The Hague – Den Haag

June 27, 2009

After a quiet Friday “at home” we were ready Saturday morning to travel again to see some sights, and we chose The Hague.  I always thought The Hague was a building, confusing the city’s name with one of the most talked-about institutions in the city – The International Court of Justice. Now I am no longer confused.

This was our first train trip that went wrong, a bit. We arrived – in Rotterdam! That’s not where we were headed, and yet there we were.  It didn’t take long to find a train headed for Den Haag Centraal, so we got to our destination after all.

As soon as we arrived (a little past noon) we were hungry and stopped to eat our bag lunch in a park not far from the station. Soon we realized that there was a major event taking place around us and overhead.  The helicopter was clearly not going away, and there were grandstands full of people visible through the trees. Then – BOOM!  What was that?  Just one canon explosion?  Why?

We headed toward the town and saw that the roads were blocked off and people were lining the street, clearly waiting for a parade. So we too waited for the parade.  In a few moments we discovered that it is Veterans’ Day in Holland.The people were waiting for the veterans’ parade.

We found the parade to be quite moving – with wave after wave o9f soldiers – young and old – in various styles of uniform, each preceded by a banner stating the war(s) they fought in. We were also treated to a showing of a variety of military vehicles. We heard from those standing near us that the Prince would be attending.  Not knowing the Prince’s name didn’t reduce our fascination much, so we watched the entire parade in hopes of seeing royalty.  We may have seen him, but we couldn’t be sure.

After the parade and a rejuvenating coffee, we spent a pleasant few hours viewing the buildings and shops of The Hague old town, the part of the city which was not destroyed in World War II.  Our waiter at the coffee shop, Michael, advised us of the efficient route through the streets – to see the Parliament building but not to try to get to the International Court of Justice – too far and not open to public tours.

Our walking tour took us past some amazing sidewalk cafes, larger than any such restaurants any of us had ever seen before. Later we returned to have our dinner at one of those restaurants. It turns out that many restaurants that front on the square share the large number of outdoor tables. What looks like one large seating area is actually a collection of restaurants. The menu available to you depends on which restaurant lays claim to the table where you sit down.

Outdoor cafes in The Hague

Outdoor cafes in The Hague

As we wandered through the shops, we were surprised by a “soldier’s show” – a performance of 1940’s music by four singers in uniforms from World War II.

I’d heard nearly all of the songs before, and the performance was great fun. We were smiling broadly to happen upon such a thing in the middle of a mall!

Soldier's entertainment fromt eh 40s'

Soldier's entertainment from the 40s'

Another find in The Hague that had us smiling was the herring.  Marilyn has been wanting some (Laura and I have no interest), and there it was.  They serve it raw!  When we react with some disdain to this, Marilyn asks what we think of sushi.  Well, that’s different, I reply.  There’s rice, little vegetables, not so much fish. Laura’s answer is that it’s different fish, some tuna, some shrimp, not herring.

When we were little, our father would eat pickled herring. This is not pickled. It’s just cleaned, sliced, and served on a bun with diced onion. Yummm!?

There were certainly a lot of people enjoying the fish, though some of them were choosing the cooked items on the menu.

Herring sandwich - yummm!

Herring sandwich - yummm!

We should also mention the sand sculpture – or was it sandstone. It certainly looked like sand but how could it be?

We end our day in The Hague with a fine meal – spaghetti with seafood for Marilyn and a nice spice salad with various meats and hot red peppers for JoAnn and Laura.

After dinner we headed back to the trains. This time we traveled back to Hilversum via Utrecht and had no problems, even with a 6-minute connection from platform 19 to 3.

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