27 days left in my first semester of being abroad. I have the countdown going not because I’m excited to be home and see family and friends, but it helps me keep track of my timing with everything I must do before I leave. 5 of those days will be spent in Prague (oops) but I’ll manage. The city gets cozier and cozier every day. I’m still taking the city route home from Science Park so I can admire the Christmas lights throughout the city. This week, on my way home on Wednesday, I caught the middle of the Dam Square “Turn on the Lights” light festival, which is technically the “opening of the festive season” in Amsterdam. The part I saw was the performance artist troupe Plasticiens Volants, and here is a video of the show I saw. Getting my bike through the crowd was less than fun, but it was festive!
Nat and I had been wanting to take an inner-Netherlands trip this semester and finally got around to it on Saturday. We went to The Hague (den Haag), the seat of government in the Netherlands. It’s technically in South Holland. The city at first definitely has a different feeling than Amsterdam (a lot less people, more real business buildings, much less water) but we saw some beautiful parts and an absolutely incredible sunset over the parliament buildings. Different, but still the pretty Dutch landscape we’re now used to. Before I even get to the actual city I need to discuss the Dutch parents and baby that sat next to Nat and me on the train. I hadn’t been that close to one yet, but I quickly realized I want one. I don’t know how to guesstimate baby ages, but I’d guess two. She could speak in a little Dutch voice and pointed out trains, and also learned how to say “appelflap” right in front of us! I realized our vocabulary is the same level, so I could actually understand her. When the mother got up to let us out of our window seats, Nat noticed she was pregnant with another amazing little creature! We started the day off right.
We got lost in Chinatown upon entering The Hague but found our way pretty quickly. We first stopped at the Escher museum, Escher in het Paleis. It’s a permanent collection of his work, located in the winter palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands. The building is the only public building in The Hague where the “original royal ambiance has been maintained,” according to the palace website. M.C Escher was a genius, and while his art suggests maybe some mental disorders, that isn’t the case. His work is based on mathematics, eternity, and infinity. This quote sums up Escher and our experience at his museum perfectly: “In my prints I try to show that we live in a beautiful and orderly world, not in formless chaos; I cannot resist fooling around with our established certainties. It gives me great pleasure, for example, to deliberately mix up the second and third dimensions, flat and spatial, and to make fun of gravity.” How Lacanian of him!
We found the US embassy shortly after our stop at Escher, so naturally I took a picture. Later in the day, however, we saw people in bright ponchos in front of the embassy and while Nat thought they were a choir, I quickly realized they were protesters that show up on Saturdays– these are the people my alert emails warn me about! They looked harmless, and everyone thinks I’m Dutch anyway, so no big deal. According to my email, this group must have been “Support Human Rights,” formerly Iranian Academics, and they were raising awareness about Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Very interesting. Here’s my classic jumping picture though, pre-protest.
Next, I came across my mecca. Nat and I squealed when we entered Madurodam, which is an interactive miniature park that has Holland’s most famous buildings, businesses, housing, etc. in miniature form! I could not get over how adorable everything was. There’s a miniature Schiphol airport, Rijksmuseum, tulip fields, greenhouses (see pictures), mini canals for Amsterdam, mini beautiful architecture for Delft, the first modern home, everything. Maybe my imagination is just going wild but I honestly think it’s hard to see that the pictures are of fake miniature places. It’s obvious when you see the little people on little bikes around the buildings, but other than that, everything is so realistic. Another thing we realized about The Hague is that the tourists are all Dutch. Amsterdam is where international tourists go, and The Hague is where families go to learn more about Holland. Adorable, and clean, and respectful, and even more Dutch.
The woman from the Madurodam suggested we walk to our next museum, which ended up being quite the trek but worth it as we walked through a miniature forest. I was praying that I’d see a hedgehog, didn’t happen. The biggest art museum in The Hague would have to be the Gemeentemuseum, which reminded me a lot of the DMA. We got to see a Coco Chanel exhibit (we just happened upon it, per usual), The Anatomy Lesson genre (ranging from Rembrandt to Damien Hirst), the masters of the Maurithuis museum that’s currently under renovation in the city center, modern photography, and even this really bizarre interactive basement that had a miniature museum in it (not sure what’s up with The Hague and miniature things but I’m not complaining!) We spent a good deal of time here before realizing how much art we had absorbed and how tired we were getting.
Our last stop was the Panorama Mesdag, which is the largest painting in the Netherlands. It is a 360 degree panorama by Hendrik Willem Mesdag, and it’s 120×14 meters. You climb up some stairs into a little round bungalow-type room, and are immediately blown away (or at least I was). The room is set up with the painting all around you, but you’re technically on a dome, so there’s real sand and beechwood that eventually runs into the painting from where you stand, but you can’t see where it ends and the painting begins. Not sure if my photographs will even do it justice. You can’t see where the paintings bottom is (because of the sand) or the top (because of this bungalow-structure roof) but you can tell that there are windows in the ceiling of the room, and the lighting changes based on what the day is like outside. I was very impressed, but unfortunately the information on the painting was only played in Dutch. More research is needed.
Nat and I had a wonderful trip to den Haag. It was also relatively cheap, our museumcards worked at half of the places we went, and I highly suggest The Hague to my UvA friends looking for a little escape. I came home and slept like a baby. That happens frequently here. The week will be busy, I’ll have a visitor Tuesday-Friday and projects to work on, but I still take advantage of every moment here. Tot ziens!
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Coco Chanel (I’m not one for Chanel quotes, but I loved this one)