Another trip from the archives, back in October 2009, when a friend of mine was on a project based in The Hague with a rather nice apartment and a spare room. I spent four days exploring six cities around the Netherlands, none of them more than a 45 minute train ride from The Hague. Puts travelling in Auckland during rush hour in perspective, when it can take that long to get across town. To put things in perspective though the Netherlands has three and half times the population of New Zealand, living in a country a seventh of the size of New Zealand, good public transport is essential.
The Hague was a great base, home to wonderful architecture and fascinating museums. It is the home of the government of the Netherlands, but confusingly the capital is Amsterdam. They’re housed in the Binnenhof, one of the oldest Parliament buildings in the world still in use. Mainly built in the 13th century it became the seat of government in the late 16th century.
It was beautifully reflected in the neighbouring Hofvijver pond.
As was the Mauritshuis, an absolute gem, home to relatively small Royal Cabinet of Paintings, with only 841 objects, a fraction of many museums. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality though, with some of the masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age, including paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hans Holbein the Younger. I remember the surprise of recognition to walk into a room and see the exquisite Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Another wonderful art museum was Escher in Het Paleis. The former winter palace of Queen Mother Emma is home to an extensive collection of artworks (most not original) by M.C. Escher, renowned for his mathematically inspired graphic works.
Inspired by his work are fifteen incredible chandeliers by Hans van Bentem from Rotterdam.
Completely different again but equally wonderful was the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, a modern art museum, home to the largest Mondrian collection in the world. The Art Deco museum was built in the early 1930s also had some great paintings by Picasso and Francis Bacon, plus unexpectedly the skeleton of a beached whale, cut up into pieces to remove from the beach.
Another must visit for any art lovers is the Panorama Mesdag, a cylindrical painting 120m long offering a 360 degree panorama of the seaside village of Scheveningen in the late 19th century. Unfortunately photographs are not allowed inside.
As with almost all of the Dutch cities I visited The Hague had canals, and wonderful brick architecture.