A Travellerspoint blog

The Hague Part 3

Exploring Mauritshuis and Rounding off the Mini Trilogy of The Hague

sunny 20 °C

This entry will be about the arts, specifically paintings collection from the Dutch Golden Age. The Mauritshuis (Maurice's House) in the Hague has a good collection ranging from Vermeer, Rembrandt, Paulus Potter, Hals and some others. This museum was previously the residence of John Maurice of Nassau, it retained a stately feel to it and that was felt during my visit to this museum.

This is the main entrance

One of the entrance into Binnenhof is just right beside the building

Here's some shots of the viewing areas (the paintings are arranged elegantly in different rooms)

Great paintings adorned the staircase, makes it pleasant as one walk up the stairs.

Even looking up is a delight

Here are some paintings that caught my attention.
This is the Garden of Eden with the Fall of Men painted by Rubens and Brueghel. It is interesting to see how two different personalities can combine their talents and make it seems like it is a one man's job. Rubens painted Adam and Eve, the tree, the horse and the serpent. Brueghel did the rest. My untrained eye couldn't really tell the difference until I read about the painting.

Another one by Rubens, this is the old woman and boy with candles. The lighting and shadow effect is so well done here and the picture almost look natural.

This painting is The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, by Rembrandt. His talent at painting lifelike portraits with good attention to details (the tendons and how each students are all looking at different things as they were being taught by Dr Nicolaes). Even in this age of standardized testing/ education. I believe that students will somehow retain their own unique thought patterns and will see the things that excites them more.

Another Rembrandt's masterpiece, Saul and David. You can practically feel the gripping story behind the painting as David plays the harp in front of the man who wants his life.

I appreciate paintings like this one, Hendrick Avercamp's Ice Scene. He shows a very nice picture for people like us living centuries later on how people go about in a particular weather. On the left, you will see that a group of people have fallen through the ice, but help is already on the way. This shows a community that is ready to jump out and help in contrast with our generally apathetic crowd in this age. You will also see that woman has fallen over in front of the bridge, revealing her bare bottom. Perhaps undergarments are not actively worn in that era. People are generally just having fun on the ice, skating, sledging and playing ice hockey. I wonder, will I see the community come out and play in a nice winter weather or will most just choose to sit in front of the box like usual.

This is Delft in the 1600s, painted by Vermeer and is the most famous cityscape of the Dutch Golden Age. He took some artistic liberty to make the buildings a bit neater than they actually were.

Finally, this is the Dutch version of the Mona Lisa, albeit unlike Mona Lisa it is not actual a portrait of a real person but rather an imaginary one. This painting is Girl with a Pearl Earring and it is Vermeer's masterpiece. To me, this girl is more appealing than Mona Lisa because the latter was just sitting back in the painting, contained whereas this mysterious girl has a sense of silent seduction and yet welcoming with her direct gaze and oriental turban. Perhaps she was Vermeer's muse of the ideal beauty of his age.

A few more nice paintings to round off the blog

After walking around the museum, I think a going to a chocolate shop is the best place to regain one's energy (I am biased because I have a sweet tooth) This is hop en stork, it is an outstanding chocolate and coffee shop, you won't go wrong with any choices. As a bonus, you get to see your chocolates get made too.

If you crave for Chinese food, the HanTing restaurant on Prinsestraat is a good choice.

This entry officially ends The Hague's trilogy. Next time, this blog will cover a different city.

Posted by canglingy 01:21 Archived in Netherlands Tagged art history museum sightseeing Comments (0)

The Hague Part 2

Touristic Activities Inside the Town

sunny 21 °C

I will talk about some of the more touristic activity in this entry.

To start things off, this is the Binnenhof (inner court) where almost all the important decision get made.

The Binnenhof is right at the heart of the city center and has been the political power of the lower countries for many centuries. Prodemos organizes free tours of this area. They do not operate daily so you might want to check with the visitor center before trying to gain entry into the parliament. This short tour is worth it if you would like to gain a more in depth understanding of Dutch politics, visit the house of the representative, climb some ancient stairs to see the hall of the knights and view some old treasures plus the king's throne. Fun fact: Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world that is still in use.

This is one of the entrance into the area

The square is open to the public

This is the hall of the knights

This gold neogothic fountain dates from the 1600.

Inside the hall of the knights, where you can also spot a rather unassuming throne

No funny business because the eye is watching you

After I got cleared by security, I see a more modern pantheon of recent greats immortalized by their sculpts. large_DSC00108.jpg
This facility is a nice mix of the old and new architecture large_DSC00109.jpg

One of the things that I like about the Dutch is their very unassuming politics, somehow it feels that they have inherited the principate style from the early Roman empire where the ruler is simply the "first among equal" of the citizens. if you look at the sitting style of the hall of the knights and then look at the prime minister's office and the king's residence, it gives out the vibe that they are simply one of us, just another ordinary citizen.

This is the prime minister's office, a small little tower. This is the opposite of so many prime minister's offices that were simply mansions or huge palaces.

The royal family residence looks like just another functional mansion, none of the extra lavish bling.

Of course, the Hague is not just about political buildings, there is a fancy shopping street near the Binnenhof that has plenty of premium goods if you are into splurging.

Besides the fancy shopping area, there are also other shops on the street to feed everyone's consumerism.

And there's always a china town everywhere I go. Gosh, we are resilient.

This is the main visitor center situated at the city hall which is packed full of helpful staff and information (and quite close by to the aforementioned shopping streets)

Most of the time, there will be some sort of exhibition inside the building and on some rarer cases, activities going on at city square.

Entrance to city hall

I was lucky to be able to see some exciting free style competition while I was there

I will end this entry with the Grote Kerk of St James, like the Binnenhof, this church is one of the oldest building in The Hague. If you are a fan of church architecture, you will be able to see some very old stained glass, old wooden carved pulpit from the 1500s, interesting sepulchral monuments, and some escutcheons of the knights of the Golden Fleece, There is also the occasional free concert inside the church that gives a good music experience as well.

Some of the stained glass (note that extensive renovation has been done and now, the church has a finely vaulted interior.)

Picture of the organ

Stumbled into a free 2 hours concert that really made my day.

A few more spotlight on The Hague in the next entry before moving on to another city. Until next time.

Posted by canglingy 04:18 Archived in Netherlands Tagged churches buildings history museum sightseeing travelling Comments (0)

The Hague

Glimpses of the neighborhood

sunny 17 °C

Despite being the judicial capital of the world, The Hague is not actually a dry, boring, legalistic place to be in. It is actually a beautiful city with plenty of things to see and do. Both the Dutch Royal Family and the Prime Minister lives here instead of living in the capital, Amsterdam, that should be a telling sign that this city is a somewhat hidden tourist gem. Personally, I rank the Hague as my number one city in the Netherlands, ahead of many popular cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft and Utrecht. This city has a long coastline, a large green areas, eclectic and art nouveau architecture plus a vibrant multicultural scene. Unlike other Dutch cities with narrower streets due to the canal, the Hague feels like another continental city with her wider streets and avenues.

There are two main ways to get to the Hague, I recommend taking the train because of its convenience. If you are coming from Amsterdam, the train from Schiphol will take you straight to Den Haag Centraal (the central train station) in under an hour. If you are coming from other international location such as Moscow, Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen and Basel, an easy transit can be made in Utrecht. If you are driving, please note that the Dutch has speed cameras everywhere and it is one of the few cities in the world that I get speeding tickets (I was generally careful). Watch your speed limit, things can get pretty expensive rather fast. Den Haag Centraal is a good place to alight because the city center is just a mere 5 minutes of walking distance. You can see stately mansions just a short moment upon arrival without going far away from the city center, imagine that. This city is compact and is very pedestrian friendly. Even though it is well serviced by trams, I recommend just going on foot everywhere you go (the beach is an exception unless you fancy a 2 km walk to the coast)

The Lange Voorhout is one the places close to the central station. It is a large tree lined square. There is a very good antique and book market every Thursdays and Sundays. If you are hunting for unique souvenirs, this is the place to go. large_DSC00006.jpglarge_DSC00007.jpg

Bordered with grand townhouses that is currently occupied by embassies or other international organizationslarge_DSC00005.jpglarge_DSC00008.jpg

My preferred accomodation- Hotel Des Indes is on this square large_DSC00004.jpg
This hotel is in the "splurge" category and has been housing foreign dignitaries, celebrities and musicians. Even if you are not staying here, it is worth checking out the uber luxurious lounge and bar for the excellent afternoon tea or fancy dinner. large_DSC00055.jpglarge_DSC00057.jpg
I don't mind walking up and down these stairs instead of just taking the elevator like usual. large_DSC00058.jpg
Waking up with all the curtains around me feels like I am in a Victorian Era bedroom (please forgive the messy bed). large_DSC00133.jpg

Hilton, on the other hand, actually looks more boring in this city. large_DSC00039.jpg

The Hague is very laid back and relaxed compared to Amsterdam where there is almost always some attraction going on somewhere. Be it a walk in the park or a walk in the neighborhood, you will find tranquility on top of friendly locals, a precious commodity not found in major cities. When in the park, you might be invited to join a casual ball game. large_DSC00047.jpg
Or you could just sit by the pond and relax. large_DSC00040.jpg
I have no idea what these stuff are for in the park. large_DSC00042.jpg

The Dutch preferred bicycles and this lifestyle is healthier as you will rarely see overweight people going about. large_DSC00059.jpg

Plenty of bikes parked at residential areas.

And some fancier family friendly bike

The area is quite pedestrian friendly and as mentioned earlier, you can virtually explore everything on foot. There are also dedicated footpaths in most of the area. A little bit of extra wandering will allow one to some nice buildings and scenery too.

Some buildings have interesting poetry on their walls

Sometimes, if you are lucky, there will be some spontaneous live music. large_DSC00096.jpg
Vienna still have better street music in my opinion but the stuff in The Hague is quite good as well.

The next entry of the Hague will cover the more touristy aspect of the city. Until next time

Posted by canglingy 19:50 Archived in Netherlands Tagged bridges people trees gardens sightseeing travelling Comments (0)

Back to Bruges

Where Bruges offers her own seduction

semi-overcast 15 °C

After going around Japan for a bit. This entry brings us back to Europe and once again, to the lovely little town of Bruges. Despite being vaulted into popularity by a Hollywood film and having the status as a good travel destination. The population of these towns continue to dwindle and Bruges was openly admitting it. Just step into this container after you exit from the train station and you will have a good idea of what it takes to become a citizen of Bruges.

In Bruges, there's three popular method of getting around. I tried driving (the spinning bridge was an interesting experience) but it was quite a nightmare and sometimes, getting a proper parking places would end up being too far away from the popular destinations that a visitor would want to go anyway. Plus, the pedestrian and cyclists have the right of way. So there's really no bonuses of driving around the city.

For a good dose of medieval immersion, go with the horses.

For a unique experience of munching waffles while cruising on water. Go with the small boats. There are some places where you can't reach by land transportation. If this is your first time to Bruges, I recommend this option. Plus, you will have a good dose of Bruges history fed to you by the tour guide.

Or, since the elegant cobbled streets and every nook and cranny of this quaint city is worth exploring, might as well go on foot :)
The third option can look daunting at first and every place seems a bit far away.

But one can stumble upon some gems along way. For instance, you can see residential area like this.

Some corner of the town

One can also wander into the wood-like trail

Try to make friends with ducks

Or just have a good walk around the beautiful park (sometimes the tourist crowd can be a bit vexing so walking to a more remote area is pretty nice)

The obvious place to go while in Bruges is the center of the town, where you can see the Markt, the Belfry of Bruges and the Historic Center of Bruges. If you are lost while wandering around, just follow the nearest excited crowd and you will either end up there or back to the train station where you could get proper directions again. Back to the main square, if you walk up on some of the buildings, you will be able to take in a panoramic view of the architecture elegance of this town.

This is the historic center of Bruges, there is an interactive tour and museum within and can help you to understand the rich history of the city.

This is the Belfry of Bruges

There are 366 steps to the top and the view is rewarding. The tower has a carillion, which allow the bells to be played by a hand keyboard. This city also employs a full time carilloneur who also gives out free concerts occasionally, if you are in luck, you'd be able to join that. There is also a major festival every year when it is the Day of Ascension. The crowd will join in with medieval dress ups and typically the procession is a mile long. The crown jewel of this procession is the relic of the Holy Blood of Christ, rumored to be brought to the city after the second crusade. You can see the relic in the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Bruges is also home to another treasure, the sculpture Madonna and Child, which is the only Michaelangelo's sculpture that left Italy during his lifetime. The sculpture can be seen in the Church of our lady. If you are fan of Christian relics and art, you will like these.

Besides these ancient items that I have mentioned, there are also some modern sculptures tucked away in the city. They are actually pretty detailed.

Towards the evening, after the tourist crowd disperse, presumably heading back to Brussels. Bruges exhibit another kind of desolate beauty as if the city is turning into a ghost town.

Activities typically dies down as the sun set. Fans of musical performance can check out the occasional performance in the concert hall. And as for me, I enjoyed the quiet walks around the town.

If you do happen to visit Bruges, don't forget to buy chocolates and enjoy waffles with whipped cream. In the next entry, I will write about another city, Until next time.

Posted by canglingy 05:37 Archived in Belgium Tagged churches buildings horses museum sightseeing travelling Comments (0)

Finding Fukuoka

Snapshots in the capital of Kyushu

sunny 16 °C

In this entry, the blog will cover a quick glimpse of the city of Fukuoka, located in the Kyushu region. I feel that the Kyushu region as a whole is not given too much attention/exposure among the international travel crowd. When asked, most would talk about their time in the Kanto region (Tokyo), the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto) and then Hokkaido. As a result of this, I observe that native Japanese in Kyushu seems to be affected the least by foreign influence and behavior. Fukuoka, being the capital of the region, still look every bit metropolitan as other major cities in Japan and you can also get your shopping fix in Hakata Canal City.

Fukuoka is well connected by railways and a regional airport. If you have time for slow travels, take the ferry from Busan instead. Better views along the way. Quick tip: if you ever wanted to try the shinkansen but was turned off by the high price, you can try the Hakata Minami Line from Hakata Station, the end to end ride only takes 10 minutes and is a mere 290 yen which is a steal just for the experience. For public transport, get the Yokanet card because it allow one to ride on both Nishitetsu buses and the subway. Again, if you are not pressed for time, just take the bus for better sightseeing experience.

People watching can be very interesting in a city that doesn't have too many tourists. This old man in the picture is an inspiration because he still reads at an advance age. A lifelong learner indeed.large_CIMG5896.jpg

I like to see how family units just hang out together in the park, taking casual strolls together. As the mall culture slowly dominates the lives of city dwellers in Asia, this is a really refreshing scene to see friends and family just bonding directly and playing together.

Fukuoka can be a very beautiful city during cherry blossom season. A pity that I have never gotten the chance to bear witness to the natural beauty. Here's a picture on an information board on what the city looks like in full bloom. The best view for cherry blossom viewing is in Nishi Park, which is a ten minutes walk to a small hilltop.

Pedestrians are well taken care of with wide and clean walking paths (even beside busy roads). Downtown is small and compact, it is perfectly walkable. large_C705EB029EB83E2A12E583B80B3692C5.jpg

Depending on your interest, there's plenty to see for everyone from shrines/temples to castles, from canals to museums and the food in the region is generally much cheaper than the bigger towns as well. Pop by a random shop and chances are you'd be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food too. I am not going to cover all of the tourist attractions as they are readily available online and people have vastly different tastes. As usual, this blog will just highlight my own personal experience.

One of things I admire about the Japanese is their ability to find solitude and separate themselves from the general buzz of the moment to just contemplate and reflect. It is the ability of allowing the world rushes past you and yet one retain awareness through it all. To discover a quiet place right in the middle of a hectic city is rather nice and I think this set up is unique to Japan.
The blend between old wodden structure and modern tall building is supposed to be such a contrasting view and yet here they are, starkly different but in harmony with each other. Walking and observing around in Japan has taught me to slow down and catch transient beautiful moments that this world has to offer, to be more aware of my surroundings and not just be swept away by the whirlwind of events around me.

Speaking of buildings, the ACROS Fukuoka Building leaves a particularly strong impression because of its uniqueness. Have a look at this interesting building. It looks like a building abandoned by civilization and then reclaimed by the trees.

Despite the "wild" look, ACROS is actually a center of international, cultural and information exchange and underneath the building is over one million square feet of multipurpose space. ACROS is an acronym for "Asian Crossroads Over the Sea,There is a permanent art exhibition and is the home for Fukuoka Symphony Orchestra. This building is a really good modern innovative example of an agro-urban model, besides being aesthetically pleasing, the rooftop gardens has proven effective to combat the urban heat island effect in the city. You can learn more about the building (and see better pictures) here: https://www.acros.or.jp/english/about/03.html

For the history buffs, the old castles are worth a visit. They might lack the granduer of European castles but there are plenty of stories hidden within these stones.

I personally enjoyed the walks along the stream as well. These paths are just slightly outside the city and is easily reachable with public transport. These paths will lead to the gardens or castles. If you go in blind, the destination at the end can be quite a pleasant surprise.

The spotlight will be on another city in the next entry. As Japan is one of my favored retreats, you may expect to read more of it in the future. Until next time

Posted by canglingy 17:07 Archived in Japan Tagged people children gardens parks sightseeing Comments (0)

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