Going Walkabout in The Hague

The Hague has a special soft spot for me. It is where I lived and worked as a young bachelor after previously becoming familiar with it through an extensive case study used in the training of reconnaissance pilots.

It is also the city most closely associated with a (very) distant relative - the famous author Louis Couperus.

I also met my future wife and got married in this city in 1967 and emigrated in from there 1969. So now I got to spend some time wandering aroud the place again after 45 years.


5255   The center of town (Het Spui) is completely changed - it is dominated by a huge new Town Hall (white building on left) and a theater building of striking architecture and colors.



5243   Inside Town Hall - it is built as four sides around a huge atrium which provides a large open space for special exhibitions and events.



5250   Across from Town Hall we still see the "old" Den Haag - in the form of the "new" church (Nieuwe Kerk).

This was built 1649-56 when the original "Big Church" (Grote Kerk) became too small for the growing city and they decided to build a new one on what was then an island surrounded by water of "Het Spui", various veerkades (ferry quays) and so forth. Most all of these were subsequently filled in to provide valuable downtown building space - but a few waterways still exist as we shall see a few picures hence.



5242   A wider view of the same church - showing a tram going up "Het Spui" which is the main drag across the center of town. To the left it goes towards the Hollands Spoor station, to the right it goes through the "S" bend near Buitenhof and Houses of Parliament



5256   Almost the same spot, showing the well-planned open airy nature of the heart of the city, with room for statues besides lots of room for frequent and efficient tram services to all points.



5257   Any city has to change over time and acquire new buildings if it is to remain viable - and yet one must try and avoid losing the history and charm that define the city, lest it become a sterile assembly of offices and people-storage units.

To this end , the city fathers have chosen an innovative approach - most of the historic heart of the city has survived over the ages except for the north-east quadrant which unfortunately got heavily (and mistakenly) bombed by the allies near the end of the war, This was rebuilt in the '50's and 60's, and while bits and pieces of the old city still survived mixed in with the new buildings, it had lost its integrity of character.

So when the need arose for extensive new office buildings to support both thriving commerce and expanded requirements for government ministries, it was decided to concentrate the major part of the new development in this compromised quadrant of the city - rather than shot-gun it city-wide potentially impacting every neighborhood. At the same time, architects were encouraged to go full "contemporary" rather than attempt any fake revival blending.

Here is part of the result - it takes a bit of getting used to.

For obvious reasons, the building capped by two blue-roofed red triangles is known as "Haagse Tieten".

Just to the right of this picture used to be a favorite "broodjeswinkel" called "Broodje van Dootje". There is still a small eatery in that space and using the same name, but it has been modernised (not for the better) and bears little resemblance to the place where I used to order my "uitsmijter ham".



5258   To compensate for the loss of my favoriter "broodjeswinkel", I was delighted to find that "Passage" is still there with its upscale little stores and boutiques, including the same stamp shop for serious philatelists and a shop devoted to fountain pens for those few who still use such things.

And opposite one of the entrances can still be found "Maison de Bonneterie" and Restaurant "Het Gouden Hoofd" which had been there for many many years before I ever came along.

Bonneterie was established here in 1913 and is still going strong as a fashion store - although no longer focused on hats.

'T Gouden Hoofd has been the site af a hostel and restaurant by that name (In tgulde hoift) since at least the 1400's. The last major remodel of the building was completed in 1939.



5262   As the seat of government, The Hague has always been blessed with some magnificent buildings. This is the former Ministry of Justice in the street "Lange Poten" with "Plein" in the distance where the trees are.



5268   Just a little bit further is a little alleyway named "Apendans" where used to be one of my favorite "ordinary good home cooking" type of restaurants - vital for a bachelor living in "rooms" with no cooking facilities. The resaurant is no longer there, but I did find a charming little psuedo-Viennese coffee shop at the end of the alley, where this gent was having his morning cup of Java with the paper.

Whether this individual was a "Hagenaar" or "Hagenees" would depend on which side of a line through town he was born on - much like cockneys in London. The line is nominaly the "Laan van Meerdervoort" and marks the border between where the ground used to be sandy (next to the sea) or inland arable fields of peat.



5232   One of my favorite streets in the inner city used to be the "Wagenstraat" with its numerous little eateries, café's, and pubs. It used to run through what was the Jewish quarter until WWII, but that community got essentialy wiped out.

Since I lived in The Hague, more recent immigrants have taken over this quarter and it is now a thriving Chinatown.



5247   But if you look carefully around this neighborhood, there are still physical remnants of the old Jewish neighborhood.

This building, now converted to apartments, once served as a Jewish orphanage and school. In the 1960's it contained a collection of workshops, ateliers, meeting rooms and so forth - used by different groups, clubs, and societies.

One large meeting/dining room with adjoining kitchen was used by the "Sjaloom Groep" (Shalom Group) the organizers of which - despite the name - were not Jewish but militantly un-orthodox catholics. They used to hold bi-weekly spaghetti feeds with wine to which all were invited to share the food and drink as a sort of informal mass - followed by a speaker invited from amongst the regular (and somewhat eclectic) attendees followed by a discussion or debate about whatever topic was raised.

At one such meeting, a young computer engineer from Africa working in The Hague, met a young school-teacher from California likewise working in The Hague - and the rest is history.



5233   Another surviving artefact from the old Jewish neighborhood is this former Synagogue, now converted into a Mosque to cater to the religious bent of more recent immigrants in the surrounding area. Thus the addition of the minaret.



5235   The interior of the old Synagogue was very easily adaptable to its new role of Mosque - both faiths traditionaly have the women worship in a gallery separated from the men.



5252   I was pleased to find this building again almost unchanged. The corner now houses a Spanish "Tapas" bar, but it used to be a more typical smokey dive type of pub.

It was in that bar over a couple of drinks that some delicate negotiations once took place many years ago to persuade American authorities to permit the import into Holland of one of the first "super computers" in Europe - at that time such machines could not be exported from the States for strategic reasons during the height of the cold war.



5305   Rooftops looking towards the "Grote Kerk" in the middle. The lower steeple on the right is on the old Town Hall, the square tower just visible onm the left is on the "Berlage" office building. (Berlage was a famous architect with a distinctive style who left his mark on many significant buildings in Holland)



5308   A closer look at the double layered carillon tower on top of the old Town Hall.



5310   Taken from the same viewpoint as the previous picture (my 5th floor hotel room) but looking more to the right towards where the new office blocks are being built.

We see again the twin blue-roofed red triangles of the "Haagse Tieten" and opposite them to their left a building referred to by the locals as "De Tampon" for obvious reasons. The building behind these with the sloping roof is referred to as "Vulpen" (The Fountain Pen) for reasons which are more apparent when viewed form another angle.



5320   Every wedneday morning at a certain downtown coffee shop, there is an informal "drop in" coffee klatsch of photographers who live in or near the area. This particular wednesday it was known that I would be joining them, so one of the ring-leaders arranged a for a highly unusual and unique tour for the assembled photographers.

We boarded a specialy configured boat (low profile to fit under very low bridges) and went on a guided sight-seeing tour, circumnavigating the old city, via the canals of The Hague.

(I would never have thought this possible - a few canals still exist but not nearly as many as in -for example- Amsterdam as many were filled in over the ages to regain valuable downtown real estate, and as motor transport and railways displaced canal traffic or as the perfume of open sewers became intolerable.) If you want to experience this yourself, here is the reference.
Here are three of the cohort of photoraphers, seated in the boat and ready to go.



5325   Departure down the "Bierkade" - the old "beer quay" where beer was delivered to the city from out-of-town breweries.



5335   Along the way we disturbed a swan (goose actualy, but for me it played the role of swan) that seemed to want lead us along our way.

Actualy, every time it moved to get out of our way, we would eventualy catch up with it, so it had to move again... eventualy it got fed up and took off to fly back to its point of origin.



5346   Such a broad canal in downtown The Hague - seen it many times before - but never really "seen" it. An eye-opening fresh perspective.



5349   Some of the bridges were very low and we had to duck down and/or sit on the floor to make to be able to make it through. Because there were quite a few passengers on board, this increased our leeway undere the bridge to a comfortable 8 inches or so...

This bridge is one of the few surviving from the era when cast iron was the latest thing - around the second half of the 19th century, and was cast by L.I. Enthoven & Co. whose had their factory in The Hague. (Metaalpletterij en IJzergieterij L.I. Enthoven & Co te 's-Gravenhage)



5364   Proceeding at a stately pace down the "Mauritskade" - an upscale part of the center of town, with (former) patrician houses on the right and villas on the left.

Louis Couperus was born further down on the right at what is now Number 43 (Used to be Number 11 but the buildings underwent renumbering at some point due to subdivision)



5380   At the far end of the Mauritskade we turn right to head towards the area near Central Station with its distinctive modern office quarter.



5384   Now you can see why that building is referred to as "The Fountain Pen" (Vulpen) by the locals.



5403   The voyage around the city-center was thirsty work, so after disembarking, the photographers repaired to a watrering-hole for libations.



5408   Situated on the "Dunne Bierkade" (Narrow Beer Quay) this particular hostelry has a long history of specialising in beers. According to the awning it stocks 165 types of bottled beer, and has 11 different brews "on tap". (A quick check on the web indicates that the awning has not been updated - they now have 171 types of bottled beer)



5432   A view over the "hof vijver" or Royal Pond - The square building just to the right of center is the Mauritshuis Museum, further right the little round tower is the Prime Minister's Office, and further right would be the Houses of Parliament

This is the preserved classical old center of the medieval town - but we are looking in the general direction of the quadrant where new skyscraping office developments are concentrated.

The jarring skyline reminds us that we are in the governmental capital of an economically thriving country in the 21st century



5434   Prime Minister's "torentje" on the left, with the Houses of Parliament.



5435   One of the gateway entrances into the courtyard of the Houses of Parliament.

It is open to all pedestrian and bicycle traffic as a through way just like any other road. But for automobile access you need to have a pass which tells the guard that he can lower the hydraulic pillars which protect the entrance.


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