Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vredespalais: The Seat of International Law

The Vredespalais or "The Peace Palace" is arguably the most recognizable structure in The Hague. It is home to the International Court of Justice, The Permanent Court of Arbitration and The Hague Academy of International Law (taken from Wikipedia).

The Peace Palace in full view

Just a stone's throw away from the ISS, the Peace Palace was more recognizable and far more impressive the Queen's Residence down at Noordeinde. Probably owing to the fact that it stood by itself, with its own wide expanse of garden, something that was uncommon in the central area of Den Haag.

Most of the buildings in the city stood beside each other, thin and lanky like its Dutch Citizens. I read from "the Undutchables" that this trait of Dutch buildings had much to do with their known frugality. Buildings were taxed according to the land area it stood, thus the Dutch built their homes upward instead of sideways. Therefore, buildings like the Vredespalais was quite rare. This quality literally made it stand out.

It is also my favorite building in the Hague, probably owing to the fact that my room, Dorus 166, has a beautiful view of it.

True to its name, the sight of the Palace like this made me feel a little more at ease at peace especially during rare stretches of studying and constant frenzy of cramming writing a well-researched essay in four days.

When my husband was able to visit me in The Netherlands, we would just sit on the rooftop staring at the building, feeling tranquil and serene. He would smoke a rare cigarette relishing the cool air we never experience here in the Philippines. I sat beside him holding his free hand wishing moments like those would last a bit longer or occur more often.

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Every third week of September, on the 21st if I am not mistaken, would be the Day of Peace. This would be the day when the Peace Palace would open a part of the building for public viewing. Other institutions such as the Yugoslav Court and the World Forum would do the same. Of course, I took advantage and signed up. We had a French guy discuss what was going on inside the courts. Interesting stuff! Except I do not remember much of what he said. I did like seeing the Court Justice togas. :P

Beautiful and colorful flowers would bloom in the pocket garden outside the Peace Palace. During March and April, it would be the famous Dutch tulips that would greet tourists who come for a tour of the Palace. The outside of it, that is.

Detail of the Peace Palace gates

It was quite fortunate that friends, L and G, worked in the Palace. They were kind enough to give me a tour of its inner sanctum. I had the chance to see the Jesus Christ statue which was a gift from Brazil (I think) and the polar bear fountain that was a gift from Denmark. I also saw the seats of the countries stitched with their symbols (we don't have a seat). I also had the chance to have lunch in their canteen which served a delicious enough food.

The library was awesome. Nothing much I could have used because most of its contents were law books. It was a good place to study with each table having its own lamp and the entire place was wi-fi. The lay-out was conducive for studying. Unknown to many, it was open to the public. I did try to get in there but discovered that access to the library required a passport and not just a school ID. Bummer right there since I left my passport at the dorm the day I tried.

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Memories of the Hague will definitely mean remembering the Peace Palace with it. For some it may mean bigger things like keeping peace in other countries or it may mean justice for the wronged or it may symbolize international balance.

For me, it was simply a respite from a crazy day of school. It gave me moments when I would stare and wonder, "Which room does Dumbledore stay in?" or "Where is the Fat Lady's painting placed?"

The silhouette of the Palace during dusk would be a beautiful picture for me. It allowed me my little magical fantasies. More importantly, it was the reminder that I was far away from home living a childhood dream.