Today was dedicated to checking out a couple of sites I thought would be good for students to tour. I want to make sure they are places that my students will get a lot of value from seeing, whether from a cultural or program point of view. The first stop was the Binnenhof, or the parliament building. While the capitol of the Netherlands is technically Amsterdam, all the government buildings (as well as the royal family) can be found in The Hague. The Binnenhof is about a ten-minute walk from my hotel. On the way, I stopped at a bakery and bought a chocolate croissant which I ate while walking the rest of the way there.
Typically, these tours are in Dutch and English speakers are given an audio guide to follow along. However, I was the only person taking the tour today so I got a private English tour! My tour guide had just graduated from college with a political science degree, so he was very knowledgable and was able to answer all my questions. I tend to be too intimidated in a group to ask much, so it was nice to have a one-on-one tour. The tour included a short video at the beginning to introduce the history of the Binnenhof, and then visits to the Hall of Knights and the House of Representatives.
Outside the Binnenhof and the Hall of Knights:
The arched door on the left in the entrance to the Prime Minister's office:
I always like to tour the state houses or parliaments of places I visit, so I enjoyed this tour. However, I don't think it is a must-see for my students. The House of Represetnatives is a pretty new building so there isn't much historic value to seeing it, and the rest of the tour isn't that comprehensive. I think the time would be better spent visiting another business or court, and students can visit the Binnenhof on their free time if it is something they are interested in seeing. This is the value of doing a site visit before a study abroad when you are planning it yourself from scratch rather than using an experienced third-party provider. You get to see first-hand what will be the best for a student visit. Time is precious when you are doing a short-term study abroad, so you want everything to be of the highest value if you can help it.
After the tour, I stopped at McDonald's for a quick lunch and then took the tram to th Peace Palace. This is something I have really been looking forward to because I teach an International Law class where we talk about this building. It is where the International Court of Justice is housed, among some other institutions. It is a very cool building. I was expecting it to be further out of town than it was, but it really is not far from the center of the city. Before the guided tour, you have time to walk through an exhibit in the visitor's center that talks about the history and purpose of the building. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the palace, though. This tour is excellent and is something I think my students will enjoy, especially those who take the International Law class. It is always exciting to see something you have learned about in class.
Peace Palace and Imagine Peace Wish Tree (where you can write down you your wish for peace and tie it to the tree):
From the visitor center:
Fan signed by all the representatives from the countries who set up the Permanant Court of Arbitration which was one of the first international courts:
Check for $1.5 million given by Andrew Carnegie to pay for the Peace Palace:
The current judges at the International Criminal Court:
Each country that is a member of the Court has a chair with that country's emblem on the back. These are two from countries that no longer exist. I don't remember what the one of the left is but I think the one on the right is Austria-Hungary:
I intended to take the tram back to the city center, but I got turned around and ended up just walking back to the hotel. It really wasn't as far as I thought it was so it wasn't a bad walk. On the way, I came upon a hotel I had planned to visit tomorrow, so I took the opportunity to stop in while I was in the area. It is a hotel called EasyHotel, which is a chain owned by the cheap European airline EasyJet. Like the airline, these are completely no-frills hotels. You pay a very cheap rate and then pay for any extras you want. So, for example, if you check in before your room is ready and you want them to hold your bags for you, you have to pay for that. Because it is so cheap, I wanted to check it out. Keeping costs low on a study abroad is important, but sometimes you get what you pay for as well. Let me tell you, these rooms are TINY. Think cabins on a cruise ship, and not the nicer cabins. The rooms is a wise as the two twin best with about a foot in between them. There is no desk or dresser or wardrobe. The only thing is a little shelf big enough to hold the remote for the TV. The bathroom reminds me of a bathroom in an airplane, but with a shower attached. The door to the bathroom becomes the door to close off the shower. It is hard to explain. It is in a decent area, seems clean and the people at the desk were friendly. It would save quite a bit of money, but will students want to save that money for this kind of room? I don't know. It is something we will have to discuss when I get home. Personally, I prefer the hotel I am staying in now. It is so easy to get to from the train station, and because all the trams stop at the station, you can get anywhere fast. Lots to think about...
I then came back to the room to rest for a while. On the way, I stopped for another stroopwafel.
After about an hour I decided to go for dinner. I wanted to try sitting outside on the main square and see how it was. It was great! I found a table right next to a fire, the ceilings of the tent had heaters, and there was a blanket at my table. It was 43 degrees when I got there and 38 when I left and I felt comfortable the whole time. I started with an amazing pumpkin soup. It is one of the best soups I have ever had. I then had a porkchop that came with potatoes and vegetable and something called "sauce of squirrel bread." I have no idea what that is, but it was really good. Definitely a cream-based sauce of some kind, hopefully make out of some kind of bread and not actual squirrels.
Tomorrow I am going to visit three different museums and check out at least one more hotel. The first museum I am going to doesn't open until noon on Sundays so I am going to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in! I am also going to see if there is any way to watch the Packer game. So far no one I have asked knows and I haven't found anything online so I am not optimistic about that. I also plan to go out and look at the Christmas lights in the shopping area. It will be my last full day in The Hague before I go to Amsterdam on Monday afternoon after I visit the International Criminal Court Monday morning.