I write without any view towards profit or praise. I never suffered a word to pass that may look like reflection, or possibly give the lease offense even to those who are most ready to take it. So that I hope I may with justice pronounce myself an author perfectly blameless, against whom the tribe of answers, considerers, observers, reflectors, detecters, remarkers, will never be able to find matter for exercising their talents.
-Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (after visiting Madurodam, I can relate to his experiences)
The Hague is best known for its role as host to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which kinda makes this medium-sized Dutch city A Big Deal. When traveling from Edam to the Hook of Holland ferry via train, Mango and I made a quick stop to check out some attractions that had piqued my curiosity. It was raining when we first arrived, making it a pretty miserable slog around town, but the sun soon came out and we were able to better enjoy some of the city's more unique offerings. Without further adeiu, here they are.
Tucked in the older part of The Hague’s city center is this delightful panorama created in 1881 by distinguished seascape painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag. This circular painting features a beach scene, and ocean sound effects, a boardwalk-style viewing platform, and a billowing tent ceiling make for an authentic setting. Panoramas like this were popular tourist attractions in the 19th century and Panorama Mesdag is the oldest in the world that is still displayed in its original location.
The Netherlands is a fairly small country and well-connected with fast public transit, so it’s easy to thoroughly explore it in a short amount of time. But if you can’t see every single thing this beautiful country has to offer (a tall order for any country, no matter the size), I recommend a visit to the open-air attraction Madurodam. Much like Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg or Mini-Europe in Brussels, this pint-sized representation of the Netherlands is a great way to see a country’s architectural and cultural highlights in an hour. What’s unique about Madurodam is that it opened in 1952 and is named after George Maduro, a Jewish law student from Curaçao who fought with the Dutch resistance against Nazi occupation and tragically died at Dachau concentration camp in 1945. This small world is an homage to him, and it is full of detailed Dutch scenes like a cheese market, tulip fields, moving trains/lift bridges/planes/boats, and architecture from the Middle Ages to modern times. Tickets are a bit pricey at $18 (you can save a few dollars by purchasing them online), but Wikipedia states that ‘the entirety of net proceeds from the park’ goes to charities in the Netherlands and they offer a free on-site kennel for visitors with dogs. Hey, they don’t call it ‘het stadje met de glimlach’ (‘the little city with a smile’) for nothing.
City Hall & Apparent Dead House
These were two interesting mini-stops in The Hague. The first is Richard Meier's City Hall which was recently covered in Piet Mondrian-like designs in celebration of the De Stijl movement's 100th anniversary. The second is the circa 1830 dead house in the Kerkhoflaan cemetery, a facility where the recently deceased were observed for signs of life before burial.