We ended up the Den Haag because we couldn’t find a room we liked at a price we liked and couldn’t figure out what to do with the hired car in Amsterdam. We hired the car in Southampton and drove a couple hundred miles to Harwich. It should have been less but we mistakenly took the M25 counterclockwise around London when we should have gone clockwise. And then we took an unscheduled tour of the countryside looking for someplace to have coffee, ended up at a Tesco, which is their version of Walmart.
Driving on the left side of the road while sitting on the right side of the car and shifting with the left hand takes some concentration. My co-pilot is there to remind me just after I bounce off the curb. The most difficult adjustment is finding the rearview mirror.
After 106 nights sleeping in an 180 sq ft cabin, we spent our first night ‘on shore’ sleeping in a 60 sq ft cabin on an overnight ferry from Harwich to the ‘Hook of Holland’, very near Den Haag. The ferry slept 1200 passengers; the cruise ship a little over 800.
We found our room eventually in Den Haag but managed to make that leg of the trip about twice as long as it needed to be. A nice drive around the city that Doré found interesting and Ron found nerve wracking. They drive on the right side of the road but the streets are so narrow it doesn’t make much difference.
There are bicycles everywhere. They generally have their own lane and it has become automatic to treat it as just another lane of traffic and you need to look before you step into it. (Car drivers are pretty tolerant of wayward tourists.) Bicycles may be the primary mode of transportation. They use them for everything: work, shopping, taking a couple kids with them, so they are equipped accordingly. We haven’t noticed any tandems.
There are also trolleys almost everywhere. We have taken more train and bus rides here in two and a half days than we do in Minneapolis in a year. We deliberately used the car once so it wouldn’t look abandoned.
Our initial intent was Amsterdam is less than an hour and €12 away so we would spend the bulk of our time there. We will get to Amsterdam but we have plenty to do here to fill up a week. Many of the Dutch painters started here before moving to the excitement of the big city. I understand the nightlife is better there but who are we to judge. That’s not why we are here.
It may just be a result of the places we happened to visit today (Tuesday) but I have a sense of lingering scars from the wars of the Twentieth Century, especially WWII. There are no obvious physical scars but they were unbelievably difficult times.
We started with the Peace Palace, which was finished in 1913. It was funded by an $1,500,000 (about $40 million in today’s dollars) endowment from Andrew Carnegie but the driving force behind the project was another American, Andrew White. One of Carnegie’s stipulations was it must house a library on international law. I wonder if anyone has read Carnegie’s ‘The Gospel of Wealth‘ recently.
It was also to be the home of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), created by the Hague conference of 1899 and intended to end all war. After World War I, the League of Nations created the Permanent Court of International Justice, which became the International Court of Justice under the United Nations.
It would be the site of ongoing Peace conferences, which in addition to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, intended to end all wars, the conferences also began the more realistic task of drawing up the rules of war, which eventually evolved into the Geneva Convention.
The Dutch seemed especially angry that after all their efforts to avoid war, they ended up with the Twentieth Century.
Then for something a little lighter, we went to the Madurodam, which is 1:25 model of many historical buildings and landmarks, representing a walk through Dutch history. It was overwhelming; the level of detail was incredible. It would be difficult to distinguish a photo of the real building from a photo of the model, except the people are a lot taller.
The plants are all real. They are constantly trimmed to not exceed 60 cm (∼two feet)
But there is a back story. A foundation that ran a sanatorium for students with TB needed to raise funds. One of their members had seen a miniature park in England that was making money, much of which was donated to a hospital. The foundation approached a wealthy couple, named Maduro, who agreed to fund construction. Their son, George had fought with the Dutch resistance in World War II, captured and escaped several times, awarded the Medal of Knight Fourth class of the Military Order of William, the oldest and highest military decoration in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Posthumously; George Maduro (1916-1945) died at Dachau.
His parents wanted a memorial that made people happy. Madurodam has the theme Het stadje met de glimlach, “The little city with the smile”.