Just Call it Home


The closest I can get goes something like this: SLAHKT-howse-buhyert.

Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Then again, many Dutch words don’t. Can I tempt you with some aansprakelijkheidsverzekering, or taunt you with the dreaded lieveheersbeestjes?

Slachthuisbuurt translates roughly as “slaughterhouse neighborhood.” Put some glossy lipstick on that pig (and squint real hard so that you can’t see the worn and empty husks of the old slaughterhouse buildings themselves) and I guess you could hipster it up to “Meatpacking District.” We do have a couple of start-ups in the neighborhood, but no one seems prepared to venture into goat yoga just yet.

99337, aka “Gary,” is happy the local slaughterhouse is no more.

And me? I just call the Slachthuisbuurt home now, here on the east side of Haarlem. That’s the one with the extra “a” in the province of North Holland, which is part of the larger entity known as the Netherlands. More on all this later when I figure it out myself.)

This blog is, I guess, my attempt to open up my house and ask you in for a cup of good Dutch coffee (served, of course, with a stroopwafel or slice of appeltaart). You can laugh along with me as I try to navigate the brutal honesty of the Dutch language and culture. It will be, as the Dutch say far too often, “Gezellig!” (Think kind of like Danish hygge, but fueled by Heineken instead of Carlsberg).

Beery pleasantries aside, let’s briefly return to dead animals. The aforementioned slaughterhouse was built in 1907 and ceased operations in 1993. That’s almost a century’s worth of bacon-making fun. The weathered stone buildings are now mostly empty and surrounded by rusty fences, but the local government is continually looking to “transform” the whole thing into “living, office, and cultural spaces.” I am growing out my pointy beard in anticipation, while also keeping my fingers crossed as a property owner here.

All around are narrow streets with some ridiculously tight turns. They were obviously built in an era when cars and trucks were still novelties. The street names take you on a journey through exotic (and bloody) centuries past. We live not far from the confluence of Byzantium and Barbarossa streets. When I cycle (of course!) to the supermarket, I head down Keizer Karelstraat, and come back home along Karolingenstraat.

At first, I thought the street names were jarringly at odds with the all-too-boring suburban realities around me: the sounds of children playing at the local kindergarten; the color-splash of tulips, geraniums, and hollyhocks blooming in the well-tended flower beds; the assured indifference of the many clean, well-fed cats in the front front windows. It seemed like people in the Slachthuisbuurt got up a reasonable hour, trundled off on their bikes, grabbed some bitterballen and a cold beer after work, and then cycled home with an aim to getting to sleep at another reasonable hour.

I have nothing wrong with any of this. I am, in fact, a huge fan of beers, bicycles, and reasonable hours. But I was starting to wonder if, in my quest for new adventures, I’d ended up in a place that was just, well, a bit too boring.

But then I was on my way to the recycling bins one day, and I ran into a guy taking his two gigantic pet pigs out for a walk. (More on these porkers very soon). A few days later, I realized that the afternoon calm of the neighborhood was sometimes gloriously shattered by someone singing perfect opera scales at high volume. There was a bit of local true-crime intrigue when some punk put a bullet through the window of a local coffeeshop (one offering cannabis, yes), and Haarlem’s mayor abruptly closed the place down.

And just a few days ago, I came across a gigantic Harley Davidson motorcycle parked outside of a house with a nameplate featuring two crossed shotguns and this warning: “Beware the Biker Bitch!”

That’s when I finally decided that a blog from the slaughterhouse neighborhood might be worthwhile. This place has got many good stories, and potentially a few great ones. After all, how could a neighborhood named after a slaughterhouse not contain a multitude of strange tales, right?

Let’s find them together.

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5 thoughts on “Just Call it Home”

  1. Love it! Can’t wait to visit. The two pet pigs reminds me that we saw a wild boar on the road just south of Puyravault last week. He didn’t look friendly and I hope he doesn’t get closer. Looking forward to more stories as we sit in apéro corner thinking of you all.

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