Hanging out in The Hague, Netherlands
I remember learning about The Hague, Netherlands while I was in school. The International Courts of Justice are located here, and all international criminals and cases are heard at this location. Since like most of the major Dutch cities it is located in the Northern part of the country, and less than an hour by train from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, etc, I decided to add it to my agenda. I also had a friend, Ward, who currently lives there, providing another reason to visit. I had met Ward a few months before in Agra, and we toured the Taj Mahal together.
Similar to the German rail system, the Dutch trains are both easily accessible and prompt, providing an excellent way to travel between cities. After arriving at the station in The Hague, I made the short 15 minute walk to Ward’s flat. Since The Hague has such a huge international presence, a lot of countries choose to have embassies there. In fact, the United States one was only a few doors down! While living near an embassy might not be that exciting, Ward and his flatmates had an even more interesting neighbor right next door-the prince of the Netherlands! Prince Constantijn, his wife, and their three children were all very friendly people, according to Ward. Since Ward and his flatmates are still in University, they even take turns babysitting the 3 children from time to time! Ward explained that even though they are considered to be Dutch royalty, they live a fairly normal life. I even had the opportunity to meet Prince Constantijn briefly, as our paths crossed once that weekend, when we were headed out. Now I can officially say that I’ve met a member of a royal family!
That first evening, Ward and I caught up with one another and traded stories of our adventures in India post-Agra. We also met up with some of his friends and went out for a few drinks. One great thing about knowing locals when one travels is that they always know where the best places to eat, drink, etc are. Ward would be the guide for the weekend, spearheading the agenda.
Our first stop of Saturday was to the Dutch House of Parliament. I was surprised how easy it was to gain entry-all we had to do was go through a metal detector and we were granted access! We entered the Parliament room and Ward explained the current breakout of seats between the various parties. Since all meetings are always televised, he mentioned that sometimes people head over to witness the session in person if it happens to get particularly interesting.
Our next stop was the Peace Palace, which houses the International Courts of Justice and Arbitration. It is possible to go on a tour of the Peace Palace, however, tours must be booked in advance online, and the tours are only offered at certain times of the year. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter, but we did stop inside the small museum that is located on-site. I found the museum to be very informative, not only telling the history of how the Peace Palace and International Courts were formed, but also some of the more prominent cases and the role that the Court has played in international relations. One thing that I wasn’t aware of was just how integral Andrew Carnegie was to its formation, providing a bulk of the money to fund the construction of the building.
After we had our fill of the more political-themed sights, we biked to the local beach of Scheveningen. In true Dutch spring fashion, the weather was too cool for beach weather (around 50F), but there was a nice boardwalk that lined the coast with a variety of restaurants and even one fancy hotel. There were still a lot of people out and about enjoying the sunny Saturday, and we did as well, leisurely walking our way along the boardwalk.
Sunday morning, the only sight left on my list for The Hague, was the Mauritshuis museum. Once again, I gained free entrance thanks to the Museumkaart, and immediately made a beeline to the painting I wanted to see the most-“The Goldfinch”, by by Carel Fabritius. Why was I so excited to see this painting? There is book titled “The Goldfinch,” written by Donna Tartt, which chronicles the fictional story of a boy who accidentally takes the very same painting after he is injured from a bomb that detonates in the Museum of Modern Art. Too scared to return the painting for fear of punishment, he goes to great lengths in an attempt to keep the stolen painting a secret. True to Tartt’s description of the painting in her novel, I was able to pick up the same details in this depiction of a goldfinch in its cage. I spent some time just admiring the painting and reveling in the opportunity to see it in person, as the book is currently one of my favorites.
The other famous painted that is housed in the Mauritshuis is “The Girl With the Pearl Earring,” by Johannes Vermeer. It is so striking and thought-provoking that a novel and movie have also been made about this painting, although the stories chronicle the subject of the painting itself versus the actual painting, as like “The Goldfinch”.
After touring the Mauritshuis, I grabbed a quick bite with Ward and a few of his roommates before catching a Bla Bla car to my next destination-Utrecht! Overall, I greatly enjoyed my short stay in The Hague, and would definitely recommend anyone to add this city to your itinerary on your trip to the Netherlands!