I’ve been reading your stuff on here (still have not finished, will try not to) for a while now Andy. I absolutely love your TRs (personal favorite is your TR from the 2013 TX/Midwest Trip). You always have interesting stuff, and this TR is no exception. I love all the architecture and interesting points in the Benelux and France. If I were in the Netherlands, I’d visit the Binnenhof, in The Hague, the official seat of government in the Netherlands. Now, before I get into Dutch politics (I’m American). It’s a really interesting building. You definitely wouldn’t think it was a government building.
Your_Coaster_News wrote:I’ve been reading your stuff on here (still have not finished, will try not to) for a while now Andy. I absolutely love your TRs (personal favorite is your TR from the 2013 TX/Midwest Trip). You always have interesting stuff, and this TR is no exception. I love all the architecture and interesting points in the Benelux and France. If I were in the Netherlands, I’d visit the Binnenhof, in The Hague, the official seat of government in the Netherlands. Now, before I get into Dutch politics (I’m American). It’s a really interesting building. You definitely wouldn’t think it was a government building.
Thank you! I didn't know anyone still dug into the old TRs, but it's appreciated. Oh, and based on that comment, you might enjoy the next TR segment. Should be up by the end of the weekend.
bert425 wrote:(I looked thru your report tonight instead of paying attention to my conference call!. . LOL. .. better use of my time, I thought).
I am perfectly OK with my trip reports being used as a means of distraction from actual boring real-world work.
Monday, July 15, 2019 Day 4: The Deer of Den Haag, the Minions of Leiden
My travels through the Netherlands continued in the western part of the country, with visits to The Hague and Leiden on the agenda.
It was yet another day of almost completely cloudy, grey weather -- which sadly led me to cut out one of the planned destinations I had for this day of the trip. Scheveningen is the most popular beach resort in the Netherlands, complete with a huge hotels, tons of restaurants, miles of beachfront, and even a pier with a Ferris wheel. It's sort of the Dutch Santa Monica, and it's somewhere I'd been excited to go since I started planning things out. I just couldn't justify a half-day at the beach under such ugly weather (and photography) conditions. Scheveningen will remain high on my list of places to see on future European adventures.
That still left me with another huge flood control project to visit, plus a major city and a smaller city, along with a slightly gentler pace than I'd been keeping the previous few days.
On my way out of Rotterdam, my first destination was the Maeslantkering -- another huge Delta Works project.
Rotterdam, as I mentioned in the last post, is a huge port city. The river that flows through Rotterdam -- the Nieuwe Maas -- continues west from downtown, eventually funneling into a large ship canal called the Nieuwe Waterweg. This waterway is usually completely open to the North Sea, and susceptible to flooding as far upstream as Rotterdam and beyond. How do you stop that from occurring? With a giant mechanical double-gate that can close off the entire waterway -- the Maeslantkering. How big is it? Each of the two gates is about 700 feet long. Together, they close off a canal over 1,200 feet wide.
If you want to see an aerial view of what these two gates look like -- open and closed -- look here. Otherwise, enjoy my pictures from the ground after a quick visit outside the Maeslantkering visitor's center.
Here's a panoramic shot of the northern Maeslantkering gate, taken from a small hill on the grounds of the visitor's center. If it's hard to get a sense of scale for just how big this is, check out the cars on the right side of the picture.
Looking in a little closer at the hinge on the northern gate -- and you can see the southern gate behind it.
When the water level rises to 3m above normal sea level, the two gate arms are floated and rotated out into the waterway. Once they're out in the canal, they are then filled with water, and they sink to the bottom of the canal -- closing off the waterway completely.
The joints/hinges have a diameter of 10 meters, and they can move freely like any other type of ball-and-socket joint. Each gate weighs 6,800 tons.
Obviously, there were no impediments to ship traffic during this relatively unremarkable July day.
A view across the water to the southern gate. The Maeslantkering was built from 1991-1997.
As best as I can tell, the Maeslantkering has only actually been closed /operationally/ twice -- during storms in November 2007 and January 2018. Obviously, the gates are tested more often than that.
Some additional info about the Maeslantkering -- the largest movable storm surge barrier on the planet!
A guy on a bike in the foreground, with a waterway and wind turbines in the background. This picture is very Dutch.
The Hague is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It's located very close to Rotterdam, and was an easy choice for my next place to visit. Here's what makes The Hague interesting -- while Amsterdam is well-known as the official capital of the Netherlands, almost all government functions are headquartered in The Hague instead. That includes the Dutch parliament (States General), the office of the King, and the Supreme Court -- in addition to most foreign embassies and many United Nations judicial functions.
Den Haag -- as it is known in Dutch -- is a very dense city. To me, it felt like like sort of a blend of the modern downtown of Rotterdam and the older, classic architecture of Amsterdam. There's a bit of both! While The Hague was seriously damaged during World War II, many of the most important old buildings survived.
Again, parking was no problem -- I found easy access to a garage not even a 10 minute walk from the historic city center. My walking tour of The Hague was about 6 miles, and a little over 4 hours long.
A street scene in The Hague as my walking tour begins.
The Dutch Coat of Arms on the gate...
...of the Paleis Noordeinde, the official working office of the King of the Netherlands.
Outside of the Paleis Noordeinde, a statue of William of Orange. It's the oldest free-standing statue in The Hague.
Spiraly-globe thing. Sorry, can't be historically/technically accurate with every caption.
The Paleis Knueterdijk -- the home of the Dutch Council of State.
The front of the Paleis Knueterdijk, which is just northwest of the Binnenhof.
More foreshadowing! More HARDGAAN!
Hout. Staal. Hardgaan. = Wood. Steel. Go fast.
Approaching the Binnenhof -- the historic center of The Hague. This building across the water is the Mauritshuis -- a museum of Dutch paintings.
Across the pond (the Hofvijver) is the Binnenhof, the large complex of government buildings at the center of the city.
The Binnenhof was built primarily in the 1200s. It is very old.
Across the Hofvijver, several other historic buildings -- including the Gevangenpoort, and in the distance, the tower of the Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk.
Another view of the Binnenhof, and a contrast of the old and the new.
The Hague's main business district is located very close to the city center, so modern skyscrapers and 13th century buildings can line up in the same photograph.
On a plaza just west of the Binnenhof.
This old medieval gate -- the Gevangenpoort -- was built in the 1400s.
Another coat of arms above the Gevangenpoort.
The Gevangenpoort is now a crime museum.
A monument to King William II -- and not the first statue of the guy that I'd come across. You may recall seeing a similar statue in my trip report segment from Luxembourg, where he was also the Grand Duke.
Flags on the wall of the Hofvijver.
Ooh look, a secret passage.
The Passage dates to the late 1800s -- a cornerstone inside the center area is engraved 1884. It was the first enclosed shopping plaza in the Netherlands.
I like these open-air arcade passageway things, but I shouldn't act like they're all that special, because even Cleveland has one.
You really don't have to walk far to get from the Binnenhof to the Passage to this very commercialized shopping area.
This is why I came to The Hague -- to pimp up.
The Nieuwe Kerk. Which was built in 1649. Because "new" in Europe isn't really new.
Detail on the entrance of the Nieuwe Kerk.
This is new-ish, though -- The Hague's city hall.
It's a huge and very impressive building.
Den Haag is the official name of the city. The Hague, in English, is actually a pretty poor translation.
Looking up inside of The Hague's city hall.
They had some kind of art / photography gallery on the main floor.
The Hague's old city hall -- which appears at the end of this post -- is tiny. Sometimes, even in a historic city, you've gotta build new and large.
This is an interesting statue.
Not far from city hall is the former Netherlands Ministry of Justice building.
Now headed back to the Binnenhof for a walk inside.
This archway might date to 1899, but most of the buildings in the Binnenhof are far older.
A walk through the main arch into the courtyard.
The Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) -- it looks like a church, but it's a big ceremonial government building.
A golden statue of King William II atop the fountain.
The walls of the inner courtyard of the Binnenhof.
Arches and columns in the Binnenhof.
Another view of the fountain.
The King delivers a speech from the Ridderzaal once a year.
The eastern gate on the way out of the Binnenhof.
Though I couldn't tell you exactly where, the Dutch legislature (States General of the Netherlands) holds session inside the Binnenhof.
Another view of the western Binnenhof gate from the other side.
Heading west from the Binnenhof, the old and the new align.
The Koninklijke Schouwburg -- the Royal Theater of The Hague.
Obviously not a historic building, but this is the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) of the Netherlands.
Approaching the modern downtown area.
A view of skyscrapers over a small canal.
In the Koekamp park, there are deer.
Lots of deer.
Very peaceful deer.
Deer of different colors.
Deer with antlers.
Koekamp is located very close to the Den Haag Centraal train station, so if you're stressed after a day of travel, you can always go walk through this park and watch a bunch of deer do absolutely nothing.
Here's Den Haag Centraal -- the shorter of the two buildings. It's one of the /two/ main train stations in The Hague.
Another stop on my Dutch food hall tour -- this is MingleMush.
OK, I can't give good reviews to every place I go. Any food hall was going to be disappointing after Rotterdam's Markthal, but MingleMush was especially so.
The assortment of vendors was decent, but half of them weren't open, and it was just past lunch time on a weekday.
The place was not quite a ghost town, but it was not very busy. I had tacos. They were good, but not great.
A fountain and some colorful art outside of MingleMush and Den Haag Centraal.
More interesting art and modern buildings, as I make my way on a lengthy walk southeast from Den Haag Centraal.
From here, I had to walk alongside this busy road on what I don't think was actually intended to be a sidewalk...
...but I reached an overlook platform with a view of The Hague's downtown core and the tracks heading into the train station.
You'll notice the blue skies. I knew there would be a brief break in the clouds, and perhaps an opportunity to get a decent picture of the skyline that wasn't completely grey. I timed out my walking tour to get up to the overlook when the sun came out. It lasted all of 20 minutes.
Looking east from the overlook.
Another view of the train station, with one elevated platform.
Many of these downtown buildings are Dutch federal government office buildings.
The top of this building -- the Hoftoren -- is quite interesting.
You could tell it was a busy station -- trains were coming in and out every couple of minutes.
Leaving the viewing area and continuing southwest.
Another view of downtown. Electrotechniek is a cool word.
The tall building here is Het Strijkijzer (The Flatiron) -- or sometimes called de Haagse Toren (The Hague Tower). It has an observation deck up top, which was open six days a week.
It was Monday, the one day it was not open.
The second main railway station in The Hague is Den Haag HS (Hollands Spoor). The two stations were built by competing companies. East-west lines terminate at Centraal Station, and north-south lines terminate here.
Now heading north into a section of The Hague that looks a little more like Amsterdam.
Canals and boats and bikes!
I passed by an art/performance venue called The Grey Space. They had very weird things written on their five windows. I'm presuming they are supposed to be thoughtful, poetic, and artistic. I am posting all five of them because they amuse me.
Heading further north. This part of The Hague had a lot of cultural diversity. It was interesting to walk through.
Would you like to meet Haagse Harry? He's a character from a series of Dutch comic books.
Haagse Harry has left us a gift.
The Grote Markt, a busy outdoor dining area.
Last stop in The Hague is the old city hall.
This building dates to the 1500s.
Most of the city hall functions have transferred over to the gigantic new building, but some ceremonial purposes are still held here.
I spent the evening in a city called Leiden. Located about 10-15 miles northeast of The Hague, Leiden is the 20th largest city in the Netherlands, so it's considerably smaller than the last two big cities I visited on the trip. Leiden was a really pleasant place to walk around -- much more quiet and relaxed than any of the major downtowns, but just as scenic.
I parked at a garage adjacent to the city's west gate, and then walked all the way through the city center to the east gate and back again. The whole thing was about 3 miles / 2 hours, followed by a stop for dinner on the way out.
No hotel stories or pictures this time -- I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn just outside of Leiden. Exciting, I know.
Entering Leiden just like they did in the 1600s -- through the Morspoort.
It slightly bothers me that this is just barely not quite centered correctly.
Leiden is a city of canals, traditional Dutch architecture, and windmills. Here's one of two windmills in the city -- the Molen De Put.
Here's how I described Leiden after visiting: all of Amsterdam's scenic canal atmosphere, and none of Amsterdam's "disgusting NYC plus weed" smells.
The classic red-and-white Dutch window shutters. One of the trademarks you see around the country.
A bridge over a boat near Leiden's main plaza. In the distance: the city's other windmill, the Molen De Valk.
These old lift bridges are another common sight in Dutch cities. This one is called the Rembrandtbrug -- named after the famous painter, who was born in Leiden.
Canals and boats and stuff.
This bridge is a bit more modern...
...and this one is quite a bit older.
This bridge -- the Koornbrug -- is maybe the most interesting in the city. It's not just a bridge -- there's a small pavilion / public space up on top.
This gate kind of reminds me of the ones near the Binnenhof in The Hague.
That gate leads to the Burcht -- one of Leiden's most important locations.
The stairway leading up the hill to the Burcht.
A little more about the Burcht -- a small castle-like fortification built near the city's geographic center, at the confluence of the Oude Rijn and the Nieuwe Rijn.
The Burcht was built on a man-made mound that dates as far back as the 800s. The brick structure was built around 1150.
The Burcht was never really used in any serious conflict, and it's been a public park since the 1600s.
The inner courtyard of the Burcht has several large trees.
You can climb a staircase to get to the upper level of the Burcht. It's one of the highest accessible spots in the very flat city, but because it's surrounded by trees, the views are mostly obstructed.
A view southwest to Leiden's city hall.
A view southeast to the Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden's largest church.
An old/new contrast. On the right, the Marekirk, dating to the 17th century. On the left, one of the buildings of the University of Applied Sciences of Leiden.
A flag in the wind.
Heading east through the quiet streets of Leiden.
In front of a small marina on the city's east end.
The Schrijversbrug -- a road lift bridge just outside the east city gate.
Leiden's east gate is called the Zijlpoort.
Heading back west into the city. You can see the water level in the canal, but look at the marker on the wall.
NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil) is essentially the Dutch equivalent of sea level -- meaning that the water level in the canal is probably a meter or two below.
Walking past the Molen De Valk, which is also a windmill museum.
Oh, just your usual evening canal excursion -- six guys and one minion.
I'm sure this makes sense somehow.
Stopping for dinner on the way out of Leiden at Oudt Leyden -- a Pannenkoekenhuys.
Pannenkoeken is basically a Dutch culinary staple for tourists and locals alike. It's their take on a pancake, though it's probably more somewhere between a pancake and a crepe. They can be served flat (in which they'll cover your entire dinner plate and then some) or rolled up, and they can be topped or filled with just about anything.
I went for the apple strudel pannenkoeken. It was like eating dessert for dinner. I'm on vacation. That's allowed. And that's it for the day!
Thought that dude with the bike was the Dutch PM, Mark Rutte for a quick second. He’s been known to ride his bike around on days with good weather. Altogether, this is a really good TR.
PS, the chamber for the House of Representatives and the Senate are somewhere in the back of the Binnenhof complex I think. Also, if you saw an octagonal-shaped tower attached to the Binnenhof that was most definitely the Dutch PMs office.
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