Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eurotrip2011: Day 21

Amsterdam (day trip to Den Haag)

My best friend (of previous Stroopwafel fame) was insistent that if I was to travel all the way to Amsterdam I *had* to visit The Hague. As usual, she was correct - the day proved to be wonderful!

We took a tram to Amsterdam central station and then a train (for approximately one hour) to The Hague - the third largest city in the Netherlands, home to Dutch royals and politicians. We weren't there to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Quite the opposite - instead, we went straight to this imposing, grey building.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is a formidable institution. While it's probably not something that many tourists would typically include in their Dutch itinerary, the morning we spent witnessing the proceedings of a Congolese war crimes trial was simply unforgettable. Prior to entering the courtroom, we were asked to lock away all possessions in a designated storage area and were made to walk through metal detectors. Once inside the courtroom, a security guard gestured for us to collect an electronic translation device before sitting down behind the glass panel that divides the courtroom from its "audience". We selected the English "channel", popped on our headphones and sat mesmerized for some time. As a trained historian, with a special interest in the Second World War, I was well aware of some of the sorts of evidence we could be hearing during the trial. Thankfully (in my opinion, at least) no especially harrowing detail was recounted during the time we were in the court.

After our time at the ICC (I must say it again - highly recommended for anybody with any sort of interest in international law) our tummies were grumbling and my beloved and I ventured into the city centre towards my best friend's favourite local restaurant - It Rains Fishes. Once again, her taste was impeccable. It Rains Fishes has a fantastic array of à la carte seafood dishes to choose from and an express lunch menu, which is remarkable value for money at €26.50. For this sum, we feasted on:

  • tuna sashimi/wasabi amuse bouche;
  • lobster crème fraiche soup;
  • sea bass with potato mash and beetroot salad; and
  • *real* (finally) coffee with home made chocolate lollypops. 

Stuffed full of fishy goodness, we explored the delightful city of The Hague, even fitting in a little shopping (my sport of choice!). Interestingly, some of the best customer service I received throughout Europe was in Amsterdam and The Hague. This went against everything that our B&B owner told us when we arrived: "Dutch customer service" he joked, "that's an oxymoron". Our experience couldn't have been further from this - we found Holland to be overflowing with warm, smiling people who were only too willing to help a bunch of disoriented tourists. And again, I digress! Back to the shopping. I was particularly delighted by one particular purchase in the afternoon - a pair of chunky Italian leather boots.

After a delightful stroll around the The Hague, we returned to Amsterdam and happened to stumble upon the Sex Museum. For only 3 for entrance we couldn't resist the seedy lure of this establishment. If you enjoy a laugh and are willing to part with a few euros, I would certainly recommend visiting the museum. My highlight was the "Sex through the Ages" collection of 19th and early 20th century porn, as well as this "colourful" Chinese tea set. I wish I could break this one out at my next dinner party...

Dinner for my beloved and I was at a tapas bar not far from our B&B - Castro. Dates wrapped in bacon were a smash hit and we also enjoyed a tortilla, lamb cutlets and chilli prawns, all washed down with a local beer. What a day!

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