The Hague

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Netherlands  , Zuid-Holland,
Thursday, April 5, 2012

The last major stop of our trip through The Netherlands was a day trip to The Hague; I think that this is the first city that I have been to where there is the word, "the" in the title. Apparently this is common in France, but I found it strange. The Hague was only a very short way from Delft and when you pronounce the name in Dutch is sounds more like Den Hau-gg-hhhh. Victor wanted to go here and since the International Criminal court, which is located in The Hague, had only just passed down its first conviction in its short history, this seemed like an interesting place to go.

The Hague is not an official capital of The Netherlands, but it is sort of like the head of the government. The parliament meets in the city and Queen Beatrix lives in The Hague most of the time, even though her official residence is in Amsterdam, the Royal palace was nestled in a little park in the heart of the city. In the park there was in interesting sculpture of a hat rack turned upside-down.

The beginning of the day was pretty cold so we kept warm by walking around. We looked around the court yard of the parliament building, the oldest building was from the 1300's, but that building is only used for ceremonial purposes now, the chambers that are used now are much newer. The entire complex is edged by a huge lake, I am not sure if this was originally a moat, or is natural, but it was very striking either way.

Just outside of the parliament complex was a museum that we were supposed to see before we died that housed the Dutch Mona Lisa, painted by Johannes Vermeer. However, the museum was under construction and a good portion of the collection had been moved and was preparing to tour the world while the renovations were taking place. Since I wanted to see the painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” we decided to go. The price was not very expensive, so after a lunch at KFC, (Victor’s choice, not mine,) we went to see the Dutch masters. This was also a practical choice, because it killed time and it was warm inside.

The art was moved to the Prince William V gallery across the street from the parliament building. Most of the art came from the personal collection of Prince William, who was as avid art collector and had paintings from prestigious artists such as Peter Paul Rubens and Bruegel the elder.  The most famous piece was the painting by Vermeer. However, that was not added to the collection until the 1800’s. It had not been documented who had painted the picture of the girl and a rich man had bought the painting for a very small amount of money. When the painting was restored the signature could be discerned and it turned out to be a Vermeer. The painting was later donated to the gallery. It was hung much like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, on its own wall in the back of the room. The rest of the walls were crammed full from floor to ceiling with paintings mainly by Dutch artists. The gallery had been laid out in a manner much like a gallery of the 1700’s, where the owners liked to display their wealth, so they crammed the walls full to show off the vast collections. The largest paintings took the dominant spots with the smaller paintings filling in the gaps. The walls reminded me of a wall in my grandparents house where they had hung a good portion of their art collection. This lay out now made a bit more sense after seeing how an old fashioned gallery would have been laid out.

After we were finished in the gallery we had to head to the Palace of Peace to meet up with a friend. Pierre is a friend of my brother whom Victor and I had met this summer. I knew that he was working in The Hague, so I wrote to him to ask if he was free to meet up. He was, so after he was done with work we were able to meet up. He said that it was strange seeing us on this side of the Atlantic.

We met in front of the Peace Palace, (after Victor and I had gotten lost and ended up being late.) The palace was donated by Andrew Carnegie the money for it to promote peace and prevent wars. However, this was the year before World War One broke out, so this did not exactly work. The building was nice though.

There was an eternal flame monument that was made up of five flames from the seven continents; we were trying to figure out which continents did not get counted as part of the world. The names of the countries were on a small brass line surrounding a rock garden of stones that were donated form all over the world. The American rock was ugly.

Pierre suggested that we could walk down to the ocean and see the pier. It was a bit of a hike, but walks are always shorter when you have someone to talk to.

At the beach we found a sculpture garden which Pierre had found a little creepy, but then we found the plaque describing what it was. The statues were all of fairy tales, some were world famous and others were only Dutch. I explained to Pierre about the Hans Brinker one, he did not understand the statue with its finger in the wall, when I explained that Hans was stopping the leak on the Dyke, the statue made a lot more sense. Some of the statues were so small, that I am sure some people are going to trip over them.

At the seaside Victor and I got a chance to try a Dutch delicacy, raw herring with onions. It was actually good. The tour guide from our day trip to The Keukenhoff Gardens said that the Dutch way of eating the herring was to tilt your head back and open your mouth, so that is what we did. It was sort of hard to keep the onions in-between the fish when we held it by its tail though.

After the cuisine adventure we walked out on a very long pier. This pier was a replacement for the original pier that was built around the turn of the century. The original one had been a place for the upper crust of society to come and be seen. It however, was torn down by the Nazi’s out of spite. The new one was built in the 1960’s.

At the end of the pier was a tower, where in the summer you can bungee jump off of. It gave us a good vantage point of the city where we could see a classic old hotel that had survived the war. We wandered into the hotel and joked that we would stay here when we win the lottery. It was a posh, cushy sort of seas side hotel

The three of us hiked back into town and enjoyed the last spots of sunshine while enjoying a cold beer which was a perfect end to the day. Pierre had to leave us not long after, because he was headed home for Easter and had yet to pack. So he walked us halfway to the train station and we said our goodbyes.

Victor and I walked back to the train station where we bought a small dinner and caught the train back to Delft for our last night in The Netherlands.

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