Visiting The Hague
These photos are more of what I expected from The Hague. Above you can see the small lake in the center of the city known as Hofvijver. The large building on the upper left is the Binnenhof. The Binnenhof was built in the 13th century and the castle served as the residential home for the royal Dutch families for hundreds of years. Now it is the seat for several bodies of the Dutch government such as the prime minister and political parties. Just a few meters away is the Mauritshuis; the most famous art museum in the country with hundreds of paintings from the Netherland’s golden age in the late 1600’s.
While Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is the official seat of government, seat of many important international government organizations, and also houses the royal Dutch family. I arrived to The Hague by train and was able to see the city center from a distance. For some reason seeing a few high rise buildings was not what I had been expecting. I suppose I thought I’d see something more like DC, lots of medium sized government buildings and with medieval Dutch buildings rather than a modern looking city center! Later I went up inside one of their high rise apartment buildings to get these two city views above. It was my understanding that this building was open to the public, but when I got there you needed a key card to get access. Fortunately someone was nice enough to badge me in and even recommend the best floor to go to.
One of the most famous buildings in The Hague is the Peace Palace. The international community, namely the UN, uses this building as the International Court of Justice. I actually visited The Hague while I was taking a global affairs class, so it was nice to be able to be studying it back and Virginia and then visit it in person during the class. Peace Palace was formed to try to bring about international law and prevent wars and other hostilities. It’s very difficult to govern the world without a large military that is willing to enforce the laws, the in most cases rulings by the ICJ are difficult to be enforced. Ironically, the Peace Palace was created in 1913, and only one year later began the first world war. Now that western Europe is highly stable and the chance of an internal war is nearly impossible, their focus has been in other areas such as Africa, Middle East, and parts of Asia and the Americas. Above is a photo of Peace Palace and the judges on the right.
The first place I actually visited in The Hague were these World War II bunkers photographed above. I’m not sure what role the Peace Palace had during the hostilities that occurred before the war was full blown. Even on the Peace Palace website, they mention the details of the war itself but none of the negotiations and measure that the organization took to try to prevent the war itself! The Nazis successfully captured the Hague and built dozens of bunkers in the city. I actually saw the long lines of people waiting to get in before I saw the bunkers themselves. Apparently the bunkers are only open a handful of times a year, and this was one of those rare moments that I was in the right place at the right time.
Most World War II bunkers in the Netherlands have been destroyed or buried but since so many were built there are several that are still visible. The ones that I came across in The Hague are part of the Atlantic Wall defense system. The Atantic Wall was built by the Nazis to defend against an Allied invasion and went from parts of Spain all the way to Norway. These surrounding photos show the insides of the bunkers, were many items were restored while others were left as they found.
While World War II brought some of the worst horror stories the Dutch had seen, Dutch citizens in the medieval times or the dark ages risked some of the most gruesome deaths possible if they found themselves in trouble with the law. A good museum to visit in The Hague is the Gevangepoort, a notorious medieval prison that was founded in 1420 and lasted all the way until 1828. The prison housed some of the country’s worst and most dangerous criminals. Many of them were held here awaiting trial while others were on death row. The conditions for the prisoners were terrible as well. Dozens were crammed into tight spaces without any heat during the winter, along with poor quality food and water. Above is a photo of one of the prison hallways and the Knight’s prison room on the right. The knight’s prison was reserved for the extremely wealthy who were on trail. The room cost an incredible equivalent of $30,000 a week! For this much money you had your own private room, a nice bed, and a good meal along with beer while you waited your fate.
Two things happened here for most prisoners. One was they were being held while they waited trail and the Dutch authorities would try to get a confession from the accused. The accused were brought to the “Torture Room” where various forms of torture were done until individuals finally confessed. Someone who worked here explained that often times limbs were intentionally broken, then healed for several weeks only to be broken again. Victims were also burnt, mutilated, and tortured in other ways but never killed. This all was simply to get a confession. I don’t know if the people back then were smart enough to realize that anybody would confess to anything under those circumstances, it seems they might as well avoided the trail and just gave a sentencing to anyone who was accused! Lastly after your confession came the punishment. For lighter crimes this could be having your face branded and banishing you from the city. Other nice options were being locked in place in public while pedestrians were free to do just about anything to you minus physically hurting you. Lastly for those who were to be put to death, this was done with a variety of ways. Instead of a nice quick clean death, most were tortured in front of an audience first. This table on the right had people tied to it while their arms and legs would be broken in multiple places until they were finally killed. Being burned alive, strangled, hanged, and beheadings were all possibilities as well. I’m glad I visited the Netherlands in the 2000’s and not in the medieval times!
The Hague as well as the rest of Europe have long since passed their dark days. The Hague is now famous for being a green city of peace filled with parks and gardens. There are so many parks here that it’s difficult to walk a few blocks without coming across one! This one on the upper left is part of the Scheveningse Bosjes, and the one on the right is Van Stolkpark.
The city parks seemed to have a bunch of random finds in them. For some reason one of them had this large teepee built, it was right along the trail but there was no sign about it or explanation why it was made. This photo on the right was actually the very first photo I took in The Hague. While I walked from the train station to my room, I realized I had left my macro lens on my camera from some shots I had took recently in the US. Since the lens was already on, it made no sense not to take a picture of this bee caught in a web.
Outside of Scheveningse Bosjes, I came across this large cemetery known as Kerkhoflaan. At first site I thought the cemetery might be hundreds of years old, but in fact it was founded relatively recently in 1830. I was surprised to see many graves that were less than a year old. The cemetery seemed to have a mix of graves, with some having the more traditional designs while others were customized by each family.
I’ve always known that The Hague was along the coast, but I still never imagined the city having a beach since it’s so far north. The Hague actually has a large boardwalk, a nice sandy beach, and plenty of attractions. The weather was nice outside but definitely too cold to swim. Above are some photos from the boardwalk that are lined with shops and restaurants. The city’s most famous aquarium is also here. Below are some photos of the ocean. I didn’t see anyone actually in the water, but there were plenty of people doing normal beach activities on the shore and lots of small ships sailing by.
I’m not sure who made these or when they were installed, but for some reason there were several small and giant robots along the beach. Some of them were kind of morbid like this whale seems to have a person’s foot sticking out of his mouth or the other robot swallowing fish. Other robots here were happy, while some just stared at the ground deep in thought.
The Hague even has it’s own Chinatown. I didn’t plan to visit it, or even knew they had it actually until I stumbled across this Chinese arch seen on the left. I just passed through this neighborhood so I can’t really give it a fair review, but to me it seemed a bit typical of American Chinatowns; mostly western stores with Chinese writings along with several Asian restaurants and grocery stores.
These remaining photos are all back from the central parts of The Hague around the Binnenhof. These are the liveliest parts of the city with lots of shops, restaurants and several other landmarks and museums. Since my name is George, of course I had to take a photo of the restaurant I saw below!
Lastly in the downtown areas I came across these random sand sculptures. I’ve no idea what Aankomst means, I actually tried to look it up but had no success. Of course Willem I was the first King of the Netherlands who rained 25 years.