(Mar 2018) The Hague

The Hague is a relatively small town situated between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It hosts several international organisations like the international court of justice and the peace palace, in addition to the Dutch parliament. The city is sometimes said to be the international capital of justice and the (actual) Dutch political capital. I’m hardly surprised by these titles given the history of Dutch neutrality during the two world wars and Amsterdam-Rotterdam’s focus on economic development/tourism. The Hague seems to be a perfect place for country representatives to meet and discuss regional conflicts. (The city is also quite close to Leiden University, the oldest reputable university in the Netherlands. Leiden University puts its division of international relations and international law in the capital of justice.) The Hague overall feels old and new. Amidst high risers I could find buildings and canals that had been well preserved for centuries.

 

I first visited The Hague during the Easter weekend. I visited Mauritshuis Gallery that hosts the Dutch Mona Lisa, Girl with a Pearl Earring. The gallery feel very different from other modern arts museums I’ve been to. It has a much cosier and intimate atmosphere, with decorations that primarily reflect the Dutch golden age. Unlike the Rijksmuseum, it is not a large gallery featuring a large collection. Rather, it is a small, somehow private gallery revitalising a past memory.

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The painting on the left from the Mauritshuis Gallery captures my attention. When I first saw it, I could recognise that they were definitely a couple, but they were looking at different directions. I somehow sensed that there was some tension between the two. But the audio guide defied my expectations. It drew my attention to the synphony score. They were holding ‘harmony’ according to the audio guide, whereas a music score signals harmony, in contrast to a cacutus, for example. I was rather relaxed about the difference in interpretations, and I even became interested in semiotics, or how meaning is created. It’s an exciting field of interdisciplinary studies combining literature, arts and philosophy.

I also remember visiting the photography museum, where there was a temporary exhibition about how modernity and consumerism had changed one’s life. Hong Kong people were shown to live in small cubics while the Tokyo working class sometimes had to risk their lives catching a train. There was also a wall densely filled with plastic toys made in China, alongside some pictures of handicapped Chinese workers. I felt overwhelmed by the variety of toys and the guilt as an ignorant, irresponsible consumer. I wondered what consumerism had changed the world, for the better and worse.

I much enjoyed the peaceful and quiet feeling of the city. I had a beautiful supper at the restaurant on the beach. It was an expensive smoothie, much like any other restaurant item that is served in the Netherlands. I shot some pictures of sunset along the beach.

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