Half an hour later we book into our hotel in The Hague, with parking 5 minutes away at 18Euro a day. We are up three strenuous floors and it is warm. After lunch we have a snooze and head into the city. Or so we thought. In fact we end up close to the Peace Palace before we realise we are going in the wrong direction. Anyway this was really top of my priority list and so we go slightly out of our way to visit the palace. We have missed the last tour for the day and had wanted to be on our way tomorrow by midday. However, the first tour is at 2pm tomorrow so we change our plans and make a booking. The Peace Palace houses both the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration and Lilly agrees we should go on the tour. The Visitors Centre has an impressive interactive exhibition on war and peace but more on all that tomorrow.
We trudge towards the centre of the city and take the famous entry gate into the historical Binnenhof or Inner Court of Netherland’s democracy. According to the Dutch constitution, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, although the parliament and the Dutch government have been situated in The Hague since 1588, along with the Supreme Court and the Council of State. The royal family live at Wassenar on the outskirts of The Hague. The monarch has limited power and does not make pronouncements about political topics.
We walk around the inner city, it is busy but more spacious and orderly than its counterpart, Amsterdam.
After a warm day, tonight a few wee cans of cold Amstel Bier, a distinctive flavor which improves with each.
Thursday 23rd July
We head for Madurodam, the miniature city. There are perhaps 100 model buildings which are exact replicas of special buildings and objects from all over the Netherlands on a scale of 1:25. It is an amazing display, interactive and very informative and educational for both kids and adults. In particular you see the way the Dutch have dealt with the sea and managed water so successfully. It’s a must see, even though the exhibits do not show the reference number from the guide they hand out and the accompanying text is therefore hard to find.
We also learn today at Madurodam that the Dutch are an enterprising lot, not just in water management. The Amsterdam stock exchange (also notable for the tulip mania and the speculative bubble of 1637) was the first of its kind in the world in 1602, trading in shares from the Dutch East India Company which was also the world’s first multinational corporation. While Dutchman Hans Lippershey failed to receive a patent for his invention of the telescope, a copy of the design was used by Galileo Galilei. Cornelius Drebbel was the inventor of the first navigable submarine while working for the royal navy. Jan van der Heyden, and his brother Nicolaes, invented the first fire hose. Willem Einthoven was awarded a Nobel Prize for his invention of the Electrocardiograph in 1903. Spyker introduced the first four-wheel drive car with an internal combustion engine. In 1943 the first artificial kidney was developed by Willem Johan Kolf. Dutch company Gatsometer, invented the first speed camera. After the compact cassette in 1962, Philips together with Sony came up with the compact disc.
Most importantly Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt. He thought it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America. Dutch cartographers later renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. British explorer James Cook subsequently anglicised the name to New Zealand.
At the Peace Palace we learn it is an administrative building often called the seat of international law because it houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. On a guided tour conducted by a very young and very bright lady we are told that the Palace officially opened on 28 August 1913. Ironically war broke out within a year and over the next 30 years the world suffered two catastrophic wars. The palace was originally built to provide a symbolic home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), a court created to end war. The PCA was created by treaty at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference.
Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate provided 1.5 million dollars to build the Peace Palace. (In 1901 he sold his steel business to JP Morgan (US Steel) for $480 million – estimated to be about $90bn in today’s terms, according to our guide.)
We see some of the art works donated by various member countries. We enter and learn about the functioning of both courts.
The PCA encourages the resolution of disputes that involve states, state entities, intergovernmental organizations, and private parties by assisting in the establishment of arbitration tribunals and facilitating their work. One of the parties must be a state. Enforcement of awards or decisions is apparently governed by the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (also known as the New York Convention). This convention was adopted by a United Nations diplomatic conference on 10 June 1958 and entered into force on 7 June 1959. The Convention requires courts of contracting states to give effect to private agreements to arbitrate and to recognize and enforce arbitration awards made in other contracting states. There are only a handful of minor countries that are not parties to the convention.
On the other hand, the International Court of Justice is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations. Its main functions are to settle legal disputes submitted to it by states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by international branches, agencies and the UN General Assembly. The UN Security Council enforces Court rulings. However, such enforcement is subject to the veto power of the five permanent members of the Council.
Late in the day we travel through the centres of Delft and Rotterdam, hardly stopping to catch breath. The former is a picturesque town known for its historic town centre with canals and the latter will have to await a further visit. Rotterdam looks more modern and has many skyscrapers unlike other Dutch cities.
I am anxious to surprise Lilly with a visit to Kinderdijk but we are nearly thwarted when we find the country road is blocked by road works and the GPS keeps taking us back to the roadworks, Eventually with help of a lady with a dog and a man with a dog and a man with a ferry we make it. A significant part of Holland is situated up to approximately 7 meters below sea level. The Dutch don’t notice any of this though, because an incredibly intricate system of water controls keeps the ever-rising seawater from flooding the land. Kinderdijk is a pretty area, very lush and a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its unique collection of 19 authentic windmills. These are considered a Dutch icon throughout the world. We take pictures from afar and press on to Antwerp.