1. The Hague City Walk – Must see, accommodation and restaurants
2. Bluffing your way through The Hague – All about Haagse Bluf
3. Eye-Catcher: het Souterrain – The Spui tram stop architectural highlight
4. Haags Bakkie – The Hague photography, funny, interesting, beautiful
End of September we took the train to The Hague, for a nice weekend full of photography. The gods were in a good mood and organized the most glorious sunshine we have ever seen at the end of September. With the prospect of warm weather, we decided to travel light. In terms of our kit, we only took our camera’s, enough batteries and an extra lens. No tripods, no flashes, no fancy stuff…
In The Hague, architecture rules. There are centuries of styles and trends and together they create a skyline that works, that fits, that is easy to recognize. You will see shining new skyscrapers in New York fashion, elegant palaces of days gone by, modern squares and old-fashioned streets. Admittedly, the light wasn’t always easy, but having a blue sky in the picture always looks better.
Binnenhof – this square it is not very photogenic as far as we are concerned. We hastily add that you have to sit down on one of the benches and look around, to feel the history in every corner, to realize that this is the seat of Dutch government for over six centuries now!
Vredespaleis (The Peace Palace)- it is a matter of opinion whether you like this building or not. One of us liked it, the other not so much… It looks as if it has been around for centuries, yet it is only about 100 years old. It was donated by Andrew Carnegie to The Hague and it is most famous for being the seat for International Law.
Haagse Bluf – a hidden gem in the heart of The Hague. Drink a cup of coffee in this peaceful square, before heading back into the hustle and bustle of the shopping streets.
Tram and Parking Spui. Walk down the steps into another world. This is architecture by Rem Koolhaas. We think it is fabulous, amazing, incredible architecture at its best. Lines, materials, space. It is simply gorgeous. We just sat admiringly for over half an hour and almost forgot to take photos.
Accommodation & Restaurants
Check in for the night was at Park Hotel in Hofkwartier, just behind the main shopping streets. At the front a busy street at night with bars and restaurants. We had a recently renovated room at the back that was very peaceful and quiet. An excellent hotel to stay if you want to explore the city centre by foot!
Breakfast: Van Prinse & Co. Highly recommended! Horas and Wanda, thank you for your hospitality, great food and coffee, and for kindly letting us take pictures of your cozy place!
The Desert: Haagsche Bluf
Bluff and The Hague go together in other ways, too. First of all, there is the desert: Haagsche Bluf. Whisk egg whites together and pour juice of berries over it. Add lots of sugar. Ta-da, and hope you have a sweet tooth!
The Square: Haagse Bluf
There is also a square called Haagse Bluf. It is a tranquil space, even on a Saturday with the hustle and bustle of the shopping streets. Walk inside the square and sit down to quietly enjoy a good cup of coffee.
It’s usually very quiet in the Prinsestraat on a Sunday afternoon. You’ll see the odd couple window-shopping, children rollerblading on the streets, the odd parent with child in a ‘carrier cycle’ (Dutch: de bakfiets) on their way to buy groceries. We have our backpack and camera bags, ready to head home.
A young man in a Feyenoord shirt passes us. Feyenoord is the football club from Rotterdam. I tell Bjorn I think the guy has guts to walk around with that shirt in The Hague. Because The Hague has its own football club: ADO Den Haag. ADO to the in-crowd.
Before I finish my sentence three big guys on the other side of the street start shouting at the guy in the Feyenoord shirt. I should add, the Feyenoord guy is a small, slender guy. Shirt guy turns quickly and crosses the street. Astonished, we see how he boldly walks up to one of the three big guys. They start swearing at each other, until one slaps the sun glasses of the other’s head. That’s when the fun begins. They slap and punch each other, they throw their legs high in the air attempting a kickboxer move (which they obviously haven’t practiced before). It looks silly. The big guy averts most punches and only defends himself, which infuriates the shirt guy. After two female bystanders try to separate them (!), some men finally come to break up the fight. Yet, shirt-guy returns at least six times to kick the big guy in the back and to punch him in the side. In the end, he walks away unscathed.
So, who was bluffing here? The guy walking in the Feyenoord t-shirt? What was he thinking? That his shirt goes unnoticed when walking around in The Hague? Yet, despite his length, he came back every time to fight. Or the ADO guys, who were the first to provoke, but backed off and only dodged the fists when it came to a fight?
For this eye-catcher, we are going underground. Literally. The Hague oozes architecture and the highlight of modern architecture in the heart of this town: het Souterrain, the tram stop of het Spui. The architect: Rem Koolhaas.
In the low countries, it’s a challenge to build subway or tram tunnels. It’s hard, very hard in our soft and muddy clay. Not only does it take a lot of time, money, it also needs a lot of effort and a huge learning curve to build these tunnels. Amsterdam is still trying to fix theirs, but The Hague finished the tunnel a few years back. Looking at the way it turned out, we can only utter a deeply impressed: WOW!
The tram stop is a feast for the eyes. We simply sat on the stone bench for more than half an hour, our cameras unused on the bench next to us. We gazed at the magical concrete walls, the smooth stainless steel air shafts, the straight, modern lines of the staircases and the sleek shiny wooden floor. Everything works together, all the different materials, the overall feeling. We think it is unlike any other Dutch architecture, because it gives you the feeling of being in a metropolis like NYC, Singapore, certainly not the city centre of The Hague…
If architecture by Rem Koolhaas interests you, have a google and look for Nexus Building, Japan, Lille Grand Palais, Prada New York (those wooden curves are similar to this tram tunnel in The Hague!), Seattle Public Library and the most recent CCTV tower in Beijing. The Nederlands Danstheater (Dutch Dance Theatre) was also created by Koolhaas, below is Bjorn’s photo of the reflecting windows (reflecting The Hague town hall).
A “Haags Bakkie” means a cup of coffee. Its positive meaning, the one we like to use, is that it’s enjoying a good cup of coffee in good company.
On the photo community of http://www.flickr.com, there is a group of photographers from The Hague, who call themselves “Haags Bakkie”. Their photos are funny, amazing, brilliant and give a great sense of what The Hague, the people and the atmosphere is all about. If you want to enjoy The Hague before you go there for a visit, do have a look at their site: http://www.flickr.com/groups/haagsbakkie.
With thanks to Haags Bakkie, we are proud to post these images from their members: