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Mind your step...
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Our previous post gave me the opportunity to write a lot about Haarlem, and show the appropriate pictures. Of course, that still leaves the whole rest of The Netherlands. Question is: how are you going to see, let alone show, the rest of The Netherlands? Fortunately, in our tiny little country we found a way to do just that: we just made an even tinier version of The Netherlands to go visit: Madurodam.

Madurodam is one of those must-visit places when you come over. We won't let you leave without it. It is a collection of miniature versions of typical or well-known buildings in The Netherlands, populated by little to-scale puppets and serviced by model trains running through the whole thing. A big surprise to anyone who visited it as a kid is that it really is just a tiny plot of land, absolutely crammed with model buildings, dikes, ships, et cetera. It's not nearly as huge as you remember it, it just takes ages to look at everything!

We took Beedoo!'s parents over to look at it all. Predictably, her mother spent a lot of time with us looking at everything, while her father scoped the place out for little under an hour and then returned to announce he was done. Fortunately, men no longer have any say in these matters. ;)

When we went over, the weather was only so-so, occasionally outright cold. Fortunately, I forgot to charge my camera's battery, leaving me only with the far sunnier pictures of the visit Beedoo! and I made back in 2008, the first time she came over:

(Click on any image for a larger view)

Madurodam has been remodelled since then, but much of it is the same. Mostly, they now have interactive screens that will tell you something about what you're seeing, and baffles you with unexpected facts. The Netherlands the largest exporter of fresh vegetables in the world? Really!? I'll let Beedoo! fill you in on those bits.

Madurodam lies in The Hague, so we also went to see the real version of one of the model buildings: het Binnenhof, the seat of government for The Netherlands. (On the way we also passed the really ugly bunker of a building that is the American Embassy. Shame on you, Americans!). Here is the actual Binnenhof:

You might recognise this building in the first two Madurodam-pictures above. After we went to look at it we went to eat wonderful poffertjes. Yum!

Incidentally, the building in the third picture is the Rijksmuseum, another must-go. Here is the actual version:

When we went there it was obviously a bit less sunny, but fortunately they tend to keep all the precious art treasures under a roof, so that wasn't that must of an issue...

Anyway, I want to add that I love almost everything about this comic. I think it's hilarious. Beedoo! had this comic finished on tuesday, and it's only due to special obligations as well as laziness and forgetfulness that I only uploaded it on sunday. Bad Arno!

This dragon is picking road signs from her feet

Well, after Arno's photomontage here, there's not a whole lot left for me to say. ;p I loved Madurodam each time I've been there. (Arno doesn't remember me going twice before with him, but I'm almost sure we did... once when I came to visit for three weeks and again when I came to stay for 3 months.) The minute detail they put into things... the bicycles leaned against walls, the miniature people walking in groups of two or three, the miniature trees (some of them specially bred down to miniature size)... even the pavements have a tiny brick-cobblestone look to them. Sometimes it's hard to imagine the actual scale of the buildings when even reduced down to miniature, they're taller than you are, notably the churches and skyscrapers.

The place has a very casual feel to it. I was shocked on my first visit to see kids sitting in the exhibits, playing with the model cars... though I wonder how often they have to replace damaged buildings and scenery because of it?

Also on the earlier visits, Madurodam had a tie-in with Sesame Street (or here, Sesaamstraat). You can see in one of the pictures a giant, maneating Elmo head. There were also figures of Bert and Ernie in some of the exhibits... kind of an extra Where's Waldo thing for the kids to look for. The Sesame Street things are gone now. I assume they went out when the park was refurbished.

Now they have little electronic stations where you can watch a little movie, presented by the Madurodammetjes (the little inhabitants of Madurodam), over the building or area you're looking at. Some of them are interactive, giving you a little quiz on things like how many bikes there are in Netherland (something like 12.5 million... more than twice the population of the country!). There are also things like a station where you can see how many cheeses equal your weight, a pump where you put out a fire on a boat (the fire/brandweer boat was around even when Arno was little, but worked on animatronics then and up until the revamp), and little boxes with smells of herbs, vegetables, and flowers that you have to try to identify. (Harder than you'd think!)

I like what they've done with the place on the whole. It's a lot more informative and interesting with the movies... I just wish they'd angled them a little better or had something over the top so there wasn't a high reflection off the screens. o.0

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