Backpacking through Europe Part 5: The Hague

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When I told my friends that The Hague was one of the destinations, they all tried to persuade me to go to Amsterdam instead. I was told that there is not much in The Hague, and it is quite boring. Well, I am so glad we stuck with our decisions, and visited The Hague. The place did not feel very touristy, and there were plenty of beautiful architectures and art works to see, exactly my cup of tea.

The Hague, or Den Hagg as the Dutch calls them, locates at the West coast of Netherlands. It is the 3rd largest city, just after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It is the home of the Dutch government and the Supreme court, although not being the capital city itself. The reason would have to go back to the 1800s, just after the Napoleonic war. At the time, Belgium and Netherlands combined together to form the puppet state United Kingdom of Holland, where Brussels and Amsterdam alternated as the capital. The Hague remained as the Dutch government.

The above two photos are probably the most iconic images of The Hague, showing the parliament.

The city centre did not feel very big and certainly not very populated. In The Hague, we found that there were more cyclists than cars. When crossing the streets, we often had to be careful not to get ran over by cyclists. We found this rather amusing. Whereas in the UK, pedestrians have priority over all others. Yet, it seems like in The Hague, the cyclists are first class citizens, so everyone has to give way to them.

The Parade

We were only getting some breakfast that day, but were very fortunate to see a parade at Noordeine Palace. It was a rare occasion. It just happened that day the new Korean ambassador was coming to visit the King, and the outgoing old ambassador was also there to hand over his post . The whole thing kind of reminded of changing of the guard at Buckingham palace in London, only this one was not crowded.

Everyone looking polished, waiting for the ambassadors

There were two carriages, one for the outgoing Korean ambassador, and the other for the incoming one.

This is probably my favourite photo from the parade.

Art

Netherlands produced so many renowned artists, from Rembrandt to Mondrian. During our stay, we visited the Mauritshuis Museum, home of many paintings from Dutch Golden Age. The most famous painting there has to be Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. So famous, it can probably rival Mona Lisa from Louvre. There have been numerous theories on the identity of the girl, and books and films were inspired by this painting. This is the painting you must see, if you are visiting The Hague.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer

Then are paintings from Rembrandt. I was so glad to finally see The Anatomy Lesson up close.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt van Rijan

Rembrandt’s self-portrait

Portrait of Jane Seymour, the favourite wife of Henry VIII (England), by the  imperial artist Hans Holbein. It is obvious that Henry VIII really loved this wife; the frame of the painting was embedded with precious shells and stones.

Night Scene by Peter Paul Rubens

Apart from the main exhibition at Mauritshuis, there was a special exhibition on Slow Food, featuring painting of various types food: cheese, bread, poultry… The concept is that, instead of having fast food which tends to be unhealthy, the exhibition serves as a campaign to encourage people to embrace slow food prepared with care and mindfulness. It was a very interesting concept to me. Unfortunately, the exhibition did not allow photography, so I have no photos to show.

 

I love it when I go and visit a place, I get to learn a bit of their culture, history and art. There were other places in The Hague we could have visited. There is a beach slightly further out from the city centre, and a gallery housing the highest number of Mondrians in the world. Unfortunately, we only stayed in the city for one day, so we decided to forego the beach trip. Perhaps, next time, I can visit the city again for a weekend. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere, and found the Dutch attitude towards life rather interesting and inspiring. They love their bicycles, slow food and art.  The next post, I will talk more about Dutch food.