Go Visit The Netherlands

Readers, I will have some posts for you on some of the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Commission once they are made public. In the meanwhile, some thoughts on the visit. Here are some things that I love about the Netherlands:

  • The Dutch people. By and large, they are super friendly and welcoming. And they are chill about their bilingual excellence. I find that Dutch is somehow much closer to English than, say, German, at least in how it sounds when you hear people speaking it. Of course, the two aren’t mutually intelligible. But Dutch somehow sounds so much like English, and there is so much English around anyway, that I sometimes had the impression that either I was listening to tipsy people having a conversation in English, or that I was tipsy! Anyway, the people are great.
  • The transit system. I seethed with envy as I rode around the Hague on the trams and buses and as I took trains between Amsterdam, the Hague, and Schiphol. The trains run every few minutes! You just tap your phone when getting on and off to pay! The trains always run on time! I get that the T in Boston is the oldest subway in America and has unique problems. But there is no reason why we should not have what the Dutch have, and I believe that if we had it, people would choose to take advantage of it. If you build it, they will come.
  • Surprisingly good food. I don’t think of the Netherlands as a food destination. But there is a really good Italian food scene in the Hague. We had a couple of good and reasonably priced Italian meals, and one very good meal, also reasonably priced, at a place called La Liguria. The servers were friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and the wine, and we ate outside in a “hidden garden.” I’d also like to give a shout-out to Dolly’s Rozenkoek, a little bakery where the owner made rose-flavored cookies she said were from her family recipe. She explained somewhat mysteriously that she was the granddaughter of a famous writer she didn’t name, and she also explained that her second flavor of cookie, chocolate, was her young son’s idea. Really delicious.
  • The wind farms. I want to see wind farms in and off the coast of Massachusetts in the same number that I saw in the Netherlands. We are getting there but we have a ways to go.
  • The small art museums. I had the chance to visit two museums. First, on arriving in Amersterdam and before heading to the Hague, I stopped at my the Van Gogh Museum, which as you may remember I represented in a 2022 lawsuit brought by a disappointed collector who claimed he had purchased an unknown painting by Van Gogh that the Museum opined was not authentic. The exhibit was informative and well-thought-out. One main lesson seems to me to be, “go to Paris!” which is good advice not just for artists but for anyone. The exhibition made the importance of Van Gogh’s time there very clear. There is also no substitute for seeing paintings up-close, even for people not in the art world, like me. Seeing the paintings as physical and even three-dimensional things is fascinating. I also visited the Escher museum in the Hague. I had always thought of Escher as a creator of fun paradoxical images, and I enjoyed learning much more about him. I was liked the long Metamorphosis, and I particularly liked the chess position it features, which seems to me like a real position and a fun mate in 2. I also liked the museum’s new acquisition, an etching of Escher’s cat. You can tell the man loved his cat.

A couple of things I did not love.

  • Delta Airlines. On the flight home, the flight was delayed due to a problem with the engine. But eventually we boarded. Then, after we were taxiing, they realized they hadn’t fixed the problem after all. Three hours later, after a lot of testing that required them to turn off the cabin air conditioning, they were able to remove a faulty valve from the engine, but when they finally got the new valve, they realized they had the wrong one. So four and a half hours into the “flight,” they finally realized what all the passengers had known for hours. We were not flying to Boston that day on that plane. So I had an extra night at the airport hotel.
  • The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I did not visit the museum at the Anne Frank House, but I did walk outside the house along the canal. People from all over the world came to take selfies. “Smile, and two thumbs up!” “Let’s get one of me ringing the doorbell!” The Anne Frank House should not be like Disneyland. Anne Frank’s story is not a feel-good story. The museum is about the life and times of a gifted and ambitious girl who was murdered with most of her family in a continent-wide genocide. I would rather the site be closed to the public than to see how people behaved.
Sign out side the Ann Frank House, reading ANNE FRANK HUIS

Overall, it’s a wonderful country to visit, and I look forward to my next chance!

3 responses to “Go Visit The Netherlands”

  1. Judith Freedberg

    Thank you for highlighting the delights and advantages of life in the Netherlands. As a born and bred Bostonian (actually Marblehead), who lived for 39 years in Den Haag (The Hague), I appreciate all that NL has to offer, and sorely miss it now living in Miami.
    Public transportation here is underfunded and underused. The cost of living has increased so dramatically that it makes national headlines. The nightly news reports the nightly shootings.
    Fortunately, you did not have a medical emergency during your visit, but if you had, you would have had outstanding medical care, supported by almost universal affordable health insurance.
    The Netherlands is a small and relatively homogeneous country with a core of shared values. The society is run on the concept of “solidarity”, not to be confused with “socialism”, a “four-letter word” in Miami.
    If you encourage readers to visit, send them to the smaller cities, such as Haarlem or Utrecht, full of history, culture and good food, and less oppressed by mass tourism. But everyone should visit The Hague, the seat of the government, the Peace Palace (where I worked for 10 years), and the International Criminal Court to mention a few institutions of particular current interest to international lawyers.

    1. Judy, thanks for this comment! I think cities should learn from each other’s examples and also should be who they are. In other words, some of the things that were best about living in the Hague are likely not some of the things that are best about living in Boston (or Miami), and that is true in the other direction. Compare Miami Beach with Scheveningen or Chatham in December. Your comment did make me remember to count my blessings on transit. While the T may not match up with the Dutch transit system very favorably, we are still fortunate to live in an American city with an extensive transit system that gets lots of people, including me, where they need to go every day. Many larger American metropolitan areas don’t have that.

  2. […] few days ago I wrote about my experience with the transit system in the […]

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