The Low Lands and the bossche bollen

It’s called by many names. In Spanish it’s Paises Bajos, the Low Countries. It is most commonly referred to by a name that is part of the name of just two of its provinces. In English we refer to their language using an unrelated term.

Welcome to Holland (a word that originates with the provinces of North Holland and South Holland). In the country they spell it “Nederlands,” with a ‘d,’ a word unrelated to the country’s name. In English it’s “the Netherlands,” with a ‘t,’

We are here again.

The Dutch don’t complain about calling their country Holland nor their language Dutch instead of ‘Nederlands’ or ‘Hollandish.’ It’s more about the weather than any other topic. It’s May and they have good cause yet again. It’s been cold. In late April it was just below freezing on several mornings. It’s been rainy, and when not raining, it’s been very cloudy, with just a few nice days sprinkled in.

The dock at 'T leuken, watercolor
Dock at ‘t Leuken, watercolor

We made our way northwesterly on the Maas from this year’s winter harbor in t’Leuken. On our first night we moored just outside Lock Lith, arranged by Chris, whom we met last year in France. He arranged our overnight with the lock keeper, as overnights are not normally allowed. Chris was working just a ten minute walk downstream. We went there, staying with him as he piloted the ferry back and forth across the Maas. This privately run ferry is on a hydraulic cable powered by a small diesel engine. The operator has to raise and lower the ramp in addition to starting and stopping the cable. For Chris it’s a part time job as he’s retired, but likes doing. He takes the summers off to spend it on the boat with his wife, although this year they will be camping.

The next day we landed in s’ Hertogenbosch at Lock 0. We’re very close to the center of town. The center is lively, with lots of restaurants and bars, as well as fish trucks and cheese stands in the central square. We had a lekkerbek, a breaded and deep fried cod, and some great fries. At a restaurant we ordered the mighty bossche bollen, a cream filled chocolate covered pastry that is knockdown heavenly. One is enough for two unless you have just it for dinner, which I was tempted to do. These are made by just one company, delivered to eateries around town. I have never seen one elsewhere and I’ve been all over this country. You can find recipes on the internet.

A bossche bollen, chocolate covered thin pastry filled with whipped cream

s’ Hertogenbosch is also known for being the birthplace and lifetime residence of Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450 – August 9, 1516), whose family produced the kinds of paintings for which he is famous. His often bizarre religious themed paintings are well known, held in collections around the world. For him heaven is a place of free love, where nudity and sex is everywhere to be seen and enjoyed. He is also known for his disturbing representations of life in hell,

Hieronymus Bosch, a heavenly scene

The museum is in a converted church, a common arrangement in the country as church attendance often does not justify the expense of building maintenance. There are no original paintings, just excellent reproductions. Each is described in a lovely booklet with well written and translated commentary, Dutch and English, which includes the painting’s current location. There are also some 30 of his drawings, showing his portrait, figure and fantasy drawing skills absent any distracting context.

In the Conjurer, below, we have a secular scene. A conman distracts with the cups while a co-conspirator picks the pocket of a unsuspecting woman. As in the first painting, this one clearly demonstrates his figure drawing and painting skills. His paintings show us his intellect and imagination, albeit at times bizarre, all complex, with multiple figures robed and otherwise.

Hieronymus Bosch, Conjurer

The town also is home to an impressive church, now a Catholic cathedral, having passed back and forth with the Protestants in centuries past. This Gothic structure was started circa 1240, and finished about a century later. The third restoration began in 1998, in 2010 completed at a cost of more than 48 million euros. I can not imagine the Roman Catholic Church affording this amount so I did a bit of research on the matter. Indeed there was some funding from the government of the Netherlands.

ceiling of St John Cathedral in s’ Herzenobosch
The painted ceiling St John Cathedral in s’ Herzenobosch

Walking about town is a pleasure, with its large central plaza, narrow side streets, bike lanes and many small shops as well as the usual chains. I can never figure out how these small shops, especially clothes shops, manage to stay in business. They do come and go to some extent, I believe, but here they still are, displaying more upscale choices, and in something new there is now the occasional vintage clothing shop.

There’s a marijuana shop near our mooring. It’s called the Grass Company. I figure its pot as there is no need to help the Dutch grow lawns. We have read that purchasers must be Dutch residents. Amsterdam in particular is getting so many visitors just coming for the pot, staying on to party to excess, disturbing the peace and presumably crowding the jails. We saw none of that in this small town. People go to the bars and drink at home, and if they toke a joint it does not lead to raucous street parties. What they do in private it’s hard to tell, given the absence of noise coming from their houses. I often wonder if everyone in a town has died as I walk around at night in the residential areas.




1 thought on “The Low Lands and the bossche bollen”

  1. Chocolate muffin looks and sounds delicious. Commentary helpful. Bosch is Bosch, always a delight!


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