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Erasmus Shenanigans "Not all those who wander are lost"

The Emergency City: The Hague

NETHERLANDS | Monday, 13 February 2017 | Views [940] | Comments [1]

The Hague (30th Dec 2016 – 2nd Jan 2017)

Okay, so in my previous article I wasn't really being accurate when I said our next stop was Amsterdam. True, our afternoon Flixbus (the European version of Megabus) dropped us at Amsterdam train station. However, Amsterdam was not to be our final destination quite yet. We were heading to another Dutch city named The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch). The train ticket cost us 11 each, which was quite pricey for what was just a 50 minute journey. A month long hunt for affordable accommodation in Amsterdam during our desired dates ended in despair. Even the hostel prices were exorbitant, so we were forced to reduce our initial 5 day plan to just 2 days, spending 3 days in a close by city instead. I picked The Hague because it looked like a cute town and it was home to the world's oldest House of Parliament that's still in use today. I have an obsession with superlatives; the oldest, the biggest, the first. If these words are in the title of an attraction, I have to see it. Anyway, we easily found Stayokay hostel and immediately dumped our stuff to go on the hunt for a decent dinner. We passed a dodgy looking area with red lights and I wondered if that was the first red light district I would see in The Netherlands. After dinner, we got a free map and decided we'd spend New Year's Eve exploring. We asked the receptionist if there were any Pub Crawl's happening the following night and she told us there were to be none in The Hague, except for individual club events. This sent us into deliberation about whether it was worth buying tickets to go to Amsterdam for New Year's Eve, a decision we made only the following day. 

We prepared ourselves to find most places closed, as it was an international holiday after all. Our hostel had a list of "the top 5 attractions" in Den Haag pasted to the wall. A couple of them, such as the beach and canal tour, were undoable due to the weather. The Escher museum was quite high on the list so we decided to pick that as the one museum we would spend money on. At the start of our walk we came across a small, round church with locked doors. Just across the street, there was a brightly coloured, musical cart blaring cheerful fun-fair tunes. This stood next to a huge red food stall, which sold traditional Dutch pastries. It was a good contrast to the gloomy day. After 10 minutes, we found ourselves at Den Haag Central, which made me realize just how small this city was. A few streets later, and we found ourselves standing outside Escher museum. Our good luck made it so that we had arrived exactly at the opening time, 11 am. We paid €8.50 for student tickets and entered the 3-floor museum.  

Turned out, it was a palace converted into a museum! In every room we entered, there were lithographs, wood cuts and sketches by Escher but also information about how each room was used when the royal family lived there. I guess we got a 2-in-1 deal! I hadn't heard of Escher before visiting his museum but now he's one of my favourite artists (don't worry Van Gogh, nobody will ever beat you). He was a master of illusion and I was really mesmerized by his work. The top floor of the museum is the most fun; it basically makes you see how Escher saw the world. It's interactive and there's even a photo opportunity for €5 where you stand in a lop-sided room and you look five times bigger than the person next to you. I highly recommend this museum because there's something for everyone. We left the Escher museum in good spirits and walked along the bank of Hofvijver Lake with The Mauritshuis and Binnenhof on the other side. The Mauritshuis museum is home to the famous painting 'The Girl with a Pearl Earring' and the Binnenhof is the House of Parliament that I mentioned previously. Although we didn't go to either, I would recommend seeing both if you aren't broke students like we were. 

Given that this was our first full day in The Netherlands, I was on the hunt for traditional Dutch food. We entered the heart of the city centre, which was buzzing with locals. A lady beckoned us to her stall and asked us to try a sample of an apple-flavoured Dutch pastry. She told us it was a tradition to eat this pastry on New Year's Eve in The Netherlands. Even though it was delicious, we didn't buy one as our first priority was lunch. She told us that the restaurant adjacent to her stall was very nice and was actually part of a famous building in Den Haag. The place looked busy and it had those outdoor fire heaters which are always welcoming in the winter. I ordered something called a 'Dutch 12 o'clock'. I was looking forward to finally eating fresh seafood now that I was in a country with a coastline. I developed a love for seafood after living in coastal Chennai for 7 years, a love which was suddenly unrewarded after I moved to Czechia. I don't think it's possible to be more centrally located in Mainland Europe (and thereby farther than the sea) than when in Czechia. The Dutch 12 o'clock was such a delicate meal! It came with a small bowl of lobster soup, and various types of seafood in small buns. Most of the items were good, but there was one rather plain piece of mystery white fish in a small bun that was somewhat challenging to finish. Nevertheless, I was satisfied and after lunch we found ourselves on the edge of Chinatown. 

Chinatown! I was tickled that this small Dutch city had it's own Chinatown. I thought back to the one in London and decided the size of this Chinatown was one tenth the size of that one. However, there was something unique about this Chinatown. In front of the typical, tall red and gold arch were about a hundred bicycles! This was a true sign that we were in the country of bicycles. We were in and out of Chinatown in about 5 minutes. With nothing else to do, we returned to our hostel and decided that we were indeed heading out to Amsterdam to see the New Year's Celebrations. Like Gleicy said, it would be foolish to miss out on such a fun opportunity that we might not ever have again. We decided to get some rest to prepare us for the big night. We planned to grab dinner before catching our 9 pm train and we went to the local kebab place. The old man who served us made a visual effort to give us good service and at the end charged us less than we owed after he asked if we were students.  This is the kind of thing that rarely happens in bigger cities and Gleicy and I were so touched by this. I just had to mention his kindness in my article.  

The next day, I only woke up at 2 pm. The weather outside matched that of a typical British day- dark and rainy. We headed back to Chinatown for a 4 pm lunch and attempted to wander around the shopping areas. Designer stores were on every street and Gleicy and I decided that most people here were pretty well off.  I spotted my first Coffee Shop, appropriately named something along the lines of 'Space World'. After the weather worsened, we literally stayed in the hostel for the rest of the day. I was fine with this because we had pretty much seen everything in Den Haag already. And so approached the end of our Den Haag stay, an emergency city which treated us well. The next morning we checked out and were finally, actually, really and truly heading to Amsterdam! 

 

 

The Chinatown archway...with a twist

The Chinatown archway...with a twist

Tags: coffee shop, new years eve, red light, the hague

 

Comments

1

TYPICAL STUDENT LIFE .... mostly about finding food to eat ! :D happy times dear !

  poongothai Feb 18, 2017 1:29 AM

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