On the 20th of August, 1672, the city of the Hague, always so lively, so neat, and so trim that one might believe every day to be Sunday, with its shady park, with its tall trees, spreading over its Gothic houses, with its canals like large mirrors, in which its steeples and its almost Eastern cupolas are reflected, – the city of the Hague, the capital of the Seven United Provinces, was swelling in all its arteries with a black and red stream of hurried, panting, and restless citizens, who …
Alexander Dumas, Black Tulip
This is the start of one of my favorite novels as a young teenager. Though, over the time a huge part of that story’s details got lost from my head, but I will never forget the mood that great Alexander Dumas had created in the streets of 17th century the Hague. Charming, even majestic city, with a bit of a misty spice in the air, and the dramatic secrets in every second house of the city.
Intriguing, isn’t it? Well, that’s how the Hague sounded to me.
Short Background: Dry Facts and Some Thoughts
The Hague is a political center of the Netherlands located in the Western part of the country at the shore of North Sea. Though Amsterdam is the official capital of the country, but the Hague holds all the legislative, executive and judiciary institutions. In other words, here you can find parliament, government and the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. What is more, in addition to all the embassies and other significant international organizations, the Hague also is one of the most important city for the activity of United Nations. City holds two significant UN institutions: the International Court of Justice and International Crime Court. So, basically, it’s not only the political center of the Netherlands, but it’s also one of the most significant political centers in the continent.
Political power needs to be represented properly, so that’s why there are two major sides of the Hague: an old, majestic, historically significant one, from where country’s political traditions are drawn, and a new, modern, innovative one, through which countries constant progress shows up. In other words, here are a lot of significant historical and great modern sights to explore. What is more, a modern Hague is built in the back of the historical one, so it makes city easy to explore!
Finally, though it’s a big metropolitan city, but it’s also located on a bit chilly, but still – seaside! So, in just several minutes away from a vibrant city center, the residents and the guests of the city can admire the wavy panoramic view of the North Sea.
Discovering The Hague
We reached the Hague on a cloudy and grey winter day. Though we were happy enough to avoid rain, but windy weather didn’t make it the best day trip ever. Nevertheless, we had fun while wandering around the lively streets of the famous Dutch city, and discovered a number of awesome things to see and do. Like, wide and spacious shopping streets, squares and malls, numerous great cafes, restaurants and pubs, learned about the parks and seaside of the city. But personally, most of the time we were just lost between the authentic and the modern sides of the Hague!
Enchanted by the centuries-old architecture
The Hague is famous for it’s Gothic architecture, and we were there to make sure if it’s true. Well, I don’t know about the others1, but at least I was.
Since reading Black Tulip, I imagined the Hague through the Gothic and a bit mysterious perspective, so the old city’s architecture was the most interesting thing for me. And, happily, the famous city’s landmarks met the view that my imagination had drawn years ago. I loved the exterior of Peace Palace, where International Court of Justice is held now, or the palace of the Dutch Parliament among with all the other great sights of the city.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that old town of the Hague wasn’t as solid as I imagined it to be. The old and the new parts of the city are mixed with each other. Old architecture is a neighbor for the modern one, and, though I found them both charming, but in this way you can’t feel neither’s true spirit.
Captivated by the modern skyline
We can like, or dislike the modern architecture, but we have to admit that most of the time it makes city’s skyline look better. And the Hague could be an example! City has second best skyline in the Netherlands (after the Rotterdam), which is also exceptional, because most of the skyscrapers where built in the center of the city. Though I have my doubts about too many modern buildings standing around the old ones, but I sure enjoyed the skyscrapers always pointing into the sky in the back of an old and classy Gothic heritage.
Not to mention getting lost around them! We say that only nature can make us feel so small, but, well, being surrounded by these high man-made masterpieces can shrunk us too!
All in all, the Hague left a bit chaotic impression for us. On one hand, it has both, great old and modern architectural heritage, as well as, great history and significant role nowadays. In addition to this, city has a rich cultural life, is a great destination for a shopaholics and foodies. But, on the other hand, all these features are so mixed up together that in the end I can’t name the thing that made this city special for me. There are a lot of things, which takes attention from the other ones, and in the end I can only this: when in the Hague, one is lost between modern and old.