You already know my posts from Holland will not be chronologically ordered (there were so many things and I was more than few times too lazy to type every evening). So May 6th I went on one-day trip to South Holland to The Hague, Scheveningen and Delft (and I managed to stop for an hour and a half walk through Leiden on my way back).
Everyone in Serbia knows about The Hague and Scheveningen because in The Hague are two courts which plays very important roles in our lives: one is International Court of Justice (which was dealing with genocide issue in the war in ex-Yugoslavia) and the other one is International Court Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, or ICTY (where many of politicians from ex-YU republics were/are still on trials for their role in the war); Scheveningen is place where is the prison where are those politicians.
So my first association when hear these two places was indeed trials and I didn’t even imagining there’s anything else. As if The Hague are two buildings and Scheveningen one prison; and that’s it. Indeed this trip was in my “schedule”prior coming here and among things I really wanted to see were those mentioned buildings. I guess some of you might find this odd but I really had need to bee there and see it with my own eyes.
Of course that’s wasn’t everything I was hoping to see. When checking what else is there I was so surprised to discover how in my mind politics has completely covered real treasures those places have. Before this trip I didn’t even think about Vermeer and his life here, nor about Rembrandt or Rubens, or Escher.
Anyway I jumped on the morning train and was in The Hague about 10.30am. Luckily the weather was lovely although quite windy (but that’s fantastic for Holland). So first thing I was heading to was The Mauritshuis, one of the finest galleries in The Netherlands. It is placed in beautiful mansion which was bequeathed to the state after Johann Maurits death in 1697, and since 1821 it has been the home of the Royal Picture Gallery. And indeed what an amazing collection it is. I was stunned first by “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp” by Rembrandt; In the same room is the very last Rembrandt’s sefportrait and then in the next room the pearl of the museum, Jan Vermeer’s “Girl With a pearl Earring”. It was an amazing feeling to stand in front of “Dutch Mona Lisa”, the painting I know so much (nope, I didn’t read the book, nor saw the film). I was standing some half an hour looking it and listening audio guide when suddenly I’ve heard one quite weird sentence:“Jan Vermeer made the most famous pearl in western art by only two brushstrokes of white paint” and I thought “What?”. Then I approached even closer and was staring into the pearl and indeed is made by two different white: one that reflects the light and other that reflects the the clothes and that’s it. There is no definitive shape nor the hole in the ear. Amazing!
After the Mauritshuis I remembered advice from BookCrossing friend from The Hague and visited Escher Museum (which is oddly enough not included in the guides) and how good advice that was! I was completely lost in the impossible landscapes, optical illusions, and interactive things museum offers. I love how he used geometry in his art and all puzzle-like metamorphoses he made.
After Escher’s museum I finally went to Vredespaleis (or Peace Palace) in which is The International Court of Justice. The building (or should I say castle) is breathtaking. Sadly I couldn’t get in because I made stupid mistake and didn’t announce my visit which is mandatory. I almost begged but without any success. One simple phone call day before would solve the problem but hey, at least I’ve seen it from the (safe) distance. This means nothing but I’ll have to come back
Enormous palace was completed 1913 and many of the member nations of the Court of Arbitration contributed to the interior’s (according to the guide) rich decoration. In 1946 the Untited Nation’s International Court of Justice was formed as successor to the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
In a front of Vredespalais was a tram station where I could catch a train to Scheveningen so I did but after a few minutes I’ve seen a familiar building so I jumped off and indeed it was what I thought it is: The International Court Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (and I think Rwanda as well). It was very strange feeling to stand in a front of the building which was on news almost everyday. I even saw a van with some Serbian crew (I recognized the names). So I text message to Serbia where I am and got reply “I hope you were spitting it”. Strange thing is that every side involved in the war think the ICTY is against precisely their side favouring other two but indeed I would agree. I do think it at least a little bit less favouring our side but I’d rather not be part of that game so I’ll stop here.
Anyway, I’m so glad I fulfilled my, maybe perverse wish and visited both courts.
Then I catched a train to Scheveningen. As I said at the beginning, the only thing I could imagine about Scheveningen was a prison so I was extremely pleasantly surprised when I saw absolutely gorgeous little town on the coast of North Sea (yup sea again). I walked and really enjoyed myself in the view and nope, I didn’t went to see the prison. I really enjoyed my time there and actually didn’t know how much I love the sea because I was always thing about myself as more mountain-type but those waves and the salty air were incredible and indeed something I obviously missed a lot.
There is a joke about Scheveningen, that during WWII Nazis were able to distinguish Dutch from others by forcing them to say Scheveningen. This is indeed historical fact; the joke is that the allies (i.e. Americans) were pronouncing it something like “Shave-a-nigger”.
In the opposite direction of the same tram line was Delft, my third planned destination for that day. And after some half an hour ride I was there. Friends who were there told me it’s gorgeous but I couldn’t imagine how right they are. Indeed it’s so cosy with small and numerous canals and bridges, squares and churches. OK churches are everything but small but anyway I’m so glad I decided to go there as well. Delft is by the way world famous fir its blue-and-white pottery as well as the resting place of William of Orange (1553-84), one of the most celebrated figures in Dutch history. He commanded the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule from his headquarters in Delft, and his victory resulted in religious freedom and independence for the Dutch people.
Delft was also the birthplace of Jan Veermer who was so underrated during his lifetime that he died in extreme poverty. Well, so many painters had the same destiny. I just remember that I’ve heard on audio guide that “Girl With a Pearl Earring” has been bought for only 2 euros! Nope even then that wasn’t much!
So after spending few hours in Delft it was time to go back but then in the train I thought “Why not get off the train in Leiden, spend an hour or so there and then catch another one?”
which is precisely what I’ve done. This was indeed second time I was here but first time was after biking some 50 km (I posted about that) and then I wasn’t keen on going deeper in the town.
Leiden was founded 1575 precisely by William of Orange, a year after he relieved the town from a year-long siege by the Spanish. As a reward for their endurance, William offered the citizens of Leiden a choice of the building a university or the abolition of tax. They choose wisely and the city’s reputation as a centre of intellectual and religious tolerance was firmly established.
The dark was fell long time ago when I left Leiden.
I’m very happy to say that after this trip The Hague and Scheveningen will not be places where our “Balkan heroes” are but home of Vermeer and Escher and lovely coastal town.