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10km (6 miles) SE of the Hague; 14km (9 miles) NW of Rotterdam; 35km (22 miles) W of Gouda; 30km (19 miles) SW of Leiden; 55km (34 miles) SW of Amsterdam

Delft (pop, 96,000) is perhaps the prettiest town in all of Holland. The facades of the Renaissance and Gothic houses here reflect age-old beauty, and a sense of tranquillity pervades the air, and linden trees bend over its gracious canals. Indeed, it's easy to understand why Old Master Jan Vermeer chose to spend most of his life surrounded by Delft's gentle beauty.

A good part of Holland's history is preserved in memorials in Delft. William the Silent, who led the Dutch insurrection against Spanish rule, was assassinated in the Prinsenhof and now rests in a magnificent tomb in the Nieuwe Kerk; and every member of the House of Oranje-Nassau since King Willem I has been brought here for burial. Two of Holland's greatest naval figures, admirals Maarten Tromp and Piet Hein, are entombed in the Oude Kerk.

Of course, to many visitors, Delft means just one thing -- the distinctive blue-and-white earthenware still produced by the meticulous methods of old. Every piece of true Delftware is hand-painted by skilled craftspeople. A different Delft exists on the modern campus of the town's Technical University, noted for the excellence of its scientist and engineer graduates, among the latter being many of the world-class Dutch hydraulic engineers.