Sunday, 29 May 2011

Den Haag, Escher & the North Sea

I've pretty much given up trying to figure the actual name of the The Hague. It's referred to as The Hague, Den Haag and s'Gravenshage depending on where you look. We decided to head out to whatever you choose to call it today, because it's been cold (13°) and rainy the last few days, and they had some museums we were interested in going to.

The Hague on a Sunday morning at 10:30 AM isn't a hopping town. I've noticed that generally, Amsterdam isn't an early-rising kind of place, especially on weekends. You could shoot a cannon down our street any morning at 8 and not hit a soul. But The Hague was eerily quiet at 10:45.
Up the street...
...and down the street, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
We happened across an antique/book market in one of the squares. This was unusual to us, since in Amsterdam, there isn't a single market open Sunday that we are aware of. Markets like this one are a cross between actual antique dealers and garage sales, but man, do some of the vendors have a lot of "stuff".
One of 3 tables, from one of 30 vendors
The market was right in front of the Escher in Het Palais museum. This museum ROCKS, and it may be the best one we have been to in Holland thus far. The whole place is dedicated to Escher, and is full of his stuff. I always thought his peices (which are incredibly complex and detailed) were all drawings of some kind, but I learned he was a lithographer and woodcutter, and made mostly prints, which makes his work all the more amazing. Sadly, there was only one of his carved woodblocks on display.
His omnipresent salamanders
But there was a whole host of his lithographs, including all the famous ones.
But there were also studies and some limited number of sketches that showed how he did his inventive work.
Tessellation sketches
Study for Metamorphosis
Note the construction lines in this rare watercolour
Now, if that all that was in the museum, it would have been great. But the top floor invites you into his world and play with space and perspective. You can build your own infinite triangle and take its photo.
I built this
You can experience warped perspective first hand.
I've lost weight since retiring. Karen appears to have grown some
You can play at computer terminals and stretch and bend the master's work. And best of all (for me), you can grab a sphere in a room sort of decorated like the one in this work...

...and see that in fact, it doesn't look like what he drew. His sense of optical illusion was wonderful, and I love the way he played with your mind. There's an original Escher at the Schiphol airport that is 42 METERS in length. This I have to see.

The museum itself is also a kick. I give you a sampling of the chandeliers and light fixtures, which are by an artist named Hans Van Bentem from Rotterdam.
And my personal favourite (which I post for Lisa and Mikey Bastard, who I know will order one tomorrow):
We had time for a brief walk through downtown, past the lake...
The Binnenhof, home of the Dutch Parliament
...past the Passage, a covered street mall, which has been there since 1898...
One of the three arms of the Passage
...through a fun little shopping district...
Tram lines and people on a quiet Sunday afternoon
...on our way to a truly awful museum, the Gemeentemuseum. Supposedly the biggest collection of Piet Mondrian's work in the world (some 150 pieces), and also with a spectacular collection of period musical instruments. However, we could see virtually none of it. The musical instruments are not on display, and we found only 2 Mondrians (fortunately including his last unfinished work, Victory Boogie Woogie). Not only was the good stuff we wanted to see in hiding, the stuff that we could see was downright strange, especially the basement. Thank goodness it was free with our Museumkarts.

By this time we were less than 1 km from Scheveningen, Holland's most popular seaside resort. It has a busy little harbour...
Third spot on the right
...but mostly it has a beach. A HUGE beach.
Looking north 
Looking south
Where the wind today was whipping a solid 50 km/hr and sandblasting everything, making it look like a desert.
Holding her face against the blast 
Presumably where people sit in better weather
There were a lot of surfers, windsurfers and kite boarders out playing.
Ridin' the wind and the waves
The boardwalk here it pretty amazing. It stretches for miles and it is just and endless line of restaurants and bars, every one of which had 5 people at it. KC and I figured that you would need 100,000 people to fill them to capacity, and guessed they probably get that on a warm calm day in the summer.
Restaurant row
Many places have something distinctive to try and set them apart. Maybe because it was only about 15° (with a wind chill of about 8°), we particularly liked ones with private fireplaces...
Table top BBQ? Roast marshmallows?
...or the ones with lots of colour.
Pick a primary colour they DON'T have
There's a really long and uninteresting pier. The funny part about it is that only the last 10% of it's length is in the water.
Why is this here?
But it does have bungy jumping.
Ah, that's why
The town just ends suddenly, and while the restaurants and bars on the beach proper don't end, the buildings do, in favour of grass covered sand dunes almost a hundred feet tall.
I think this beach runs all the way to Denmark, actually
I imagine Scheveningen is a really nice place to visit on a warm, calm summer day. The other 364 days a year, I'm not so sure.


Edwin said...

The place is called 's Gravenhage but it's more commonly referred to as Den Haag bij the dutch. The Hague is just the english version of Den Haag (translation). Like you guys also call Cologne Cologne in stead of it's German name Köln.

Scheveningen is actually one of those place frequented by the workingclass members of dutch society.

Adjacent Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are the upperclass beaches. Bergen (50 km to the north) has an enormously wide beach and it's a very pitoresque village as well.

I guess I need not correct you on the bit that says that the beach runs all the way to Denmark right? It's a long stretch of beach but it only runs 'till Den Helder.

The Gemeentelijk Museum of the Hague is in sort of a down time right now after having broken all sorts of records last year with their exibition on the Blaue Reiter and Wassily Kandinsky last year (wich I went to see and it was great).

RyderDA said...

It "only runs to Den Helder"? Okay, well Den Helder is only like 100 km away, but my point was this beach goes on forever. I'm not aware of a 100 km long beach in North America.

And the beach really doesn't stop at Den Helder; it jumps to Texel, then to Vlieland, then to Terschelling, then to Ameland, then to Schiermonnikoog, and then I'm pretty sure it just keeps going up the German coast on Borkum, Juist and those islands, and by then you're basically at Denmark anyway.

And the way the wind was blowing, the sand will get to Denmark in any case. Probably in about an hour.