Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

The Broken Taco Tour Guide to Den Haag, Central Holland, and Vicinity

Racing through Madurodam

Although not as well known internationally as its larger siblings Amsterdam and Rotterdam, The Hague (or Den Haag) is a thoroughly enjoyable European city, if you know where to go.  But never fear, Broken Taco is here to give you the inside goods on Central Holland and beyond.

Let’s start in Den Haag proper and widen the circle from there.

 

Den Haag > General Information

Weather:  They have yet to invent mountains in Holland, so the weather does whatever the fuck it wishes without restraint.  Bring a sweater.  And an umbrella.

Accommodations:  Be sure to stay somewhere with lots of cats.

Language:  Dutch people speak Dutch.  You do not speak Dutch and, frankly, I doubt you will learn it because your tongue and throat just don’t operate that way.  You’ll do better to accept that the Dutch are more gutturally talented than you (and probably taller as well), and just speak English.  They will look down on you, but at least you won’t make a complete ass of yourself butchering their language.

Cuisine:  The Dutch love cheese.  You should also love cheese.  If you don’t you’re a loser.  The Dutch love to roll mystery meat in floury dough and then deep fry it and call it “bitterballen.”  This is extraordinarily mediocre food, although it does seem to work wonders on a hangover.  This is the extent of the Dutch contribution to culinary culture in the 21st century.

Transportation:  Public transportation – local bus, regional tram, inter-city and international rail – is exceptional in Holland, as is the case in most of Western Europe.  But the Dutch prefer, in huge numbers, to ride a bike.  I, on the other hand, do not like riding a bike because it really makes my butt hurt the next day.  If you have a tender ass like me, use the exceptional public transportation.

 

Den Haag > Museums and Attractions

Founded around 1230 and now the third largest city in Holland at roughly 500,000 people, Den Haag has a little something for everyone.  Take some extra time to explore the quiet, tree-lined streets and remarkable architecture (but do it on foot, not on a bike).  A few highlights:

Mauritshuis Museum:  Set in a beautiful palace next to the Dutch parliament building, this museum has been described by some as “one of the great small museums in all of Europe.”  Outside of Vermeer’s “Girl With the Pearl Earring” (possibly the most smoking hot Dutch girl I’ve seen), I would describe 17th and 18th century Dutch Realism as “ominously oily paintings of Jesus, eating, and flowers.”  There were some nice Rembrandts too.  Grade: B- (Dark, oily.)  http://www.mauritshuis.nl/index.aspx?siteid=54

Panorama Mesdag:  At 1680 square meters, this painting is so large that the entire building was constructed around it.  It is the largest painting in Holland.  Completed in 1880, the 360-degree Panorama depicts the town of Scheveningen and the North Sea, just to the west of Den Haag, complete with cheesy sound effects track with some sand and beach chairs in the foreground.  I don’t think EU€7 for the 2 minutes I spent looking at it really adds up.  Grade: C- (Big, boring.) http://www.panorama-mesdag.com/#pagina=920

Meermanno Museum:  Known primarily for their extensive collection of important books and manuscripts, including a page from the first Gutenberg Bible and even a handwritten and meticulously bound letter from Alexander The Great to Aristotle.  But the real treat here was the visiting exhibit of pop-up books, ranging from the earliest-known examples from the 13th century to fascinating pop culture samples from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s to ultra-modern laser cut pop-up books of today.  Unexpectedly, one of the real treats of Den Haag.  Grade: A (Fun…at a book museum?) http://www.meermanno.nl/

Madurodam:  A scaled miniature “city,” Madurodam is billed as “the only place you can see all of Holland in a single day.”  Unless you are a child, you’ll find this much more interesting if you get wasted first.  Grade: C (Forgot the weed.)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madurodam

Museum of Communication:  “Hello, can you tell me about the museum?” “It is a museum of communication…everything is in Dutch.”  “So…I can’t communicate with your museum?”  “No.”  Grade: F (Failure to communicate.)  http://www.muscom.nl/

Gemeentemuseum/Museum of Photography:  This is the largest museum in Den Haag with extensive collections of modern art, fashion, musical instruments, and prints.  I couldn’t find it.  Seriously.  After walking for over an hour, I had to bail out for cocktails instead.  Grade: Incomplete (Location.  Location.  Location.)  http://www.gemeentemuseum.nl/index.php?id=1&langId=en

Omniversum: A planetarium-style IMAX theater featuring a movie about tornado chasing?  Should be an epic stop.  Unless Bill Paxton is narrating.  And its EU€10 for a 45 minute film?  And they don’t actually get any footage that makes you jump out of your seat?  (Although that could be the Bill Paxton Factor – he’s never made anyone feel anything in his entire career.)  Grade: D (Two words: Bill Paxton.)  http://www.omniversum.nl/en/films/tornado-alley.aspx

Escher in het Paleis/M.C. Escher Museum:  Someone has been doing some sweet sweet math.  Or really great drugs.  (Or both?)  Without a doubt, one of the best things you can do in Den Haag is to acquire a large hash joint and visit Escher in het Paleis.  As a bonus, the museum is housed in the beautiful former Winter Palace of the Queen of The Netherlands in one of the most interesting plazas in the city, Lange Voorhout.  Grade: A+ (Mindbending.)  http://www.escherinhetpaleis.nl/?lang=en

 

Den Haag > Nearby Cities Worth Visiting

Utrecht:  45 minutes east by train is the beautiful city of Utrecht, with many buildings dating from the early Middle Ages.  Towering over the city center is Dom Tower, the largest church tower in Holland, completed in 1382 and sitting on the exact location where the city of Utrecht was founded over 2000 years ago.  You can climb the 465 claustrophobically narrow steps and catch views of far away Amsterdam and Den Haag.  (Best done in heels or something completely impractical for greater sense of accomplishment.)  Also make time for dinner at one of the many restaurants uniquely situated down at canal level.  Do not give in to the temptation to test the water temperature after drinking a vat of sangria; your friends are not to be trusted.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utrecht

Delft:  Delft is another town founded in the Middle Ages with a stunning city center and a pleasant old world charm.  As a word of caution, the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in the center of town is leaning a full two meters off vertical and may make you feel slightly off-center.  Sit down at one of the many lovely sidewalk cafés for a cocktail and things will straighten right out.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delft

Amsterdam:  Only 30 minutes by train to the north, Amsterdam is the cultural capital of Holland.  But you won’t remember any of that.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam

Brussels:  Home to the EU Government and capital of Belgium, Brussels is a messy melting pot of just over a million people.  But a day wandering through the city center is quite worthwhile:

Surprisingly, the best attraction in Brussels for us was the Musical Instrument Museum (http://www.mim.be/en) which was beautifully designed and lit, featured an amazingly extensive collection, and was completely interactive and fun.  Unfortunately, they had neither chocolate nor beer, so we had to leave.

Culturally, Brussels is an interesting stop, but make it a day, not a week.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brussels

Brugge:  Stunningly beautiful city.  One of the lesser known must-see stops in Western Europe.  But Brugge is a place for lovers; if you go on your own, you will feel like a complete loser.  Trust me.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brugge

 

Den Haag > Parting Comments

Nearly every minute of my 6 weeks in Holland was a joy (I’m looking at you, Bill Paxton);  I had an incredible host, made a couple of great friends, and traveled constantly.  I found the Dutch people to be completely welcoming and friendly, even if culinarily uninteresting and linguistically fucked.

I look forward to returning someday…when the US dollar isn’t so brutally weak and my ass is a little firmer.

 

 

 

 

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