Den Haag - a highlight of the Netherlands
The Hague - or Den Haag as it is properly called, is a great destination to explore. There is so much to see and experience, and it so easy to get there.
KLM fly from Inverness and Aberdeen to Amsterdam in just over one hour. The railway station is underneath the airport and there are several trains an hour to Den Haag Centraal, direct, and much cheaper than UK trains! I have a liking for the Dutch they are friendly and straight forward. When we arrived at Den Haag railway station, we paused to fish a map from my backpack to see the way to our hotel. A man, pushing his bicycle, paused to ask if he could help us and in no time we were walking the short distance to the town centre. This is typical, and when, for example, a young man helped my wife off the train with her suitcase and I thanked him, he looked a little surprised, and said "But it is normal!"
Den Haag is compact and attractive. It is the seat of the Dutch Parliament, the Palace of the Royal family, and the home of the Peace Palace which houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is the most photographed building in the Netherlands. This was paid for by our very own Andrew Carnegie. Many countries of the world gave things towards the building. The UK provided four huge stained glass depicting the progress of mankind. This glass work was designed by Aberdonian Dr. Robert Douglas Strachan. There is an impressive visitor centre with inter active presentations. It is very relevant and functional today and because of this and the parliament, there are many foreign embassies in the town.
Despite being the third largest city in the Netherlands, you never have the feeling that it is crowded. Our first day was the Princes Day, when the Queen and royal family travel in a carriage from their Palace on Noordeinde street to the Parliament to open the new session. We had tickets from the very friendly and efficient tourist office, and took our places in the specially erected terrace of seating in the square where Baron Hop invented the famous Den Haag sweetie "Hopjes".
At 1 o'clock the royal party left the palace. They were preceded by parades of mounted policemen, army marching bands, cavalry, and then came the carriages, until the 8 horse glass carriage with the royal family came along.
The Dutch are very pragmatic people, the royal family go around on their bicycles for their messages like everyone else (and beware of the bicycles zooming in all directions, there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people!) and the prime minister's office is the smallest one at the end of the parliament building. To walk through the parliament you just do so - it is a normal right of way! At the end there is the Mauritshaus, this is an international renowned art gallery.
There are so many museums to visit.
Public transport in Den Haag is easy, cheap and frequent. We took the number 1 tram to Delft. This is a picture postcard pretty town, famous of course for its pottery. You can take a canal cruise to see it leisurely. Just off the main market square with its impressive great churches, is the Vermeer museum (he was born here).Back in the square the old and new churches were visited (one ticket covers both - not a lot of money). Splendid art, statues, and breathtaking architecture. A quick look at the pottery, superb of course, and it was back on the tram that shoogles around a huge windmill on its way back to Den Haag.
The next day the same tram took us to the seaside at Scheveningen. There are miles of sand with cafes and arcades all along the top, with sculpted dunes for car driving tests and so on. There is the famous pier. This is two stories high, full of cafes and bars, and ending out to sea with a bungee jumping tower, alongside a large ferris wheel. You could spend a day just on the pier! Scheveningen also has several casinos, and an interesting harbour with excellent sea food restaurants.
Talking of eating, Den Haag has a full range of restaurants and eating places. We went to Jamey Bennett's on Plaats. This is tip top quality and service. The next night we went to Instock. We were just so taken with their concept. They "rescue" food that would otherwise go to waste, from supermarkets, wholesalers, and so on. Absolutely nothing wrong with the food, maybe mis-shaped, or just a few days "sell by" left, and their chefs make it into great menus. They have their own bottled beer, made form redundant bread and another from potatoes. The residue from the beer making, plus other ingredients makes a Granola breakfast cereal that they sell as well. They also have restaurants in Utrecht and Amsterdam. It is pure dead brilliant what they are doing - good for them.
The Ferris wheel at the end of the double decked pier at Schevenigen
Den Haag is full of interesting things to discover, well worth a visit at any time of year.
How to get there:
Den Haag is easy to go to, KLM fly from Inverness and Aberdeen every day to Amsterdam where there is direct connection to frequent trains. There is the ferry from Newcastle, DFDS, which also connects with a bus service to the railway system. Train all the way is possible too - day, or overnight Caledonian Sleepers from Inverness and Aberdeen take you to London for easy onward connection to Eurostar. You may have to change trains in Brussels while the direct Eurostar service to Amsterdam grows in frequency, but once on the railway system over there, it is easy.