You can find De Koornbeurs in Delft
, the Netherlands
, at Voldersgracht 1. It's a large grey stone building with two cow's heads above the entrances, situated just off the central market square
, at the right hand side behind the town hall
First of all, de Koornbeurs is a very old, beautiful building. The building of it started in 1295 and the vaulted cellar is from that time. After the city fires in 1650, a stone hall was built on the cellar, which was used for the buying and selling of meat (hence the animal heads on the front). In the 19th century better hygiene made it possible to sell meat in separate butchers' shops, and de Koornbeurs lost its function as a meat hall. In stead, the Koornbeurs became a corn exchange (korenbeurs). The building still has that name. Around 1920 the hall, without the cellar, was used as a market for eggs and horse dung. In this time the cellar could not be used because, due to the nearby canal, it was constantly under water. Attempts were made to use the cellar to grow mushrooms and as a bicycle shelter. In the second World War the cellar was an air raid shelter, and the bombfree and gasfree doors that were installed then are still in place.
In 1945 a students' organisation (SSRD, Societas Studiosorum Reformatorum Delft) settled itself in the building, at first just in the cellar but in 1958 the horse dung auction disapeared and the whole building went to the SSRD. That's where the really interesting part of De Koornbeurs comes in.
SSRD started off as a very strict, Dutch Reformed serious students' society. When the Koornbeurs became the property of SSRD the society quickly became more of a social thing and in 1963, after a dispute about mixed dancing (yes, boys actually dancing with girls) the more religious members founded their own association, SRD. In the beginning of the seventies it was decided that the strict division between students and other people no longer fitted in with the times and the feelings of the members and SSRD became a youth association, admitting young working people as well. Since 1992 the name of the association has officially been changed to Open Jongerenvereniging De Koornbeurs: open youth society De Koornbeurs. Thus, the society is named after the building.
So, why is De Koornbeurs so great?
The people that become members of De Koornbeurs are a diverse lot, although the accent tends to lie on the 'alternative' type of student, wearing long hair, soldiers' boots and obscure band t-shirts. In summer you can find these scary looking people sitting in the sun on the steps in front of the building, drinking beer and grumbling about the pigeons that try to insert their shit into the glasses (sometimes they succeed, too). These members organise all the activities going on: the bars in the cellar and the attic, the cafetaria on the second floor where you can get a vegetarian or meat-containing meal for just 3 euros, and the two disco nights on Friday (danceable music from all periods) and Saturday (alternative rock, metal, gothic). The 'open' aspect of the society means that many of its activities are open to non-members, including the band concerts, cabaret, discussion nights, movies, you name it. On Queen's Day there is an open ait festival in front of the building with local bands and usually fire artists and jugglers when it gets dark.
So, even though I would certainly not recommend jumping on a plane just to visit De Koornbeurs, if you're ever near Delft (which is an annoyingly cute town anyway) you really should take the opportunity to come and have a look at the ancient cellar (the fourteenth century plaster is still intact), hit your head on the wooden beams in the attic and amaze yourself with the amazingly low drinks prices. Have a drink, fill yourself with a tasty dinner. Talk a member into giving you a guided tour…
Anything else you might want to know about OJV De Koorneurs you can find at www.koornbeurs.nl (in Dutch).