It’s been a quiet few months for me since I last visited Bev down in Newtown, so when she sent me a message suggesting that I exchange a few days of British winter for a few days of Dutch winter, I jumped at the idea. And what a busy few days it was, so you will be see the appearance of a big pile of blogs here over the next few days as we visited galleries and museums from Amsterdam to Wolverhampton, admired some glorious architecture, drunk the occasional beer and no doubt they’ll be the occasional grumble about tea abroad (Bev’s a coffee person so she saw some improvement on the beverage front)
Just to confuse, I’m going to start in the middle of our travels with a day in the Hague. As far as I can see the Dutch railway system is generally very good with it’s nice clean double decker trains but even it has the odd bad day and we found it. We had got about 5 or 10 minutes past Leiden station, which we think was probably almost at the Hague, when we were turned back due to an accident on the tracks. Thus began our grand railway journey of the Netherlands. Firstly a train to Alphen a/d Dijn which I think gains the honour of being the town I’ve spent the least time in ever – I left the train door and took 4 steps across the platform straight into the train to Gouda. Gouda station looks on to a building site and blocks of flat - it may be famous for cheese and contains delightful buildings somewhere beyond eyesite but from the station it does not look attractive. It did though have a train to the Hague which was a relief. Our loss of two hours did mean that we didn't see nearly as much of the city as we had intended and pretty much meant we had to head straight to our intended destinations .
Very near to the station in the Hague we spotted the sculpture above of a large crow by a chap called Henk Rijzinga. I've put a much closer picture in and you can quite clearly see that it is made of old pieces of wood nailed together which just seem to capture some of the essence of a crow.
Then it was off to the first of our planned destination, the Mauritshuis (pictured below). It was named after Prince John Maurice, who bought the piece of land in 1631 and had the house built. In 1820, the Dutch state bought the building and used it to house the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, which is pretty much what it is used for today. It's most famous painting is The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer and this is the main reason we went there. It was half closed when we went so they very fairly only charged us half the entrance fee. It is an excellent collection of Dutch master paintings and the best gallery for me that I saw when we were over there. As expected we weren't allowed to take pictures inside but if I can chase enough copies of the paintings we saw on the net then I'll post a blog of them at a later date.
Right next door to the Mauritshuis is the Binnenhof which we wandered into just because it seemed in the right general direction for where we wanted to go next. Binnenhof translates as inner court and has been the home of the Dutch parliament since 1446. The grandest building in the Binnenhof is the Ridderzaal or Knights Hall (below) which was built in the 13th century by Floris V, Count of Holland and is used for the state openings of parliament every third Tuesday in September.
With it's roofed turrets, painted shutters and crenelated bits, I thought that this was the architecture of fairy stories - the internet wants to call it gothic.
We were trying to admire, take a few pictures and get where we were headed in time. This golden fountain most certainly needed a few minutes for admiration.
It was paid for by some distinguished Hague residents in 1879 to celebrate the restoration of the Binnenhof complex. The shiny fellow is King Willem II.
A strange gilt creature.
The Hofvijver (courts pond), onto which both the Binnenhof and the Mauritshuis back.
We just managed to get to the Esher museum 40 minutes before closing time and so had to rush round it much faster than we would have liked to. They did let us take pictures, so I'll give them a whole blog to themselves, so more about Mr Esher at a later date.
By now it was getting dark and places were closing down so we thought we would work our way towards our next destination which we didn't, though walking in the wrong direction did take us to a nice, little, reasonably priced Thai restaurant. By the time we had eaten and found our way back to somewhere we recognised, we were cutting it a bit fine to take a tram so decided to take a taxi instead. Bev sat in the back and I went to get into the front seat. I was rather taken aback though to find the passenger seat occupied by a steering wheel and a selection of peddles. Somewhat embarrassed I wandered round to where the passenger is usually expected to sit in a continental vehicle.