What do you think is inside this building?
This seemingly mundane structure harbors a surprise.
This is what you see inside:
This is what is known as a hofje, a courtyard with housing around it. The housing was originally meant for elderly people (mostly women).
They have existed since the Middle Ages. In The Netherlands there are still a number of hofjes in use. While I was there, I made sure to visit at least one hofje but I got lucky and was able to visit two.
Jordaan, where we stayed in Amsterdam during our vacation, has a high concentration of hofjes, many of them with restored houses and peaceful gardens. They are now inhabited mainly by artists, students and a few elderly people.
The Hofje Van Brienen is located along the Prinsengracht, in the Jordaan neighborhood and is one of the cities prettiest hofjes. It was supposedly built in 1804 by a merchant of the same name.
One will never expect to see an oasis of greens and colors from the outside. A secret garden awaits those who enter its door.
This is a picture of us relaxing at Teyler's Hofje in Haarlem after a tiring walking tour of the city.
She'll lead you down a path
There'll be tenderness in the air
She'll let you come just far enough
So you know she's really there
She'll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She's got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles a way
----- Bruce Springsteen