The first time I saw Haarlem in a Dutch city map, I found it amusing because it shares the same name as the one in New York. Apparently, there is history between these two places.

I’ll spare you the details but all we have to know is that way back 1625, New York was actually called New Amsterdam, the capital of New Netherlands, which was a Dutch colony in the east coast of the United States. This is why a number of places in New York have Dutch origins:

  • Brooklyn, from the Dutch city of Breukelen
  • Gramercy Park, from the Dutch words “krom moerasje” (crooked swamp)
  • Staten Island, from the Dutch governing body called “Staten-Generaal”

The more we know, the better.

There was a time that I got hooked with speakeasy bars. Speakeasy literally means to “speak softly” because there was a time in the United States that selling alcoholic beverages were prohibited. This was also known as the Prohibition Era.

Bank Bar entrance
ABV entrance
Exit Bar entrance

Some famous speakeasy bars in Manila include the Bank Bar, ABV, and Exit Bar. All of them feature a secret door (behind a stock room, old elevator shaft, and fire exit respectively) for you to get in.

There are 22 hofjes in Haarlem. These are some of the tourist attractions in the city. Hofjes are courtyards — an open area enclosed by buildings. In this case, residential houses. Technically it is private property, but they invite the public to see it too. This one is called Teylers Hofje.

I know. It is beautiful.

My favorite though is Hofje van Noblet. It is not as big nor fancy as Teylers’ but just like the speakeasy bars mentioned before, you have to go through a certain door to get in. And it is part of the experience. Remember, this is a private property, so it shouldn’t be (that) accessible to the public.

You have to go through that door first to go to the courtyard
Hofje van Noblet

Speakeasys and hofjes are secrets. An open one, but a secret nonetheless. It is there. It is not hiding. But it also does not advertise. And I like secrets. Secrets make me feel I have a special bond with someone, in this case, some place.

Hikers find peace at the mountain tops. Beach bums find joy at the sea. Mine’s behind doorways that lead to couches and courtyards.