Friday, November 23, 2001

Delft, The Hague or Future World

Delft, The Hague or Future World

Some of you may remember the old movie ‘Future World’ with Yul Brenner and Richard Benjamin, where Richard and his friends plan a vacation to a futuristic adult fantasy playground where nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong. This is how our day started. Ron had been e-mailing and calling the daughter of his dear friend Martha Popson. Audrey, Martha’s daughter married a Dutch man and moved to Holland. She is currently very pregnant and due any day now. Ron had arranged for us to meet Audrey in Delft, though she lives in The Hague. Audrey thought Delft would be a better tourist place to show us around. We were to meet today at 12:00 and have a bite for lunch. Since Audrey is so close to her due date, Ron called in the morning to confirm. Friday is one of Audrey’s days for her Dutch lessons, which she had forgotten, but could meet us afterward at 3:00 pm. She was hesitant to skip the lesson, however tempted since she would have a reprieve when she had the baby. We rescheduled for Monday and we decided we would go to The Hague on our own.

Although Amsterdam is the official capital of the Netherlands, the government is located in The Hague. Since the 13th century, The Hague is the residence city of the counts of Holland. In 1248, Count Willem II of Holland was chosen King of the Holy Roman Empire. Part of the old castle is called Knight’s Hall, which was built for assemblies and receptions. It is the largest gothic building in Europe that is not a church. The only function for Knight’s Hall now is on the third Tuesday of September, when the Queen reads the government’s plans for the next parliamentary year.

At the train station, I purchased two day tickets to The Hague and the train was to leave in three minutes. We ran, but made it without a problem. Sitting in the right class seats, we started reading out books. Shortly afterward, I fell asleep since I have sleep deprivation at the normal times for getting rest. Ron continued to read. At one point while I was having some fabulous dream about being a famous travel writer, I felt what I thought was a train accident. I went flying up in the air from my seat and suddenly I was pinned to the window like a sloppy decal. Seconds later when I was oriented and ready to execute an emergency plan, I realized that what had happened was this gigantic Dutch woman had flung her butt next to me. She was the largest Dutch person I had ever seen in my life and I am kindly not referring to her height. The reason I assume that she is Dutch is that when I was able to regain my vision, I was able to see she was reading a Dutch research article. When I finally regained my composure and rescued my right hip from under hers, I looked out the window and saw the Rotterdam train station fleeing by as we gained momentum leaving the station. In my confusion, I thought I seem to remember that Rotterdam is after The Hague coming from Amsterdam, but with my track record it was easier to ask Ron. “Ron, we haven’t passed The Hague have we?” I calmly inquired. The giantess either did not speak English, which is unlikely in Holland or she was politely ignoring me for fear that if she did speak I would have decided to press assault charges. Ron’s response was that he did not think we passed our station and went back to his book.

Shortly after, we stopped at another station that really made me think we had past The Hague. Then the conductor entered the car and announced he was collecting tickets. He was about six foot three, shaved head under his conductor’s cap, and used narrow eyeglasses without the rims. It seemed strange to me that it was a different conductor than the one that validated our ticket when we left Amsterdam, but with suave nonchalance showed him our already approved tickets. The colossal man took them then looked at me and said something in Dutch. I just stared waiting for him to see our tickets were already punched and hand them back, but instead, he repeated his Dutch phrase. When I said excuse me, he replied in English, “Do you have other tickets?” Well of course not, these tickets were good enough for the other conductor, they should be good enough for you. That was my thought, but my response was, “No, why?”

This once gentle looking man said, “You have missed your station by two stops. You will have to get off at the next station and go back.” As the revelation was seeping into my consciousness, he became five feet taller and started looking like a Nazi officer that was working on a promotion. I suddenly became three feet tall, five years old, and started squeaking as I gave a stunned look at Ron, who claimed he never saw the Delft sign on any of the stations. At I looked to the heavens to see into the conductor’s eyes, I said, “I fell asleep and he missed the station.” Like two criminals, we got off at the next station, Roosendaal, not speaking a word to each other.

I walked to the ticket office and bought two one-way tickets from where we were at to The Hague for twenty-four guilders each. We should have arrived there at 12:11 pm, but we finally made it at 2:30 pm. The residential palace of the Queen, Huis ten Bosch, is a tram ride away. The Peace Palace is a tram ride away. Funded by Andrew Carnegie, the Peace Palace holds the International High Court of Justice where countries having a dispute can bring the issue here to be resolved. The Madurodam is a tram ride away. The Madurodam is a miniature Dutch city that is done on a scale of 1 to 25 and is inhabited by 10,000 miniature inhabitants. Parts of it were on tour years ago, when I lived in Philadelphia and I was able to see that part of it then. It is worth seeing, but takes a couple of hours to go through to really appreciate it. We did not want to take the time.

What was close and within walking distance was first a place to have tea and a Brussels waffle or what we in the States call a Belgium waffle with whipped cream. There is something so civilized about putting a halt to whatever you are doing and sitting down to a hot cup of tea and a bit of a snack. The Dutch use lots of candles in restaurants, not the small little tea candles that are so common in the States, but pillar candles with substance. These candles say, “ I am intending in staying around for awhile and you should too. Relax and enjoy being here.” We did!

It started to mist and we had not remembered to bring umbrellas, but it was only misting. We walked to the Royal Palace Noordeinde, which is the working palace of the Queen. When she is in residence, the royal flag is flown. The house next to the palace is the house of the Crown Prince Willem Alexander. In front of the palace, is a statue of King William of Orange riding a horse. It was starting to get dark and the mist continued. I have been to The Hague multiple times, but still have not been to the sites that we both missed today. Since the Royal Palace is not open to the public and it was questionable whether the Peace Palace would be open, it did not seem like a great loss not going. I have seen other things in the city in the past, but I wanted Ron to experience what he wanted to get from here. He was just as happy going in and out of shops and looking at the buildings in the center of town.

My only regret is a minor one. I would have like to have seen “The Girl With the Pearl Earring”, which is on exhibit in Mauritshuis, another museum. Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, who was the Dutch governor of Brazil, originally built Mauritshuis in 1633 as his palace. It is one of the earliest buildings erected in the Dutch Classicist style. It also houses the Dutch Royal Family’s painting collection.

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