Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Day at The Hague

Ah, The Hague. A city with its very own article. You have to love a city that is so sure of itself that it's not Hague. Oh no – it's The Hague. Imagine being from The San Francisco, or The Toronto. Or, just for fun, The Mexico City. There can be no others.

Yes, The Hague (and don't you forget to capitalize) is a place that most of us have heard of. If only because every time there's a war criminal on the television, they end up in The Hague. I used to think that it was a place. A jail. A court room. Nope – it's a city. And if you're in Amsterdam, one that is definitely worth the trip.

For less than twenty euros I managed to grab myself a ticket across the country. Well, alright, not that far across the country. But I ended up in another major city: living in Canada has really messed up my sense of location, on a world scale.

When I got there, my first move was to find the tourist information office, located ten minutes from the central station. But fear not, future travellers, there is no worry here because many sign posts point out the way. Once there, you'll be offered the purchase of a number of maps, and walking tours of the city. Please – who wants to by a map of a city that you can see all of in under three hours? So go straight to the The (c-c-c-combo breaker) Hague magazine and rip out the last page. Don't worry, this is the one free thing in the whole place. I think. Well it was free for me, and no one chased me out.

Now in your hand you have a delightful map of the downtown area. Now, let me tell you all the places you need to see, in order to say that you've “done” this city.

Step one, march on over to the art gallery with Girl With a Pearl Earing. If you like art, you can even go inside and explore the gallery. Otherwise, you can simply enjoy the giant banner of it hanging from the outside. Or, you could just enjoy one of the numerous replicas around the city, and in the brochures. Still – you can't really say you've seen it, unless you've seen it.

I have not seen it.

Next, skip through the giant arches to check out the political seat of power for the country. It's an odd thing – because the seat of government is not in the capital. You know what other country should try something like that? Canada. Yeah, you're cute Ottawa – but we all know that Toronto is where the life is. Or just for kicks, make Quebec City our capital and watch those French try to declare sovereignty then!

Once you've taken a picture or two there, you can move on. You're going to want to walk up up up. Stop at the palace, take a picture of it standing on the blocks under the tree for some delightful framing, and then walk further north to the Peace Palace. This is where all those nasty men and women get put on trail, and ordered to who knows where.

Yes, the Peace Palace. What's not to love? It's gated off. It's hard to book a tour. It's full of tour buses. What a magical place! On the other hand, you can see the World Peace Flame. It's a little eternal flame that has rocks from every country in the world surrounding it. Yup, it's the first time every country in the world has ever gone in on one project together. So my question – why is the flame so ridiculously small? Ahh – the flame represents our hope for world peace. Yes, I understand now.

But then, what if a new country is formed (come on Tibet! Lets go Taiwan!) there's no expansion room to add these new rocks. Ohh well, they're cut. On the plus side, Canada has a pretty spectacular red and black rock in the works. And then you look at portugal, who have arranged 9 cubed rocks. They form a checker board. Ohh I'm sorry Portugal, didn't you understand? ONE rock. But they didn't want to be rude, so they added them all. Way to go seat of Government in Portugal. What will the citizens be like under such rule? And showoffiness!

O.K. so you've seen those big four things. Head back down to the tourist center, walk up the street a bit, and walk through “The Passage.” Yup. That's what they've named their shopping arcade. The passage. Because it's a passage. If you look at the names of other buildings in the Netherlands, or paintings here – you really start to realize how lazy these people were. They need to hire some Australians to add more flavour. "[The Passage]; that's a silly name. I was going to call [it] chizzawuzzas.”

The passage will also lead you right back to the central station. Convenient!

But wait – stop in at a McDonalds first. You'll never forgive yourself if you don't try a McKroket. Yes, I do love sampling local treats at various McDonalds, and this is one not to be skipped. It appears to have been a friend patty stuffed with mashed potatoes and steak, covered in horsey sauce. It's an Amsterdam specialty, and not to be missed.

But don't give up your 25 euro cents to the mean old dungeon keeper at the washroom. Seriously – how does a whole continent say it's ok that people charge them to pee? What we're paying for the lady to keep things clean. I tell you what – I'd stage my own protest. Sure, I'll pay your fee – but you're gonna damn well work for it!

But no – I will not pay, so what did I do? Did my pants require a good washing afterwards? (well they do – but not for that reason. Shirts, I can change every few days... but the shorts. The poor poor shorts.) I simply went to a Burger King. They have free washrooms, like the whole world should have! Are you listening Europe?! Washrooms should always be free! Especially if you're a paying customer – McDonald's. Do you hear my ire McDonald's?!


And then it was back on the train, returning to Amsterdam.

The Hague: been there, done that, almost bought the postcard.

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