So, is it the capital or not?

I always thought that The Hague was the capital city of The Netherlands. It would appear I was mistaken in this long-held belief. I seem to think I got the idea from a very elderly maths teacher who was fond of posing trick questions at the end of lessons.

‘What is the capital of Holland?’ being one of them, expecting us all to say ‘Amsterdam!’.

According to him, if you define a capital by where the country’s government sits then The Hague is indeed the capital. However even the most stoned Dutchman knows that their own capital is most definitely Amsterdam.

This mistaken and befuddled maths teacher also told us about the Isosceles Square and how to use the Fibonacci Maneuver to help somebody who is choking. This probably explains how the entire class managed to fail the O level Maths exam.

However, we all did very well in Biology, mostly because there was a question on the subject of senile dementia.

Anyway, I’ve had this blatantly wrong fact in my head ever since then.

It is indeed true that the Dutch Government conduct their business in the leafy boulevards of The Hague. This is probably because it’s nicer than doing it amongst the used condoms and syringes strewn across the streets of Amsterdam. In the relaxing and conducive surroundings offered by The Hague they can sit back and make all manner of liberal laws….most of which continue to add to the used condoms and syringes in Amsterdam.

The Hague is a sleepy little city with quiet streets and cosy restaurants full of Dutch politicians nodding off to sleep after boozy lunches. It seems to be eternally Sunday afternoon in The Hague, with it being Friday-night all week in Amsterdam.

Although it sounds like a bit of a snooze-fest, The Hague does have considerable amounts of art. Which is why I went there.

The most famous gallery, The Mauritshuis, is smaller than I anticipated. Small it may be, but it is also perfectly formed. Each picture is a gem of seventeenth-century Dutch art.

The MC Escher Collection, in Het Palais, was a revelation as I only ever thought of him as the clever-clogs behind never-ending stairways with small people disappearing for all eternity up their own backsides. He was also a great graphic artist of landscapes and nature too.

The Gemeentemuseum is worth seeing, if only for the building. It looks as if it could have been designed by Mondrian, but it wasn’t. However it does contain a lot of his early paintings. Unfortunately the clean modernist exterior of the gallery totally belies a confounding, complex and labyrinthine interior. Indeed after getting lost several times in dark corridors and back passages I began to feel as if I was disappearing up one of MC Escher’s eternal backsides.

There are very nice cakes in the café though, if you ever find it.

p.s. The picture shows a work by Louise Bourgeois entitled’ ‘Confused turd on a string wondering how to shave’