Trip 38 / Day 4
Today we made a short (~50 minute) trip from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Den Haag (The Hague) , capital city of the Netherlands. it is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The city of The Hague celebrated its 700 years of existence in 1948. The Central Station in The Hague is newish and very close to the center of the city. Situated on the North Sea coast of the western Netherlands, The Hague’s Gothic-style Binnenhof (or Inner Court) complex is the seat of the Dutch parliament. It’s Sunday, so most of the commercial shopping areas will be closed, but the restaurants and museums will be open.
We bought round trip same day tickets to The Hague in Amsterdam Centraal from the ticket machine (~$58 for two) and found our Spoor (track). The route to Den Haag from Amsterdam stops in Schiphol airport, where we change trains, then stopping again briefly in Leiden before continuing on. The landscape outside the cities is very flat, as you’d expect from what is essentially reclaimed ocean. Using the Compass app on my phone, I could see that the elevation ranged between 40’ above sea level to 40’ below sea level (most of the time it was about ~10’ above sea level) . There were quite a few small water channels cutting through the farmland, allowing the (rain) water to drain off. These channels were not wide enough for a boat to navigate, though we saw a few that were navigable. We only saw one windmill (trees along the track obscured the view, so no photo) as well as wind turbines (we’re close to the ocean, so wind power) and a large solar array. We passed a few fields of tulips, a sea of red or yellow. On the outskirts of the larger cities it was common to see allotments, small allocations of gardening space where city dwellers come to garden, each one having a small greenhouse or shed. The trains run often and have Wi-Fi. There are few people on the train wearing face masks. We wear the masks on the Metro and trams, but haven’t been wearing them here.
We arrived in The Hague about 1pm and walked from the central station to the “Centrum”. The Hague is a mixture of the very old and the modern. Central Station area is very new and modern and there are some skyscrapers within view, but 20 minutes’ walk to the Centrum brings you to the old town where the Binnenhof and State buildings, including the International Court of Justice are located. The Binnenhof is now where the houses of the government meet and where the prime minister offices, but the buildings originated as the palaces of the Counts of Holland and were erected in the 13th and 14th centuries. Up to around 1800 the Binnenhof was still encircled by a moat and was only accessible by bridges. The Binnenhof is undergoing restoration and some of the area was closed off as a result.
Behind the Binnenhof is the Mauritshuis (leftmost in the video) is now a museum, but was once the residence of the Governor of the Brazilian concession of the Dutch West India Trading Company. Appointed to the role in 1636 due to his wealth, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen oversaw the company’s exploitation of Brazil for its sugar trade and was responsible for slave trading ~24,000 souls from Africa to Brazil to work the sugar cane fields. The slave trade was just part of the Dutch trade hegemony that brought great wealth to the merchants and the cities of Holland in the 16th-17th century. Along with this great wealth came lavish spending on art and many of the great artists of the time (Rembrandt, Reubens, Van Meer among others) painted portraits of the merchants and aristocrats of the time. This grand residence was built in 1641.
It’s spring and the explosion of color brought about by the tulips and other flowers is certainly on exhibit in the garden in front of Mauritshuis and throughout the Netherlands.
Mauritshuis is now a museum dedicated to the art of the Netherlands, principally 16th-17th century. The exhibition starts one floor underground and goes up two more floors; 16 rooms full of paintings. There’s an excellent guide on the Apple App Store for the museum that gives narration about many of the paintings, room by room. Toegangskaarten (entrance tickets) were $38 for two.
Dutch originated from the old Frankish dialects of the Indo-European language tree as one of the Germanic languages. It shares a common ancestor with English, the Scandinavian languages and German, among others and, like German, frequently makes use of compound words (something not as common in English). I have some knowledge of German and can find some German and English cognates, but the language is something I can’t readily translate without help. Like all languages, it’s undergone change with all of the political upheavals from wars and invasions. English is spoken widely, so it’s not difficult to travel here. But back to that compound word “Toegangskaarten”. Let’s deconstruct that. “Toegang” means “access” in Dutch and actually, “gang” in German means corridor or passage , “kaarten” is a cognate of the German “karte” or “ticket”.
We realized there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly go through each room and all of the exhibits, so after prioritizing some rooms and paintings, and after about 2 hours, we left to go outside and walk along the lake over which the Mauritshuis and the Binnenhof border. While sitting in a bench looking out to the lake (Hofvijver “Hof – “Court” vijver “pond”), a young student (high school) asked if he could interview us for his school project (he writes for his school newspaper). He asked us where we were from, where in the Netherlands we were visiting, what it was like where we lived and how long we’d lived there and the dreaded photo (fortunately no copy of that to share).
The Hague is also a city of bicycles. They have their own underground parking garage.
There is so much more to see and things we could not see on a Sunday, we realize we’ll need to return. 5 hours in a city with this much history isn’t even scraping the surface.