I love Holland. I was there at a good time of year and there was a lot happening but I think perhaps its the people who can make the biggest impact on your trip sometimes and Holland has some of the best. We’ll meet most of them in parts 2 & 3.
I had been to Holland once before, years ago when my friend Stephen lived in Rotterdam. I spent a few days with him there and we took a brief day trip to Amsterdam. Deciding to try somewhere new, I boarded the Flix bus from Antwerp and made my way across the border to The Hague.
Each time I book a hostel, it always seems to be 30 minutes walk from the station. I don’t plan it that way, its just by chance that it happens. I started my 30 minutes, knowing full well by the end of it I would have multiple bruises where my backpack bashes against me, as I try to navigate a throng of pedestrians who inevitably seem to all be walking in the opposite direction. I reached the hostel and was greeted with a free beer, which was probably something to soften new arrivals up before we’re made to climb the steepest stairs I’ve ever seen. Even more so when climbing with a heavy bag. Twice I nearly toppled backwards trying to reach my room – I’m glad I was only on the second floor! Upon entering my room, I met the first of the nice people. One of the best things about travelling is other travellers. I was in a 4 bed dorm, 2 guys, 2 girls and straight away, we all clicked. Conversation flowed, stories were exchanged and laughs were had. The hostel bar had live jazz music each night and we amiably sat together and enjoyed each others company. It was a good start to the trip.
My first impression of The Hague (Den Haag) is brown. All the buildings are made of brown brick and they have decided to lay the roads and pavements in the same brick, to make you feel like you’re walking through a chocolate town. I resisted the urge to break a tooth while taking a bite out of the nearest building and did what I do best – wander! I ambled through main streets, lane ways and often, unbeknownst to me, bike paths too, as there is no differentiation in shades of brown to show these as non pedestrian areas. When I finished wandering, I made my way to a bar and researched what to do in The Hague and in all fairness, there wasn’t much which peaked my interest. The Hague comes across as a very sensible, grown up city and although I can identify as a sensible grown up, it’s not quite the look I’m going for at the moment.
Waking up feeling fresh the next mornng, I made my way to The Mauritshuis, which is an amazing collection of Flemish art, housing the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, Hals and of course Vermeer, with this notably being one of his most famous pieces.
Scarlett Johansson 😉
After a morning of perusing, I wandered the Binnenhof which houses the office of the Prime Minister and the State General. It is also one of the oldest Houses of Parliament in the world which is still in use, having been built in the 13th century. Although you couldn’t go in, it was pleasant enough to wander around and appreciate its setting with canals streaming either side.
Having had an entry to another gallery included with my Mauritshuis ticket, I took a brief stroll around there but was ‘arted out’ so left to wander some more. I opted to take a tour of the Peace Palace, only to find it was closed as there were a number of important people there promoting peace among nations or some such, not considering my touristic needs. I took an audio tour of the visitors centre which did genuinely bore me, before continuing on to Van Stolkpark, which is a huge public park on the outskirts of the city and I have to say, it is so picturesque. So much lush greenery, flora and fauna with running tracks, dog walking areas and meandering paths all over, it was a literal breath of fresh air, after being inside for so long. I walked for an age, only to remember I had to walk back again, so that is how I spent the remainder of my afternoon and it was completely relaxing. I’m noticing again and again how much I enjoy being outside so much more than being in built up areas, whichever country I find myself in.
That evening was spent listening to more live music with my super cool bunk-mates who were Latvian, Italian and Columbian (but living in New Zealand).
The next day I knew I needed to go further a field and jumped on the number 1 tram to Scheveningen Beach. This is definitely what the people of The Hague need. Miles and miles of golden sand was stretched out in front of me and the blue skies and seas complimented it so well. It was the first beach I’ve seen on my travels so far and as far as the eye could see, it was fringed with super cool bars, restaurants and entertainment. One bar was pumping out such good music that it reminded me of when I was young and went clubbing. It projected such good memories in my mind, I sat there drinking a glass of water, just to reminisce to the music, even though it was closed! I stayed at the beach all morning. There was such good public art available all over the place and with the sun shining, music playing and waves lapping. I felt super happy. In order to top my happiness up to 100%, I decided to call my Mum and we had a lovely chat, catching up over the past few weeks. Full happiness complete 🙂
Although it was a shame to leave such a happy place (I will always be happiest at the beach) I knew the tram back would take me all the way to Delft and I had heard good things.
Delft sprung up from a rural village in the early middle ages and received its royal charter of city status in 1246. It has a feel about it that all the building was done that year and has just been maintained ever since, as it looks ancient! It really is a beautiful city, sitting upon a criss cross of canals and the main market square is still used as a market to this day. Only on a Thursday though, which is when I happened to be there. There was live folk music playing, a good vibe and veritable treats at each stall.
Having missed the official walking tour, I took the map and retraced the footsteps of the tour. It is such a pretty place to wander around, I often forgot to read about the buildings I was looking at, instead just admiring them against the blue sky and fluid canals.
This was also where I first noticed how much subsidence there is in Holland. Some major, historical buildings really lean heavily and it is a worry that they might topple over at any minute. No doubt preventative measures are put in place to combat this but it still looks concerning.
I made my way back to The Hague and at a loss with what to do now the daylight was dwindling, I decided to be cheeky and made my way to a coffee shop and try a joint. This isn’t my usual practice and this became clearly apparent when I completely greened out after 3 puffs! I felt pretty awful and wasn’t sure how I’d make my way back to the hostel without everyone staring at me, so I just sat and listened to my thoughts which were all of a sudden shouting at me, as if those 3 puffs made me hard of hearing . After what felt like an age just sitting and staring, I managed to make my way back to the hostel via a very tasty kebab house and spent the rest of the evening watching Netflix, feeling extremely relaxed! I was looking forward to leaving for Amsterdam the following day, knowing I would definitely keep a clear head whilst I was there.