Grote Kerk | Haarlem

With visiting out of town guests the option of going to any place outside of the main tourist draw, Amsterdam, is a welcome one, more specifically with Switzerland-based friends Gino and Jessica who’d already been to Amsterdam once before. After looking at a few options within relatively close driving distance, we settled on the quaint Boederij Meerzicht ostensibly for a breakfast of pancakes, a plan that quickly disintegrated after finding out their pancake kitchen didn’t open till 11, then to tourist favorite Zaanse Schans, and finally medieval Haarlem, which I haven’t been to in ages, close by. It was a good day to play tour guide.

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Unmissable as it was I couldn’t recall ever going inside The Grote Kerk, a/k/a St Bavo’s. Not to be confused with its successor St Bavo’s Cathedral, it was in the midst of a busy weekend market which gave it that extra bit of atmosphere, something it didn’t really need since the beautiful sunny day that was today made a visit to it complete. We went in courtesy of our friends and for the next half hour toured the impressive, soaring structure that’s clearly seen a lot of history, and even got to enjoy a bit of music from the a cappella choir performance timed almost perfectly with our visit.

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It’s likely I can’t recall ever visiting back then for one simple reason – there was a fee to get in. I recall a time when the thought of having to pay to go inside a church was absurd – it didn’t help that I had no income for a good while – and trauma aside it’s good to feel those days fall farther and farther in the past. I didn’t say a prayer at St Bavo’s so here’s hoping those dark days are long over – here’s to more and more church visits in my future, no matter what the price.

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