Ok, so I’ve slacked off on posting lately because I’ve been insanely busy with traveling and people visiting me (my life is very hard and I have a lot of legitimate complaints). So, I’m combining my visits from Lambo and Madi into one post, and then will be doing another post on my trip from two weekends ago to Hamburg and Fallingbostel/Bergen-Belsen. I know my family desperately wants to hear about my visit to Germany, so I’m going to try to get that post out as soon as I can, but this seemed way seemed easier to me, and my Germany post will require somewhat more reflection to properly do justice to my experiences there.
Following Amsterdam Pride, Madi came to stay with me in The Hague for a few days while she followed her YOLO path (abandoning a flight to fly standby back to the Bahamas, which actually meant abandoning that plan to fly to London to visit our friend Danielle, and then getting a first class flight back to the Bahamas from there. If only we could all YOLO so well). I showed her the stereotypical Hague sights, but we also went to Madurodam, which is a miniaturized version of Holland. I was skeptical of how much I would like this (I don’t know why I was so skeptical because, let’s get real, that sounds like something I would love), but I did love it, and it was awesome. Mostly because each building has a hilarious video tour guide with poor-to-adequate English subtitles, and also many vaguely sexual/inappropriate jokes. Which was hilarious and unexpected given that it appears to mainly be an attraction for children. But, should you ever find yourself in The Hague and looking for more to do than government/court/embassy buildings and traditional museums, Madurodam is where it’s at.
The Madurodam was actually named after George Maduro, a law student who died in Dachau after fighting the Nazi occupation forces. His parents provided the funding for it, though the idea to create the park actually belonged to a woman who worked with children suffering from tuberculosis. Her goal was to raise money to allow these children to study while undergoing treatment. So, the Maduro family provided the funds, and in that way had a memorial for their son, and the woman was able to raise money for the children. The park continues to donate its annual net profits to charities focusing on young people, which is another great reason to visit!
Other than the tiny models, the park also had a couple giant models, and a few interactive stations (including a DJ booth, a make your own model set, and a lock/dam boat station) that Madi and I had to try. Our favourite was determining how many giant cheese blocks we weighed, and trying to lift more than our weight in cheese.
Madi and I also did some active sightseeing, because that is what I force all my friends to do (except Lambo, who I have to treat delicately at all times). Madi embraced the Dutch experience and rented a bike (something Lambo didn’t do), so we took a ride out into the dunes by the beach on our way to an outdoor art installation that I had heard about.
So the dune park is probably my favourite place in the Hague so far. It has a ton of running trails (with small hills!!!!) and isn’t overly crowded. It covers a pretty large area, and feels really removed from the city. I’ve actually joined a running club (with a coach so I won’t die, you’re welcome Mom and Dad) that is located right along the dunes, so it’s great training out there. There are also wild cows and turkeys in various parts of the park. And a lot of people walk their dogs there, so that’s really all I need to like a place.
I had wanted to visit an art installation I had read about, called the Celestial Vault, by James Turrell. The premise behind it is an optical illusion, in which the sky is perceived as a dome, or vault. The work was commissioned in 1996, and consists of a man made crater in one of the dunes. In the centre of the crater is a bench that you’re meant to lie on, with your head lower than your feet. The effect of the angle of the bench and the crater makes it appear as though the sky is curving around you.
I don’t think the pictures necessarily show the full effect of the illusion – also, it seems like maintaining the area of the installation hasn’t been a priority for the group that commissioned it, which is unfortunate because I think the effect would be much more striking had everything been cleared out.
It was still really cool to see, and is worth a bike ride to if you’re in Den Haag and want to go out to the dunes anyways.
Following our trip through the dunes, Madi and I were thirsty, so met up with some of my friends from the Tribunal for the FAST Festival, which was a festival of traveling souls… I don’t really know where they end up. But they travel in their caravans performing and such (it has a real circus feel) and were in The Hague for one night.
Following the festival, Madi and I made a quick stop to Scheveningen so Madi could see the sculptures by the beach. I really like them – they’re based on globally-known and lesser-known Dutch fables. They’re just very cute and quirky.
Madi left for London on the Thursday morning after Pride, and I left the next morning for Hamburg. The day after I arrived back from Hamburg, Julia, one of my former Cape Town roommates, and one of her friends came to the Hague to have dinner with me. Julia is from Germany, but is starting her Masters program in Aarhus, Denmark, this fall, so I’m going to be visiting Copenhagen with her in September. I didn’t get any photos of us this time, but we will more than make up for it next month!
Last week ended up being fairly crazy for me – Tuesday night, I moved most of my belongings into my new apartment, but still spent the night at the house I was watching, so had to move my last bag of stuff into my new place on Wednesday (which was also my first day with my running coach). On Thursday we had a goodbye party for a couple of interns, and on Friday, Lambo arrived! So it’s really been a jampacked couple of weeks for me with visiting people and places. It’s been great, and I feel very lucky to have friends all over the world who I can visit and who can come visit me, but the timing of this all could have been slightly better (I’m literally exhausted and desperately want to sleep for an entire weekend, but resting that long is just not in my nature).
We casually strolled around Den Haag together, got some great couples pics that Lambo can send out as Christmas cards (especially to the girl at the Nespresso cafe who asked if we were dating. Lambo and I replied simultaneously yes and no, which made the poor Dutch girl feel extremely awkward. Way to make things weird, Lambo).
Despite Lambo being an oddball who needs to be bullied in order to toughen up to society as a whole (I’m a really nice friend and I’m just looking out for his best interests; he was so glad he made the choice to visit his nicest friend), we managed to have a lovely time strolling about, and found some outdoor sculptures that are installed downtown. There’s actually a sculpture museum relating to both this installation and the one I took Madi to down by the beach – I really want to go, but haven’t found the time yet.
Earth Car (above) was SO COOL. It’s a fully functioning car! Inside the car were books that said ‘smell the earth.’ The artist, Peter de Cupere, creates olfactory sculptures, so the car actually diffuses a fragrance that is meant to give the viewer the illusion of being in the Tuscan landscape. Lambo might not think the Tuscan landscape smells great; I thought it was wonderful though. The car was kept in a mini greenhouse-esque building to ensure the fragrance would be experienced. Again, Lambo was not a fan of this, but I thought it was amazing. On this trip, we learned that we aren’t exactly art compatible.
So after some Hague wanderings, Lambo had twisted my rubber arm and convinced me to go to head into the city for an Ajax match on Saturday night. The stadium was so beautiful. And we got to see three goals, in one football match! Two of which were beautiful goals; the first was a bit of a lucky bounce. But a solid three-nil victory for Ajax against Willem II. Like there was any doubt we would destroy Willem II, come on.
The football crowd was not as crazy as what you would imagine an English crowd to be, which was probably best for our health and safety. It was still a pretty cool atmosphere though, and probably Lambo’s best idea ever (I’ve collaborated with him on many things, his ideas are generally of a low bar, but this one stands out above and beyond anything else he’s ever come up with).
We kept it pretty chill after the football game (I’m getting old and tiring quickly, guys) and hung out on my new place on my terrace. I felt pretty bad because this is the third different neighbourhood I’ve lived in here, so I really don’t know it all that well, and had nothing of any interest to show Lambo in this specific area… so on Sunday I just brought him downtown again and we went to the Mauritshuis Museum.
The Mauritshuis is actually a fantastic museum – if you live in The Hague, you need to see it. It’s dedicated to the Dutch Golden Ages, and has a huge collection of Rembrants, Vermeers, and Steens. I’m honestly not a huge fan of this era of painting (I appreciate it from a technical standpoint, but the style of painting isn’t of those that generally move me… my minor was in studio art, so I’m a bit of an art nerd…) but the collection is so impressive, and it isn’t so overwhelming of a museum that you just end up feeling lost and tired by the end of it (here’s looking at you, Louvre). Plus, I always find it really cool to see works that I’ve studied in person, because it’s really only in person that you can really see and feel what makes a certain piece so amazing.
The Mauritshuis has also been a museum since 1822. Before that, it belonged to the family of the governor of Dutch Brazil. So to have such an old building be open to the public in this way and house such famous works is pretty awesome.
Lambo and I maintained our different views of art. I’m a much more modern art person. Just so hip and fresh. Unlike Lambo, who is popping his way back centuries.
My favourite piece was installed on the ceilings of the Main Landing. The artist was very aware that his installation would be featured with pieces by the Dutch greats, and so wanted to maintain a more humble sense. In the top panel, he painted his take on the myth of Icarus to warn himself of the dangers of being too proud of this commission. The wings of Icarus and Lataster’s wire glasses are visible, despite the abstract nature of the work. The bottom panel is the Allegory of the Working Man, in which he again reminded himself not to be too proud by making ‘hard work’ the subject of this panel. He incorporated images of work pants, work shoes, a spade, and a sandwich with strawberry jam as a reward for his hard work (because who doesn’t love a good goop sandwich).
Despite my love for that piece, it’s somewhat controversial – it clearly stands out among the subject matter of the works housed in the museum, and some people think it’s too garish. I loved it though. It was something you had to stop and look at as soon as you saw it. (Just like me. lolz, kidding).
Lambo left this morning, after serenading me with his new friendship song, and I managed to struggle through another work day (struggle due to my general exhaustion). I’m still liking my work, but there are a few things I notice that are different. One was that I actually loved billing because it meant I felt accountable for my time, which is something that (I think) comes from tree planting and needing to be working all the time to make money. I’m a way more productive person when I see the correlation between time and money, and can place a value on my time as such. Not that I necessarily want to be billing again any time soon, but I do miss the structure of billing. And now I don’t get to make chillable hour jokes, which were some of my favourites.
This weekend I have no plans. It’s fantastic. I’m hoping to do a blog post about my Germany trip and catch up on some volunteer work with Champion Women (an advocacy for women in sport organization), which I am still trying to be as actively involved in as possible from Europe. There are also a few job opportunities abroad that I’m looking at for the new year (ideally at least year long contracts so I can bring my puppy to come live with me, because I miss her too much). I have a couple running sessions with my trainer this week, and a couple sessions to do on my own. I’m pretty ready to take a break from traveling and actually feel settled here for a while. The timing of moving here, going to Norway and Germany, and moving into three different apartments over the course of less than two months was quite unfortunate, so I’m ready to just relax for a little bit. I still don’t feel like I know The Hague all that well, and it’s important to me to actually know the city I’m living in. So it is definitely time to spend a couple weeks at home!
Until the next time, frienderinos.