
My dear Haarlem, you don’t look like a day older than 774! Proost, lieve dame! (Cheers, sweet lady!)