Monday, August 24, 2015


Den Haag hadn't been a blip on my must see itinerary. Not being very familiar with the geography of Holland I didn't really know where it was located in relation to Dordrecht, our home base. It turns out it was barely a ten minute trip beyond Delft and Delft wasn't all that far from Dordrecht.
The Netherlands is not that big geographically nor in its population (Amsterdam has a population about the size of Milwaukee) where it shows its muscle and becomes one of the big guys is inside its bank account and holdings around the world.
Den Haag is The Netherland's center of national government, although Amsterdam is the official capital, and the location of the International Court and Peace Palace. The Palace was built with funds supplied by Andrew Carnegie. It's an impressive structure housing the Permanent Court of Arbitration dedicated to ending wars and promoting world peace, not a bad idea.
Den Haag was also a city that suffered substantial damage during the Second World War. That damage can now be seen in its new and ever changing skyline.
The weather had turned brisk the day I left for a day trip with Wim and Marjam. They had wanted to play tour guide around the city they both clearly loved. I was the only taker. I had dressed in layers for the trip and brought an umbrella along, the sky was hanging low with a color palette of dreary greys, and dirty blues.
They wanted to park in an area that was near the Parliament buildings, an historic area of the city. They considered it a good location for walking around along the streets and pebble promenades of Den Haag.
The only problem, for them, was on this particular Sunday an antique fair was being held that blocked off the area where they had hoped to park. I, on the other hand, was like Natalie Wood at the end of A Miracle on 34th Street where from the backseat of the car she demands, "Stop, stop Uncle Fred" when she sees the house she had asked Santa for but had given up hope he could ever deliver.
Whether they were interested or not I was going to tour the fair. It did not disappoint. It was a high-end affair and the prices reflected the quality of the items they were offering.
There were beautiful wooden boxes along with glassware,
and fashion, and art. I came away with a trio of aluminum candlesticks and Wim, who was of the opinion that the fair would be mostly trash, found a couple of treasures of his own.
From there we headed off to lunch, which had been our primary first destination since we left Dordrecht around noon. We settled on an outdoor cafe Mirjam told us was a favorite spot for members of Parliament to sit and conduct unofficial meetings outside the halls of government.
After lunch we didn't have a whole lot of time left. We did a small walking tour of the area around the Parliament seeing some of the architecture that survived the WWII destruction done by both the Germans and the Allies.
Then we went to the Mesdag Museum. The museum is primarily dedicated to the work of Hendrik Willem Mesdag and his wife, Sientje Mesdag-van-Houten. They were instrumental in The Hague school of art. The museum has a relatively small collection of paintings from The Hague and Barbizon schools but the jewel of the collection and the main attraction is the Mesdag Panorama.
These types of paintings were also known as cycloramas and were very popular in the mid to late eighteen hundreds. The Mesdag Panorama depicts the village of Schenveningen and the sea and beaches that surrounded it in the 1880's. It is permanently housed in the museum and now remains the oldest of its type still housed in its original location.
You get to the painting by walking up a circular staircase that puts you on an observation deck in the center of the panorama. A faux beach stretches out around the deck obscuring the bottom of the painting and adding to the trompe l'oeil effect.
What I found most interesting about the painting is the magic of its perspective. This painting is huge. It is also done in a complete circle. I have a tough time developing perspective when drawing on a flat surface.
This painting is a continuous curve yet everything seems perfectly accurate with its vanishing points, horizons, and sense of space. I was impressed.
With Wim, no trip to Holland is complete without at least one trip to the sea. We capped our trip to Den Haag with drinks under a canopied café watching kite surfers catch the wind and soar into the sky.

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