Handcrafted World Peace and Porcelain: The Hague and Delft, Netherlands

The Hague

The Peace Palace is one of the big draws to the Hague for visitors. A peace conference was initially proposed the by Tsar Nicholas II to prevent war which had become a costly business in the 19th century. After the first conference a permanent fixture evolved and needed a home. The Peace Palace was financially backed largely by American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. It is the location of the International Court of Justice as well as the International Arbitration Committee. The court and committees work to resolve international disputes between two parties through peace, not war, with the option of anonymity. Several other buildings devoted to International cooperation also exist within the city such as the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Airbnb hosts brought value to our stay throughout the trip, and the Hague was no different. Our host, Iban, worked for a United Nations tribunal for Lebanon. He was born and raised in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain and worked in various European countries. One evening he had us sample his cooking and we discussed wide ranging topics from urban transportation initiatives to immigration to US global policy as it relates past and present to United Nations involvement.

One of the most fascinating parts of the conversation surrounded a place close to home: San Antonio, Texas. Iban educated us on the Spanish settlement into San Antonio by explaining the Spanish directive to resettle Canary Islanders to the United States back in the 16th-18th century. It was called Tributo de Sangre, or Blood Tribute. Florida, Louisiana, and Texas each saw many of its first settlers from this compulsory immigration policy by Spain. To this day, both Louisiana and Texas still have preserved “Canarian American” communities. It was intriguing, close to home, and a great education.

The Airbnb was also in the middle of the Asian district. Hannah and I became creative with meals. During a stop in a Chinese market, we bought a few ramen packets, eggs, and frozen dumplings. With a bit of spice creativity in the kitchen, it turned out to be delicious and better than many meals we had along the trip, and for 10% of the price.

Despite the 40-50 degree temperatures and rain, Hannah and I enjoyed our time. On the outskirts of the Hague, a sprawling, clean beach was enjoyed by jacket clad visitors and their dogs. In the distance, commercial shipping and fishing vessels slowly sailed. A pier jutted out into the ocean. Its wooden stilts adorned with a vibrant spectrum of colors. We walked to the end and looked back at the shore. To the left there were grassy dunes of a park and to the right a mall and grand hotel. Our host later explained that had we walked several kilometers more to the right, a series of concrete WW2 bunkers built by the Germans dotted the beach. It was known as the Atlantic Wall, which was the system of bunkers and fortifications built across Western Europe and Scandinavia by the Nazis. It is a chilling reminder of the deadly past which seems to juxtapose in an idyllic society like the Netherlands. The beach itself and the strand of restaurants and shops leading to it were reminiscent of Galveston, Texas near Houston where Hannah and I lived prior to the trip.

Delft, Netherlands

Hannah and I took a day trip to a town south of the Hague called Delft. It is the location where “Delft-ware” is made. Delft-ware are the iconic white porcelain platters, plates, cups, and vases with intricate hand-painted blue decoration and shading. We toured the Delft Pottery De Delftse Pauw and watched the molding, firing, and painting process. Small jewelry boxes ranged from $45 to large 4 foot tall vases at $4500. It was neat to see and a work of art. Since a $4500 vase was out of our budget, we settled on a $2 pair of machine printed, mini ceramic clogs for our Christmas tree back home.

The city itself was small and picturesque with algae covered canals splitting streets down the middle. A typical Dutch windmill was placed at the border of a major road and the beginning of the old town. The Old Church stood precariously leaning at an angle over the short homes surrounding it. The New Church stood proud and upright amongst tourist souvenir traps and restaurants. The town felt conspicuously empty. We overheard a woman telling tourists that Sunday was a shopping day. Iban explained that shops stay open into the evening on Sundays for locals to do their weekly shopping and thus open later on Mondays, around 2PM. The culture in the Netherlands was both peculiar and fascinating.

The saying goes “God built the world, but the Dutch built the Netherlands”. This proved somewhat true as the water and flood control measures taken by them were substantial. Rows of canals, windmills, and dykes harness and control the water. In the 4 cities we visited, all had important infrasturcture in place to keep its residents safe despite being so below sea level. This also makes the country a hot spot for floral enthusiasts. In the spring, vast rows of different colored tulips inhabit the country and visitors flock to see them. Unfortunately, we visited in the fall, but our imagination will have to do. The Netherlands was still rosy to us.


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