In about a month, I will be traveling to Holland to take a romantic barge trip through the tulip fields, to visit some of the small villages along the canals, and to spend a few days in Amsterdam and then in The Hague.
I’m not worried about packing – I’ll take a small carry-on and minimal clothing – but I am very interested in being intellectually prepared. I would like to have read the books, visited the websites and explored the work of important artists of the areas I will visit, before I get there. That way, I can maximize my visit, I will know what to look for and what I most want to see. I want to be a literate traveler.
For example, one of the small cities we will visit is Delft. Renowned as the home of the famous blue and white pottery, it is also the home city of the painter Johannes Vermeer. His painting, View of Delft, is considered by many art connoisseurs to be one of the most perfect paintings ever created.
It’s a gorgeous painting, luminous and calming, and you can see the actual painting in the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague, (near to his equally compelling painting, Girl With Pearl Earing). But you can also find the exact place in the city of Delft where Vermeer sat to paint his view of his beloved home town.
The view has obviously changed since the 17th century, but there are still some very conspicuous similarities. I’m happy I read about Vermeer so I can look for the painting in the Mauritshuis, but also so that I can find that spot in Delft and enjoy the twenty-first century view of Vermeer’s city.
Here are six easy to read books that can add texture to a visit to Holland. This is just a beginning – there are many more books, and movies and music – I’ll cover those in future posts:
Six Books to Start
Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach
A tale of art, beauty, lust, greed, deception and retribution — set in a refined society ablaze with tulip fever.
Vermeer: A View of Delft, by Anthony Bailey
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the “golden age” of Dutch culture, the story of one of the world’s most beloved — and most elusive — painters.
Girl With Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier
In this historically accurate story set in 17th century Delft, Tracy Chevalier uses scenes drawn from everyday life and painstaking attention to detail to tell the story of Griet, a 16-year-old girl who is required by her family’s misfortunes to become a maid in the Vermeer household.
Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank, Otto Frank.
The book. is the record of two years in the life of a remarkable Jewish girl whose diary records her days spent in hiding in Amsterdam during the German occupation.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland
This story begins in the present day, when a professor invites a colleague to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer—but why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work’s inspiration.
Outsider in Amsterdam, by Janwillem Van De Wetering
Piet Verboom is found dangling from a beam in the Hindist Society he ran as a restaurant-commune in a quiet Amsterdam street. Detective-Adjutant Gripstra and Sergeant de Gier of the Amsterdam police force are sent to investigate what looks like a simple suicide.