by Jacob Aldridge

Our Dutch friend and guide Luke has a message for you – don’t come to Amsterdam and waste your entire time sitting in a city coffee shop.

Head out and see the countryside as well! So he’s taking us to The Hague.

The Plein - main square of The Hague (Den Haag) Netherlands Holland

The Plein – main square of The Hague.

Today’s Experience

The Hague (Den Haag) is a 1 hour train ride from Amsterdam’s Centraal train station. Today is the Spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and as we coast through the Dutch countryside Spring is certainly in the air.

A green town … and springtime colour welcomes us to The Hague’s most famous building, the Peace Palace.

Front view of the Peace Palace, The Hague

Exterior of the Peace Palace. The winning design actually had two towers, but was adjusted to meet the budget.

Built with more than a million dollars from the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the Peace Palace was built to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration which had been created as a means to prevent future wars.

Designed by competition winner Louise Cordonnier in the Neo-Renaissance style, it officially opened in 1913… just a year before the worst war in history erupted across Europe.

It remains in active use, now managed by the United Nations and also home to the International Court of Justice. Our tour guide takes us through history, architecture, and world politics in under an hour – impressive! This is a beautiful building, and one still in active use (although Carnegie et al would hope for a day when its function is no longer required).

A 360 Degree Painting

The Hague is a beachside town, although it’s too long to walk today when the ocean water is likely too cool for all but the most brass of monkeys to swim in.

Instead, Luke has offered us a 19th century seaside experience that will blow our 21st century minds. So we enter a small, round building at Zeestraat 65, walk down a corridor past a few nondescript paintings, and then step up into…

The Mesdag Panorama.

Full view of the Hendrik Mesdag Panorama, The Hague

Click to see a High Resolution version – and remember, this isn’t up on a wall, this fills the entire room!

Before there were motion pictures, there were these: paintings wrapped around a room, 14 metres high and 120 metres (360 feet) long. The advent of film saw Panoramas, and the circular buildings crafted to house them, drop in popularity. A century later, it makes these all the more remarkable.

And the Mesdag Panorama, painted by Hendrik Mesdag, is an excellent example, showing the seaside from the Signpost sand dune in 1881 – just before a large and ‘modern’ pier turned the fishing village into a holiday resort for the regions wealthiest citizens.

Close up section of the Mesdag Panorama - can you see where the painting ends and the sand diorama begins?

Close up section of the Mesdag Panorama – can you see where the painting ends and the sand diorama begins?

It captures the artist’s favourite spot at a pivotal moment in the industrialisation of his country. And for us, we are confronted with this painting in the round, naturally lit from a skylight that also adds mood lighting every time a cloud passes over.

I can’t resist buying a print from the giftshop; but can you see any souvenirs that even go close to capturing inside that dome?

Before MC Hammer, there was MC …

If it’s experiential artwork you want, says Luke as he walks us through the main square after lunch, then you’re going to love the next place.

He’s taking us to the former Queen Mother’s residence, the Lange Voorhout Palace, now a museum dedicated to the surrealist graphic artist MC Escher.

Here we have a chance to see some of his most famous works…

MC Escher's famous drawing of two hands each drawing each other

Look familiar? Stop: Escher Time!

MC Escher's famous drawing of himself, with the perspective of a crystal ball

Now THAT’S a self-portrait. Almost worthy of Van Gogh, don’t you think?

Some of his earliest geometric works blown up to the size of rooms!¬†And, on the top floor (after several rooms that fill us in on Dutch royal family history as well) there’s a chance for all of us to place ourselves inside some of the most famous illusions.

Recreate the famous MC Escher mirror ball drawing for yourself

Can you see yourself here?

There’s also a chance to appreciate the chandeliers by another Dutch artist Hans van Bentem. Yesterday we were admiring the intriguing art of Vincent van Gogh – today we learn that Dutch art didn’t stop experimenting after his death.

Amazing chandeliers in The Hague

There are skulls and globes and plenty of others – we thought the dove of peace was fitting!

And then, we’re on the train back to Amsterdam. The city buzzes, but we have one eye on the upcoming weekend exploring yet another European gem: Copenhagen.

Inside Amsterdam Centraal (Central) Train Station at night

Amsterdam Centraal Train Station – easy airport access

Fake tulips at the Amsterdam airport

The tulips I like best are your tulips in the dark.