I returned to The Hague to spend a few days before Christmas with my good friend Sam. I’d decided to take the train from Groningen as there was quite a storm blowing in from the South West, which made camping inadvisable and I hadn’t been able to arrange a midway stopover to break up the 250 km distance involved in the journey. Truth is I’m not even sure I could have done it cycling in two days given the weather, even if Holland is flat! So borrowing Hilke’s small fold-able bike which would be free to take on the train, I cycled the 5 km to the station and boarded the bike specific carriage. I was mindful of the need to arrive early as these carriages fill up quickly not only with bicycles, but large pieces of luggage. It’s a first come, first served system so arriving early is the only way to ensure yourself a seat.
Sam met me at the station and we cycled into the city, where we made our way to a local coffee shop and a bowl of ‘snert’, the local delicacy. It’s a hot pea soup which really touched the spot, as Sam explained he had called a friend to meet us and give a guided tour of the city. I never realised just exactly what I was going to get, but when Jonathan arrived it really was a lovely surprise to find out he was a fellow Englishman working over here in The Hague as a full time guide.
To say Jonathan is an ‘expert’ is not really telling the whole story. His style of delivery, light hearted but extreme knowledge of his subject has to be experienced to be believed. Having travelled the world for many years (even before my bike trip) I have never met a guide so able to describe the sights being shown to me, he truly is in a class of his own and I’d heartily recommend his tour if you’re visiting the area.
I hope you’ll have better weather than we did and although not the best for photography, here’s a few of my pictures from my Tour of The Hague:
The Binnenhof (Inner Court) is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver lake. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as residence of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. It is counted among the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites. The Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use.
The Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) is the main building of the Binnenhof in The Hague. It is used for the state opening of Parliament on Prinsjesdag, when the Dutch monarch drives to Parliament in the Golden Carriage and delivers the speech from the throne.
In 1822, the Mauritshuis was opened to the public and housed the Royal Cabinet of Paintings and the Royal Cabinet of Rarities. In 1875, the entire museum became available for paintings and was privatised in 1995. The foundation set up at that time took charge of both the building and the collection, which it was given on loan.
William I, born Willem Frederik Prins van Oranje-Nassau, was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands. In Germany, he was ruler of the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda from 1803 until 1806 and of the Principality of Orange-Nassau in the year 1806 and from 1813 until 1815. In 1813 he proclaimed himself ‘Sovereign Prince’ of the “United Netherlands.” He proclaimed himself King of the Netherlands and Duke of Luxembourg on 16 March 1815.
Noordeinde Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family. It has been used as the “working palace” for King Willem-Alexander since 2013. The palace originated as a medieval farmhouse, which was converted into a spacious residence by the steward of the States of Holland, Willem van de Goudt in 1533. The original farmhouse’s cellars can still be seen in the palace basement.
The largest covered atrium in Europe, the City Hall (nicknamed The Ice Palace) is a truly stunning piece of architecture. It was designed in 1986 by American architect Richard Meier and completed in 1995. Located in the new city centre, it incorporates the council chamber, the main public library, as well as cafés and exhibition spaces. The public can take a glass lift upto the 11th floor, so as to view the atrium from above.
I took many more pictures and the next day with Sam explored the outskirts of The Hague and Scheveningen, I’ll post those pictures in my next update. What’s pretty amazing is all the above pictures were taken on my iPhone and all the information alongside them was provided by our excellent guide, Jonathan.
That’s it for this quick update, more in the next few days…