How To See The Netherlands In One Afternoon
The Dutch love miniatures. Even I didn't realize how much until now, but it's true. Every church has a maquette, every town has a scale model, every windmill has a mini-me and many museums exhibit stunningly detailed dollhouses all showcasing Dutch pride down to each brick, tile and lace doily.
Our Lonely Planet guide describes Den Haag's Madurodam as "an enlightening example of the Dutch tendency to put their world under a microscope," but it's much, much more fun than that. Madurodam is an interactive and fascinating playground for adults and children alike to learn and experience at eye level the architechture, history, culture, and science of The Netherlands.
Madurodam first came into being as a war memorial to war hero and resistance fighter George Maduro, who died at the Dachau concentration camp. Its proceeds are donated to Dutch children's charities dedicated to learning and fun. Over 80 special buildings and monuments across the country are replicated on a 1:25 scale, and even the greenery is carefully cultivated to maintain the effect of entering a miniature Netherlands.
On entrance, filling in some information at a kiosk nets you a card that plays videos and interactive activities throughout the park. The clever "Robot Chicken" style videos have a high edu-tainment value and had us laughing. There are plenty of hands-on activities too (bring change for a handful of the displays). Madurodam emails you photos and videos so you can relive some of your favourite memories.
Throughout the park bells ring from iconic churches, trains chug along mini-miles of track, factories clink and clank in industrious symphony and boats of all shapes and sizes travel picturesque canals and harbours. Windmills spin, cranes move and trucks drive. Even little people at a music festival bob to the the efforts of your own DJing.
We were excited to find displays featuring highlights of our new home Haarlem, but were a little disappointed that the Frans Hals Museum was our city's lone representation. We are indignant Haarlemers now! But we identified plenty of monuments we've seen in real life and added those we hadn't to our list. We were smiling our faces off at the sheer coolness of it all, even if it doesn't have quite enough Haarlem for our tastes.
Here's a little snapshot of our visit:
Madurodam is very worth it for kids, for the young at heart and for the traveller that doesn't have enough time to explore the whole country, and of course, for any Dutchman or Dutchwoman. I've just realized it's no surprise how crazy I was for CSI's miniature killer story line. It's in my blood.