Den Hague, The Netherlands (September 2015)
My roommate Grace and I took a break from a long week at university and took a day trip to Den Hague. It was about an hour and a half journey by both bus and train. Also known as The Hague, this seaside city has the most cultural attractions per square meter. Did you know the Netherlands has two capital cities? Amsterdam is the national capital – the largest city and cultural capital of the Kingdom – and Den Hague is the seat of government.
We caved and had Starbucks twice in one day – once on the way there and on the return trip. We spent part of the afternoon window shopping and aimlessly walking around the city centrum. Without any planning, we came across a wake board festival and a celebration hosted by the United Nations for International Peace Day called Just Peace. We also found the Royal Home of the Dutch King and Queen, lots of monuments, and a few green spaces. One park near the Centraal Station had a gated area full of trees and reindeer. Apparently, The Hague is one of the greenest cities in the country.
We were sure to visit the Binnenhof, which had a fairy tale like appearance from the outside overlooking the water. We also ventured inside to find stunning architecture straight out of Hogwarts. The Binnenhof is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver Lake. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as resident 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 (Source: Wikipedia).
We also made a special trip to The Mauritshus, the Royal Art Gallery. Dear readers, don’t be sad that you haven’t visited it yet, as you can also view the royal collection online! This incredible art gallery has many pieces from the Golden Age (dating back to the early 1400s). Highlights included The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, The Girl With A Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, and Self Portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn. This building was so beautiful from every angle with artwork decorating the walls, fireplaces, and ceilings.
The Goldfinch is a 1654 animal painting by Carel Fabritius of a chained goldfinch. It is an oil painting on a panel of 33.5 by 22.8 cm. In the painting, a goldfinch is sitting on its feeder, chained by its foot. Goldfinches were once popular pets, as they could be taught tricks like drawing water from a bowl with a miniature bucket. This is one of the few works known by Fabritius. He painted the goldfinch with clearly visible brushstrokes. He depicted the wing in thick yellow paint, which he scratched with the handle of his brush (Source: The Mauritshus).
Girl with a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is a tronie of a girl with a headscarf and a pearl earring. This piece is claimed to be the Dutch version of the Mona Lisa. This painted was created entirely from the imagination of the painter – which is makes it even more immaculate to see in person. It was such an amazing experience to see this painting from 1665. I even wore my pearl earrings in honour of this exciting moment! Words cannot express how amazing this experience was for me… Lastly, the self portrait on display by Rembrandt van Rijn is claimed to be one of the last self portraits known to be painted by the famous Dutch painter. He painted the most self portraits in his life time which totaled more than all the painters from the Golden Age.
We finished off the day with a shopping spree at one of our favourite clothing stores, Primark. Needless to say, I will definitely be back to the stunning heart of the Netherlands. There is so much I have yet to explore!