The first time I saw Haarlem in a Dutch city map, I found it amusing kasi kapangalan niya ‘yung nasa 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” kasi nagkaroon ng time sa United States na bawal magbenta ng alcoholic beverages. This was also known as the Prohibition Era. Wow. Another history lesson. Haha.

Bank Bar entrance
ABV entrance
Exit Bar entrance

I think the most famous one is the Bank Bar. Going in was half the experience. Nasa likod siya ng stock room ng 7-11 (RCBC, BGC). Another one is ABV (Alcohol By Volume) which was behind an old elevator shaft (Lazy Bastard, Makati). If I remember correctly, you have to tell them a password, but they’re not strict about it. But my favorite was Exit Bar. Nasa loob siya ng Plaza Cafe (Corinthian Plaza, Makati) and to get inside, you have to go through a fire exit door. Genius.

There are 22 hofjes in Haarlem. Isa ito sa mga attractions ng city. Hofjes are courtyards — an open area enclosed by buildings. In this case, residential houses. Technically it is private property, pero they invite the public to see it too. This one is called Teylers Hofje.

I know. Ang ganda.

My favorite (well to be fair, tatlo lang naman ‘yung nakita ko) though is Hofje van Noblet. It is not as big nor fancy as Teylers’ pero gaya ng mga speakeasy bars na na-mention ko kanina, 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 hindi siya dapat (sobrang) accessible sa 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.