It was the morning of 27th April – Day 1 of our holiday in the Netherlands. We woke up in the cozy home of our friend and host Annie. Annie and her husband, Gerald, were Vijay and my college seniors. Meeting them and their absolutely enterprising daughter G, after a decade and half felt wonderful! The little girls became instant buddies!
After a well rested night of sleep, we were all set in our orange outfits to get a taste of the Dutch King’s Day. Celebrated on 27th April, the ‘Koningsdag’ is a day of nation-wide celebration marking the birthday of King Willem Alexander.
Being our first day in Holland, I was very eager to check out neighbourhood. Stockholm was still under the winter spell, grey and the trees were barren when we had left. The landscape in Holland was a stark contrast to Sweden. I don’t think I have seen a city as green. It was GREEN on a whole different level. One couldn’t miss the petite canals nearly on every street!
On the King’s Day, Holland is known to turn into the World’s Largest Flea Market. Our hosts took us to the Voorburg Centrum to see and experience vrijmarkt (literally ‘free market’)!
The lanes surrounding the Centrum was lined up with people of all ages, mostly children.
They had spread out blankets and picnic mats and piled it with toys, books, clothing, appliances and the likes from their homes that they wanted to get rid of!
The items were sold for super cheap prices.
You could see one person’s trash becoming another person’s treasure!
One of the many things that I have come to admire here in the west is there is no taboo or shame in buying or using second-hand preloved items or clothing. This culture leads to minimal waste, lower expenditure and the extended use of a product!
Among the many different stalls, we spotted two girls face painting.
The girls rocked their fox and cat look!
All of a sudden a sound of a very unique music filled the air. As we followed the sound, we arrived at this large colourful Dutch street organ. The rear side of the street organ was as fascinating as its music. For each musical piece that was played there were large wooden fan-folded books whose pages went through a keyframe in centre via a belt drive.
The flea market was an experience in itself. My girls picked up a few jigsaw puzzles!
Some generous sellers even handed out stuff for free to kids. Kaity got this hand fan from one such seller!
We were off the heart of Den Haag next!
Travelling by the public transport is one of the many things we enjoy as a family in our travels.
Something about the airports, bus stops, train stations, tram stops makes it very captivating for me!
As we popped out of the underground tram station we could feel we have arrived at a place of historical importance. We were in Voorhout!
The place is filled with buildings old and new, shops and restaurants.
Being King’s Day, the placed was bustling with people!
We enjoyed a concert briefly.
As we kept walking enjoying the city vibes, we arrived at the Hofvijver, the court pond! Every time I googled for blogs or vlogs on Den Haag this was the first place that was shown and I was very eager to see it in person.
This pond is lined with some of the very prominent buildings of the city, including the Binnenhof!
We couldn’t miss the sight of tulips wherever we went!
We sat beside the Hofvijver for sometime absorbing the beauty of the city. And then began to walk along it.
I loved the walk through that pathway that was sandwiched between the Hofvijver and old Dutch houses. Apart from the nature, architecture and food, people-watching is what completes the experience of a city. When in Holland, you can sit in one spot and just enjoy watching people zip past you in their bicycles!
We made a full circle around the Hofvijver and arrived at Binnenhof that houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
Built in the 13th century, the Binnenhof became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. It is not only among the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites, but also the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use.
The Passage was one of the places I had made a note of to see in the Hague and that’s where we went next! Inaugurated in 1885, the Passage is the oldest shopping mall in the Netherlands. In the early 19th century it was popular as one of the first covered shopping street, where shoppers didn’t have to be interrupted by the weather condition.
As soothing music played by two young violinists echoed across the Passage, we enjoyed a stroll window shopping some high end brands.
The last touristy spot we visited for the day was the Peace Palace. Officially opened on 28th August 1913, this court was created to end war by the Hague Convention of 1899.
After weeks of persistent practice, Kaity had finally mastered cartwheeling and she was unstoppable. She cartwheeled across the Netherlands during our trip!
Beside the Peace Palace is the Eternal Peace Flame. The monument bears the inscription: “May all beings find peace” and is surrounded by the World Peace Path, which consists of 196 large and small stones from 196 countries.
Even the stone benches that surrounded the Peace Palace depicted peace and unity!
It was only our first day in Netherlands and we were thrilled about all that we had seen and experienced in the city of Den Haag!
We were a few steps away from home and right there stood this cherry blossom tree. The exhausted tourists were lit by the sight of it. The girls laughed and giggled as the petals of cherry blossoms sprinkled over them.
Watching the girls at that moment, made me realise – For a child, a new country or famous landmarks don’t matter! In their world it is the little things they cherish! Like dancing under a cherry blossom tree, giggling non-stop with a new friend!
There is joy and wonder everywhere when you see the world through the eyes of a child!