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Madurodam: A Minuscule Holland

Abhishek Kar

Our Tour Guide was uncharacteristically tightlipped that day, refusing a direct answer. We kept on asking what Madurodam actually was and all we got in reply was a mischievous smile and four simple words: “Just wait and see!”

Photo Credits: Paris
Photo Credits: Belgium

All because of our guide’s attitude, we couldn’t wait to reach Madurodam. It was a five-hour journey by our coach from Paris to The Hague in Holland via Belgium. It was a great feeling to be in Holland which is also called the Netherlands, meaning low lands, for being at a much lower level than the surrounding nations. As winter was approaching, we missed Holland’s brilliant tulips and daffodils as we drove past the International Court of Justice in The Hague or Den Haag and also Rotterdam, a major Dutch city and Europe’s largest port. Windmills too were on the decrease, we were told.

Entering Madurodam was like stepping into a wonderland. For the first time in my life, I found myself in a ‘country’ no larger than a large playground. I had all along been under the impression that the Vatican City was the smallest that I had ever seen, but Madurodam proved just how wrong I had been all through!

Photo Credits: Royal Palace: Space DMM
Photo Credits: Leiden University

Madurodam is a tiny city in the Scheveningen district of The Hague in the Netherlands with a short history of its own. It has been named after George Maduro, a Jewish law student who fought against the Nazis as a reserve cavalry lieutenant and died at a very young age in World War II. It was after his death as a POW in 1945 that his parents decided to keep his memory alive in a very unconventional but marvelous manner. With the help of Mrs. Boon-van der Starp, a member of the Society for the Support of the Dutch Student Sanatorium in Laren, they appointed an architect S.J. Bouma to build a ‘city’ somewhat modeled on Bekonscot in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, named it Madurodam and opened it to the public on 2nd July 1952. True to their expectations, George Maduro still lives in the hearts of all who have visited Madurodam.

Photo Credits: Parliament: Tassie Devil Abroad
Photo Credits: Planetarium

Madurodam is all of Holland built at a 1:25 scale. Almost every thing that there is in Holland is here in miniature i.e. cut to one-twenty fifth of its original size, length, breadth and height wise. Models of all the important buildings of Holland such as St. John’s Basilica (Hertogenbosch), the Royal Palace (Amsterdam), the Leiden University (Leiden), Planetarium (Franeker), Silver Factory (Voorschoten) Dutch Parliament buildings and the Dutch Supreme Court (The Hague) are here but literally minimized.

Madurodam has been built with extraordinary skill. Models of the Cathedral Tower at Utrecht, a Gothic building complete with its tower, the clock and carillon, the Magna Plaza Arcade, Stock Exchange, the Madurodam Football Stadium, Clog factory where wooden shoes are made etc. are perfect replicas. The tiny Grote Kerk (church), the Muiderslot (castle), Anne Frank House, modern buildings like the Radio Tower at Markelo, banks, Head Office of the insurance company and the Euromast at Rotterdam seem absolute photocopies. The streets, the canals of Amsterdam, the ports, railway stations, tiny windmills, an oil rig, all seem so amazingly real. The wee Schiphol Airport with a mini runway, model planes of different airways, as if waiting for a take off, is indeed a man-made marvel. The minuscule models of people at the Cheese Market at Alkmaar, stations etc. make the whole scene seem so life-like. One place attracted special attention. It was the mechanized Railway Lift Bridge and it was quite interesting to see the toy bridge opening in order to let a toy ship pass comfortably. For the convenience of tourists, all the models have numbers and the visitors’ guidebook help them to identify the structures. Understandably, No. 1 is George Maduro’s birth place at Curaçao.

Photo Credits: Clog Factory: Travel Chameleon
Photo Credits: Anne Frank's House: Buurtlink

Life inside Madurodam is fun-filled. Quite a few of us inserted a ten Euro cent coin each in the slots provided to see processions in motion and/or hear tunes. We took turns in wearing a pair of huge yellow clogs or wooden shoes to see how it feels and then posing for photographs. Inside Madurodam, time flies for the enthusiasts but the ones who feel exhausted bask in the glorious sunlight or munch mouth-watering Dutch tit bits.

Everything inside Madurodam literally sparkles. The paths, the washrooms are so very clean. Maintenance is quite a task because there are so many structures, thousands of lights, trucks, cars, tiny trees, models of men, women and children whose dresses have to be changed along with changes in fashion. Special care has been taken to make Madurodam a mini wonder. Still, what made me feel a little uneasy about were the normal-sized eateries, shops selling gift items ranging from shirts to little models, huge rooms for holding conferences etc. all in stark contrast to the tiny structures. I would have preferred having those just outside Madurodam.

The Dutch take this place so very seriously that a Mayor who has to inaugurate new models when required and be a part of all ceremonies held within the city, is elected annually by the Youth City Council for Madurodam. Before being crowned, Queen Beatrix too was once the Mayor. Even today, the Madurodam Support Fund Foundation provides help to deserving youngsters. Moreover, any child, from anywhere, becomes its citizen automatically as soon he or she buys an entry ticket and steps in. A passport too is given, making each child feel very important. Tickets can now be booked online as well and visitors are given chipped cards.

In the three hours that I was inside, I saw all the structures at least three times over but without feeling even a bit tired or bored. Like me, many didn’t stop to eat or even sit for while for who would want to miss, even for a moment, the feeling of playing Gulliver at least once in his or her life and enjoying the sight of Lilliputian wonders all around!

Photo credits – Banner Left: YouTube; Banner Center: Amsterdam City Tours; Banner Right: Madurodam Trip Rules

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