Hoorn, The Netherlands

The pretty little towns and harbors of The Netherlands are the real magic of the lowlands.  Hoorn, founded in 1300, became a VOC (Dutch East India Company) by the 1600’s.  “Merchants, traders, seamen, dignitaries and authorities populated the then capital of West-Friesland” (Tourist Brochure, Mooi Hoorn 2016, Toeristisch Magazine).  They created a harbor-side city of quaint brick buildings that are now embellished with the iconic Dutch trims and rooftops that let you know in an instant that you are in The Netherlands.  It is neat-as-a-pin beautiful.

Hoorn DSC06388
Houses along the shore in Hoorn lean against each other for support. Notice how the houses in the distance lean forward? That is so that owners loading goods into their attics would not have their stuff smacking the front of the house as they hoisted up the load.
Hoorn DSC06500
Pretty cottages line the streets of Hoorn, the Netherlands.
Hoorn DSC06386
When in doubt of your direction, look for a church steeple. It’s usually near the center of town.
Hoorn DSC06383
This is one of the very narrow streets we drove down with cars parked on one side of the road and two way traffic maintained. We pulled our side mirrors in and held our breath…… Notice the brick buildings on the brick streets with the brick sidewalks? It felt like I was driving in a brick canyon.

Because the town is situated next to the water, when our GPS said to go right, it was really telling us to take a swim.  Since we didn’t want to sink the car, we headed around the block and tried to find a new way to get to a small quay where we wanted to park.  After several long and loopy right turns, we found a parking spot only to be waived off by a woman who said firmly, “No, no, you cannot park here.”  Sher showed her our handicapped parking pass and with a large smile she pointed, “this way!” and we drove across a narrow bridge to one of two parking spots.  The Dutch make space for the handicapped, but not many.  Three cars squeezed into the two spots.  But by some kind of GPS luck, we were right next to our destination:  The Museum of the 20th Century.

Hoorn DSC06498
This was our view as we ate our lunches next to the harbor. The benches in the front of the photo were part of a monument complete with silver suitcases and bags of goods. I think the monument may be about immigration. Hoorn, The Netherlands.

We hopped out and sat down on benches overlooking the scenic marina and a monument to – I think – immigration.  As we dug into our hand-packed lunches a fine drizzle began to soak our sandwiches so we headed back to the car and huddled in the front seat as we watched the mist slowly turn into a deluge.  Five minutes later, lunch was done, the rain had stopped, and we headed for the museum.

Hoorn DSC06491
Our picnic view of the Harbor in Hoorn, The Netherlands.
Hoorn DSC06488
We even spotted a river barge docked up in port which explained the many visitors who swarmed the town about the time we arrived.

The Museum of the 20th Century is a nostalgic collection of stuff used by the Dutch during the last century.  The treasures are gathered into decades to show how technology has impacted family life, as well as into big categories like school or toys or shopping.  Walking through the museum was like talking to a favorite granny about “What was life like back in the day?”

Hoorn DSC06484
The walkway leading up to the Museum of the 20th Century.
Hoorn DSC06485
The front door of the Museum of the 20th Century.

Visitors begin their journey through the 20th century by viewing typical rooms of each decade.  A good narration on the free audio tour explains how technology freed women of hard manual labor and birth control helped downsize families from about nine children in 1910 to one child in 2000.  Interestingly, most technology came to the Netherlands from the United States about 10-15 years after the US.

20s Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06403
In 1910, homes were very small and families were very large with about 9 children. This family was well off and could afford an organ and a heating stove. Museum of the 20th Century, Hoorn, the Netherlands.
30s Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06404
By 1920’s, some families entertained themselves with a record player.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06411
In the 30’s, kitchens were rudimentary and cold running water was not introduced until the 50’s. The refrigerator was really an ice box – the salesman stopped by once a week with a block of ice – until well into the 60’s.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06481
Laundry, anyone? In a wooden tub!
50s Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06422
Television was introduced in the 50’s as famlies began to downsize after the war to about 5 kids. There was only one channel on television until the 60’s.


50s Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06401
The Danish modern rage was adopted in the Netherlands and family time around the dining table began to fade in favor of lounging around the TV in the 70’s.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06428
The Dutch are proud of their thriftiness and apparently these banks were used by households to budget out the family expenses. The museum had several variations of this savings bank
60s Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06425
By the end of the 70’s, the dining room had become smaller and conveniences such as transistor radios became popular.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06409
You say you want toast? Sorry for the blurry photo but, really!
The 70s Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06430
By the 80’s orange was the absolute rage and EVERYTHING was orange.

The museum acknowledges the challenges of two terrible wars during the 20th century which slowed down technological progress in homes.  The museum also took a look at a typical shopping street in the early part of the 20th century.  Families worked in shops, took a break at lunch time, and re-opened in the afternoon.  Interestingly, people still love their small shops and there is no large grocery chain or big box store such as Walmart in the Netherlands.  It’s been tried but never caught on.

The Dutch love their children and there was room after room of toys.  It was so much fun to see what children played with and how it connected to the toys of my childhood!

Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06470
It’s Holland, so of course kids had to learn to skate early. See the pillow strapped to this little guy’s backside?
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06460
Barbie was huge in Europe. I loved seeing NASA Barbie and Ken and airline Barbie and Ken. Of course, Ken’s flying the plane because we knew full well women couldn’t fly a plane.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06456
Dutch Barbie & Ken.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06453
Didn’t every little girl want their own sewing machine? I did.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06451
I’m pretty sure my family owned this duckling jigsaw puzzle.
Hoorn Museum of the 20th Century DSC06448
Can you imagine putting your kid on this killer tricycle?

There were roomfuls of goodies – TVs, cell phones, appliances and dishes that never made it to the museum displays; they were just grouped under variety and stashed in shelves in rooms.  It was fun to wander through these rooms and remember what similar items our families owned when we were growing up.


The beautiful town of Hoorn and the sweet Museum of the 20th Century are well worth the hour drive out of Amsterdam.  The slower pace is a healing antidote to the frenzy of Amsterdam and truly soothes the soul.