Making of Hague Peace Challenge: Palace Tour

A Hague Peace Challenge wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Peace Palace in The Hague.  To come up with a good question and a creative assignment, I wanted to visit this mustsee in The Hague again, but I needed an incentive. Then my friend Jacqueline Alders, owner of I Guide you Through The Hague  told me that the annual summer Peace Palace tours had started again.

Peace Palace The Hague front side Peace Challenge Verita's Visit
Front side Peace Palace The Hague

Guided Tour through Peace Palace

One of the main goals in my life is to find the exceptional, to get off the beaten track. A long time ago I worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the many departments organised a trip to the Peace Palace and, like many, I was curious to find out how the building looked from the inside. So, I went along. I remember beautiful objects, stained glasses, amazing decorations.  if you haven't done it: a guided tour through the Peace Palace is definitely worthwhile. There is no proof that I went inside; you are not allowed to take any pictures.

This statue is a gift by Chili to the Peace Palace. It represents the women, children and elderly who suffer from war.
This statue is a gift by Chile to the Peace Palace. It represents the women, children and elderly who suffer from war.

Peace Palace tour

There is a guided tour offered at the Peace Palace in which you are allowed to take pictures. It's the guided tour through the garden of the Peace Palace. Our guide Roos - what's in a name- not only told us about the flora and fauna, the landscaping and the statues, objects and plants that were given to the Peace Palace by the different nations. She also explained how shortly after the competition for the design of the Peace Palace, three garden architects were invited to compete against each other for the design of the grounds around the building. Thomas Mawson won the competition and became the designer.

Peace Palace guided tour garden Verita's Visit

Peace in the Palace Garden

In an earlier post I have tried to define peace. Mawson associated peace with balance, harmony, symmetry, soft leaves and no thorns ( except for the roses), water. While walking through the garden I thought about the the base of the Hague Peace Challenge. imaginary situation of constructing a second City of Peace and Justice in the Middle East.  I thought it would be interesting to integrate Mawson's ideas in the design of the City or in The Hague Peace Challenge itself.

If you are interested in visiting the gardens ( only in Dutch, on request in English) or the Peace Palace itself, use this link.

 I want to know more about the The Hague Peace Challenge

 

Update:  In The Hague Peace Challenge the question and creative assignment about the Peace Palace will be based on what you see and hear in the Visitor's Centre. If you are participating in the challenge, it could be a good idea to visit the centre before. Go for the opening hours to the website .


Top places to see heather in the Netherlands

 Sometimes I get so excited, I’m near to obsessed. The last weeks I’ve been checking different websites, social media almost every hour to see the updates. Updates of what, you might ask. Well, you know how in winter some Dutch are glued to the weather forecast hoping for the Eleven Cities Tour to happen? And you also know how in spring some Dutch and many tourists check sites like bloemenradar to see if and where the tulips in Holland are blooming? Well, then you should also know about the spectacular sight Dutch nature offers in August.

National phenomenon in August in the Dutch national park near Amsterdam
National phenomenon in August in the Dutch national park near Amsterdam

When is the best time to see heather in bloom?

These days I can just check on sites like Staatsbosbeheer or Natuurmonumenten if and where the heather is blooming. People living in the different Dutch regions where the heather flowers can be enjoyed now compete with each other to get the best pictures of the purple fields. A few years ago I still had to go and search the best places for heather myself. There even were years in which I went to one particular spot to find out the heather beetle had already eaten all the beautiful flowers, a day later I would go to another place to discover the heather was already gone. This year, seeing the pictures on the websites mentioned above it is an exceptional good year for the heather. One piece of advice: if you want to see the heather fields, go now. They only bloom a couple of weeks.

heather dunes Schoorle duinen national park Holland-veritasvisit
Schoorlse duinen one of my top places to see heather in the Netherlands

Top places to see heather in the netherlands

Three of my top places to see heather in the Netherlands this year are:

De Posbank, Gelderland. A beautiful hilly area with fantastic view points over the purple heather fields. I’ve cycled this area in Veluwezoom so many times, I can almost dream it. You can even spot deers and of course many sheep J It’s amazing!

Schoorlse Duinen, Noord-Holland. This is where I went to this year. With the whiteness of the dunes, the fantastic blue skies and the purple fields it is truly breathtaking. In Schoorl itself is a beautiful dune right in the middle of the town, which you really should visit. Around it there are several bars and restaurants and just around the corner is a Pinoccio where you can get a delicious ice-cream.

Dwingelerveld, Drenthe. This Dutch province is known for its dolmens, the prehistoric burial chambers. The cycle route through this area is diverse and quite surprising. You find different types of landscapes and these dolmens are scattered through the beautiful scenery of purple heather flowers.

Cycling through the Dutch dune landcape filled with heather
Cycling through the Dutch dune landcape filled with heather

Cycle routes and walking trails through nature parks the Netherlands

In this blog I have, as a true cycle fan, said I cycled these areas. There are of course also many walking trails through these nature parks in the Netherlands.  The most beautiful walking trails are explained on https://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/routes/de-mooiste-routes-over-de-heide

Walking trail through dunes & heather fields
Walking trail through dunes & heather fields

I do wish you a marvellous time in the midst of nature and heather. Please share your pictures of the purple field of heather in the comments or on facebook . In case you need any help in finding the best route, where to rent a bike or accommodation, you know where to find me.

Enjoy!

Got distracted by a branch of acorns
Got distracted by a branch of acorns

 

 


Making of The Hague Peace Challenge: Definition of Peace

What does peace mean to you? This was the first question I asked family, friends and colleagues after I had set Sunday 25 September as the date for the Hague Peace Challenge. Interesting enough, no one gave the same answer. Apparently the definition of peace is different for everyone.

What's your definition of peace?
What's your definition of peace?

Peace: word association

Try. Try to give one solid definition of peace that explains the whole concept. It's impossible. Even more difficult is when you only want to highlight the positive aspects. No mention of war, no horrific scenes of violence, crime, poverty, death. Just positive words. I asked my friends, family and colleagues for a definition of peace, or at least some positive words that are connected to peace. Respect is a word many used. Then came tolerance, acceptance, freedom.  Peace can also be celebrated, think of the Gay Pride in Amsterdam.  Words, celebrations that already make me feel warm inside, full of happiness and joy.

My positive words to make a definition of peace
My peace word cloud

Peace in all its dimensions

Then I visited the exhibitionAsylum Search Engine in the Humanity House and I found out there are many layers in the concept peace. Everyone has different thoughts about peace. Someone living in a conflict zone thinks differently of peace than a refugee. And a refugee has a different idea about peace than you. There are even many different types of peace. Inner peace, world peace, religious peace. Most importantly, peace is something you need to work on every day. And most of us do, although we aren't really aware of it.

 

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A daily act of peace

In the Hague Peace Challenge you are going to actively work on peace. On the route past the international organisations and local initiaves you'll explore the different dimensions of peace and become aware of the many peaceful actions you already commit to in your daily life.

When I visualize The Hague Peace Challenge on Sunday, September 25 I  picture myself in front of this large group of people from different backgrounds and you are right there. After the instructions you and the other participants form teams of 4 people  and all these teams challenge each other.  Not compete, not fight, but challenge in order to get the best out of each individual. The best ideas, the most creative solutions. I see the teams come up with beautiful ideas to unite people and build and maintain peace.

Logo #PeaceisPossible campaign
Logo #PeaceisPossible campaign

To conclude I want to end with one beautiful definition of peace I found while trying to to define peace for myself. It is given by the Junior Chamber International ( JCI) , an organisation that has created a fantastic initiative: Peace is Possible. Their definition of peace is:

Peace is the ability to respect differences within our diverse global community, transcending the souvereignity of nations. Peace ensures human dignity and guarantees humanity is preserved for future nations. It's not just the absence of conflict, but also the prevalence of justice.

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The Hague Horse Drawn Carriage Ride in a Day Tour

The kids were exhausted. On the way back to their hotel in The Hague they just fell asleep. It didn't seem to matter that they were doing something unusual. The The Hague horse drawn carriage ride, the cherry on the cake of the whole tour, passed unnoticed. Did we do too much on this one day tour The Hague area?

Read more


Afsluitdijk Water Wonder of the Netherlands

A tourist bus stops in front of the bridge. A group of Danes or German step out of the bus and follow their guide to the other side. Two elderly ladies eat an ice-cream while crossing the bridge. It looks so easy, but still there is no way you can get me to cross that bridge.

The longest Dutch dike

I'm standing in the middle of the Afsluitdijk, the 32 kilometer long dike that functions as bridge as well as frontier. It connects the Dutch provinces North Holland and Frisia (Friesland) and at the same time separates the North Sea from the IJsselmeer.   Quite a remarkable construction, if you think about it. The IJsselmeer once was sea, the Zuiderzee. It was a great area to catch saltwater fish. But  many floodings occured in the Zuiderzee region as well. Something had to be done. Sooner or later.

Lely Engineer water technology Afsluitdijk Netherlands-veritasvisit

 

The Afsluitdijk and a metrostation in Amsterdam

If you take the metro between Schiphol and Amsterdam Central you pass a station called Amsterdam Lelylaan. I've passed it so many times, I had to really think out loud where I had heard the name before when I stood in front of the statue of Cornelis Lely in the middle of the Afsluitdijk. Turns out he is the guy who came up with the Afsluitdijk. He was an engineer and had tried to get his plans to dam the Zuiderzee through in the Dutch parliament since 1913. In that year he became minister of Public Works. For years he promoted his project, but only in 1918 the government saw the need of the Afsluitdijk. In 1920 a start was made on the construction of the Afsluitdijk. The job was though and the project took years to finish. In 1932 the last stone was put in place.

Working on Afsluitdijk 1932 monument-veritasvisit

Last Stone of the frisian- north holland dike

In the middle of the Afsluitdijk is a stop where you can see the IJsselmeer as well as the North Sea. At the North Sea side is a statue of a stoneworker. On the opposite side is a watchtower that serves as a monument for the last stone that was put in place here.  I find it amazing how so many people can cross this bridge with this wind - there's always a strong wind up on a Dutch dike- , with cars passing  below at 130 km/hour.  Lely has turned his back on the sea, his statue focusses on the IJsselmeer and on the land which is protected by the Afsluitdijk. I turn my back to the bridge and walk back to the car.

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How a small café by the harbour became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Challenge

It wasn't supposed to get all the attention, but somehow it did. A small café by the harbour became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Challenge. This is how it happened.

Flags Flag Day Scheveningen-veritasvisit

Celebration of the Dutch New Herring

The new herring catch of the season calls for a typical Dutch celebration. A typical Dutch celebration calls for a challenge by Verita's Visit. So there we were, me and a bunch of international minded people, at the harbour of Scheveningen with just one mission: find out what Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen was all about and if it was more than Dutch new herring.

King William and Madonna at Vlaggetjesdag

The participants had no idea what to expect, there were question marks all over their faces when we met at the Scheveningen library. As there was some drizzle outside that was expected to turn into heavy rainfall, we headed inside for a short introduction. The given information could be used during the challenge.  King William, Madonna, the painter Mesdag and of course the Dutch herring, also known as Hollandse Nieuwe  all dropped by in this introduction.

 

the go with the flow festival challenge

Exactly at the moment the rain stopped, the participants, now divided in teams, were off to the first location in the Scheveningen harbour where they had to answer a question and complete a creative challenge. Now, finding your way in a local festival is quite a challenge by itself, so at first all teams were a bit lost.  By the time they had done two or three challenges they got the hang of it. They somehow realized the best thing to do was to just go with the flow, dive into the festivities and have fun.

Enjoy the local atmosphere and get social with a local

The best thing on local festivals like Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen is the atmosphere, everyone is relaxed and it's easy to make contact with locals or visitors.  Just like in the Leidens Ontzet Treasure Hunt  the participants of the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Challenge had to step out of their comfort zone and get social with a local.

Sharing Experiences during Herring & Corenwijn tasting

At the end of the Scheveningen Vlaggetjesdag challenge we all gathered at Restaurant de Dagvisser. In this small café by the harbour we tasted 4 exquisite herring dishes with 4 types of Corenwijn. All teams shared their experiences there. When I asked them why they all had chosen the song 'Het kleine café aan de haven' for one of the challenges they all responded in unison: "Because it was the shortest!"

Tasting Dutch Herring & Corenwijn
Tasting Dutch Herring & Corenwijn in a small café in the harbour ( actually a restaurant ;) )

Small cafe by the harbour of Scheveningen

Athough they were all enjoyed, it was not the Hollandse Nieuwe,  the fishers' boats, the stands demonstrating the local crafts or the men and women in traditional clothing, it was a small café by the harbour that became the core of the Vlaggetjesdag Challenge edition 2016.

Female net repairer Scheveningen-veritasvisit


Special tour event activiteit Verita's Visit kaas & meer

The City of Summer Festivals in Utrecht Region

Rain. Companion for life. It was not invited at the party of this small city of summer festivals in Utrecht region, but still it came. It didn't matter, people were enchanted by the street theatre and the international festival was a huge success.

Drums Brought Me To Woerden

Music attracts people like honey to bees. From afar I could hear the beats of the drum and it was as if my OV-fiets was put under a spell. I've never been faster in locating a moving music band. I was immediately engulfed in the group of spectators that were dancing on the upbeat rhythm of the samba band. Big raindrops came down, but we weren't bothered by it, summer music brought a tropical atmosphere in the city centre of Woerden

Hendrik Jan de Stuntman in Woerden Street Theatre-veritasvisit

City of summer festivals 2016

In summer the small city of  Woerden turns into a city of summer festivals. Hardly a weekend goes by without some food event, concert, or artistic performance. Yesterday, 25 June 2016, street artists from all around the world took over the city. Together they showed how diverse street theatre can be. Hendrik Jan de Stuntman was slightly confronting, Funny Hats was creative, Fjarno the Parno taught us something about commercial spirit, Le Ballerine brought a magical dance on stilts, while Parasolo used the stilts to tell us about friendship. Then there was Medusa's World full of fairytale like creatures and many many more amazing artists using movements, gestures and facial expressions to tell their story.

Colorful dancers street theatre festival-veritasvisit

Final scene: the artist uses words to introduce himself.

"I chose this job because I like it. The real job is my life. I thank you for coming, in rain, in non-rain."

Luca Belleza, Italian street artist and master in threads and balloons.

Luca Bellezze Street Theatre Festival Woerden-veritasvisit
For more pictures of the Street Theatre Festival Woerden 2016 go to https://nl.pinterest.com/veritasvisit/

City of Summer festival agenda

A wonderful day full of wonders in Woerden. Take a look at the city agenda to see which events and festivals are coming up in this summer festival city.

Supertip

Never visited the city of Woerden and its surroundings or are all your friends on holiday? Verita's Visit organises customised Culture & Cheese tours,  an all senses experience full of food, culture, history and nature. With this activity and the small challenge you can do, you easily connect with locals and other travellers, so you can visit the food festival together afterwards. You can easily request more information or book by following the link above or sending an email to travel(@)veritasvisit.nl

 

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The Village Feeling of a Dutch City

Village feeling in Dutch city Woerden, Utrecht region. Copyright: Woerden Marketing
Village feeling in Dutch city Woerden, Utrecht region. Copyright: Woerden Marketing

If you are still looking for a great summer destination I have a tip for you. Make a city trip in the Netherlands! Now, I know that many of you will be surprised that I give this suggestion given the fact that I absolutely adore the Dutch countryside, nature and . Well, I have to tell you a secret.

A non-touristy Dutch city in Utrecht Region

Many cities in the Netherlands are actually quite small. Take Woerden, a Dutch city in Utrecht region I recently discovered myself. It has around 52.000 inhabitants and it still has this village feeling. Visit this place on a Saturday, when the local farmers & cheese market takes place and you'll still be able to walk around without being crushed by groups of tourists. It really is a perfect example of village feeling  of a Dutch city.

polders surrounding woerden Dutch nature

Starting point of Dutch countryside adventures

Woerden is also the capital of what we call the Green Heart, a nature area in the middle of the main cities of Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. That means Woerden is surrounded by nature. The typical Dutch landscapes of polders with the black-and-white cows are just around the corner. Go on a bike ride or a walk and you'll be amazed by the setting of the peaceful villages located near the river Rhine with their small cottages and homey feel. Best thing is that Woerden is also a short trainride away from Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden and Gouda.  Should you miss the big city life.

 

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Visit Japanese Garden Hague & Leiden Japan Market

Updated

The Japanese garden The Hague is only open 6 weeks in spring and 2 weeks in autumn. In 2020 spring opening is from May 1 till 14 June from 9:00 AM till 8:00 PM. Autumn opening will be from 10 till 25 October.  Every time I visit the garden, I'm just overwhelmed by all the colors! There is one particular day in spring which I book in my agenda and that's the day of the Japanese market in Leiden. A full Japan day in in the Netherlands!

Visit Japan in The Hague & Leiden

Last year I started my Japanese day trip in the Netherlands with a bike ride through Clingedael and a first stop at the Japanese garden The Hague, from there I cycled part of the The Hague estates route and then from Wassenaar to Leiden. In Leiden centre I parked my bike close to Rapenburg and visited the Japanese market. In 2021  I have planned a bike tour  to the Japanese Garden The Hague, a couple of stops in the nature in The Hague/ Leiden area & a visit Japan Market Leiden. Contact me to find out more.

Bridge Japanese Garden The Hague-veritasvisit

Japanese Garden in The Hague Park

The Japanese garden is the most famous of the gardens in Clingendael. It attracts over 10.000 visitors a year. One of the reasons why it is such an attraction is definitely the multitud of colours. The colours of the Japanese maples, azaleas are splendid in spring as well as in autumn.  And then there is the red bridge, one of the most picturesque and most photographed objects in the garden.

Colours as well as objects have a special meaning in this garden. Shinto is an ideology, religion and way of life which is strongly rooted in Japanese society. The design, the ornaments, the colours used in the Japanese garden The Hague  all have a symbolic meaning.

Do you feel joy and peace at the moment you see the red bridge? That is just the intention of the designer of the garden. According to Shinto the colour red is used to chase away all the bad spirits. Seeing the colour makes you feel happy.

Flag Japan market Sieboldhuis Leiden-veritasvisit

Japan Market Leiden

If you pay attention, you will also see a lot of red on the Japan market in Leiden. This year the celebration of  Japanese culture, food, music and arts takes place on Sunday, 23 May 2021.

It will be a fantastic way to try out the Japanese martial arts, feel the beautiful kimonos, taste the sushi and the sake, see the manga fans, hear traditional Japanese music & enjoy the different stalls full of typical Japanese products. The market is a beautiful way of crossing cultural bridges and showing the century old ties between Leiden and Japan. It will make you happy, no matter what color you see ;)


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Behind the Scenes of the Flower Parade

It was a sunny Tuesday evening. There were waves of wind rolling through the feverish red tulip fields. All the tulips seemed to point their heads in the same direction: that of the big hall at the end of the lane.

This blogpost was written in 2016 and updated in January 2021. The next offline Flower parade will hopefully be in 2022.

There were chills running down my spine of pure excitement. In less than an hour I would walk into that hall and dive behind the scenes of the flower parade only to come out again three days later. I had a hunch, an idea, of the amazing creations I would find there, but wasn't prepared for the things I would see.

 

A new home in keukenhof area

Last years I've been going through the area around Keukenhof by bike and each year I discovered new places, hidden treasures. I've never been in this hall or behind the scenes of the Flower Parade in the Keukenhof area. As soon as I enter the building, my jaw drops and my eyes open wide. Spread throughout the hall are enormous objects made out of the kind of foam you want to pinch your finger in to see if it is as fluffy as it looks like.

All kinds of building constructions are made around it so the volunteers are able to reach the higher parts easier. There are crates full of hyacinths, orchids, daffodils and tulips and boxes full of staples are waiting to be used.  Above all there are volunteers walking around everywhere and there is music and a place to sit and have a drink. Even though this hall is huge, all these things add up to a relaxed atmosphere and give a very homey feeling.

Due to Covid19 the Flower Parade will happen online in 2021. We hope to again go behind the scenes of the flower parade from Wednesday 14 April till Friday 16 April 2022. Want to join her on a cycle tour or just for a visit behind the scenes?   Contact  Verita's Visit Holland for more information.

Who is the flower parade winner?

But, don't let appearances fool you. There's a lot to be done. While I'm touring my English, Dutch and Russian (?!)- speaking groups around and tell them about the history and the making of this 69th edition of the 2016 Flower Parade Bollenstreek, there is a competition going on. All the floats and flower arrangements and decorations have to be done before Friday morning. The volunteers, all from different associations and clubs in the area, work day and night to finish their project. Every part of the float has to be perfect. Because besides fun, every team also hopes to win the first prize. So, the teams are definitely under pressure. It can be sensed in the air, especially Thursday evening, when the deadline comes closer.

Shower for the flowers of the parade

On Friday everything is done.  All construction is gone, everything is cleaned and the last preparations for the Flower Parade are being made. The air is literaly being cleared, as fire men spray the floats with water to freshen up the flowers. Hopefully all the flowers keep their fresh look for the next few days. That very evening the floats pass through Noordwijkerhout.  On Saturday morning they leave Noordwijk and the Flower Parade finishes in Haarlem. All the floats can be admired one last time in the city center of Haarlem on Sunday.

 

Till next year. A new edition , a new episode of behind the scenes of the flower parade.

A big thanks to all the volunteers for having given me the opportunity to enjoy and become not just a tulip maniac and a Keukenhof area fan, but also a Flower Parade (over)enthusiast.

Keukenhof kissing couple-veritasvisit
The first prize in the Flower Parade Bollenstreek 2016: Keukenhof with the Delft blue kissing couple, the clog and the tulip vase

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