Monday, March 24, 2014

The City of Hoorn

"Charming" may be the first word that comes to mind, when someone is asked to describe the city of Hoorn, Netherlands. Just north of Amsterdam by about 30 minutes, many come here to enjoy a day walking near the waters edge or through the center to stop in at a nice cafe or do some shopping.  Uniquely located on the waterfront of the Markermeer Lake, it was founded in the 8th century and soon after became the center for trading in the area. Though it did not officially become a city until the 1300's. In centuries after that, ships that sailed from Hoorn had traded all over the globe, bringing back goods and spices, such as pepper and nutmeg, from places like Indonesia and Africa.

There are 365 Grade I listed buildings, one for every day of the year, which places Hoorn in the third place on the Netherlands table of historic cities, following just after Amsterdam and Haarlem. The two oldest public squares in the town are called, Roode Steen and Kerkplein. The building that's known as the 'Waag' on Roode Steen was built by Hendrick de Keyser in 1609 and was used as a weight house for cheese until the end of the nineteenth century. Opposite of Waag, you can almost be instantly drawn to the colorful lions and crests that beautify the facade of the Statencollege, built in 1632. What was a town hall now houses the Museum of West Friesland, where a substantial amount of the region's cultural heritage from the 'Golden Century' is on display.