Maurodam: The World’s Smallest City
...and we mean small
By Al Auger
Little known outside of Holland, the miniature city of Madurodam stands as one of the most unique memorials in the world. Mr. and Mrs. J.M.L. Maduro of Curacao commissioned the building of this town to honor their only son, Lt. Maduro who was a hero during the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940. He died at Dachau in 1945. This capsuled, story of Holland in miniature is a walk-through attraction unlike any other.
A CITY IS BORN
The idea of a lilliputian city dramatizing the history of Holland came from Mrs. B. Boon-van der Starp, noted as the "Mother of Madurodam." Madurodam is an historically correct reproduction of an average city of the Netherlands and its surroundings shrunk to a scale of 1:25. With many buildings standing three to four feet high, and a few taller ones, Madurodam is studded with reconstructions of famous sites and buildings that were part of Holland's magnificent history.
The components of this fully operational diminutive municipality number some 120 buildings, historical sites and regions, seaways, etc., and cover every segment of Dutch social, political, economic and historical life. Some of the more dramatic, include the multitude of windmills, canal locks and bridges that work, live motorways that have their share of accidents attended by police jeeps and Royal Dutch Touring Club vans. The windmills turn, boats and ships maneuver the waterways, and city transit systems move through the streets and byways of the cities.
Royal Mayoress, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands officially opened Madurodam opened July 2, 1952. Madurodam is run just like any city or town in Holland, except the Municipal Council consists of 30 boys and girls elected annually among the pupils in the schools of The Hague. A Deputy Mayor and the aldermen are then elected to office by the Council. Profits from the tiny city go to a multitude of Dutch charities.
A HISTORY ALL ITS OWN
No city the size and scope of Madurodam, the planners decided, could exist without a history. As the story goes, around 1000 A.D., the Count of Lowland began to levy tolls of merchants shipping goods down the River Maduro. Succeeding with income beyond his dreams, the Count built a castle called "Voordensteyn" (Ford Castle). Slowly a settlement came to be, eventually called Madurodam, after the dam in the River Maduro.
FAMOUS HOLLAND SITES REPLICATED AT 1:25
Some of the major highlights are diminutive replicas of the famed Almaar cheese market, Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, the Peace Palace, the Royal Palace on Amsterdam’s Dam Square. Every famous and historical mark in Holland has been replicated in uncanny detail to a scale of 1:25. A 25-foot building becomes a one-foot teensy tower. The whole area is beautifully landscaped with colorful flower gardens.
We began our tour with the Sint Jan Basiliek (Saint John Basilica), built between 1330 and 1550. A spectacular visage of detail and drama, Sint Jan Basiliek set the tone for the rest of our circuit of Madurodam. The cathedral is built on the same plans as the cathedral of Amiens in France, the spires soar heavenward, its massive exterior softened by the exquisitely sculptured facade.
Next, we viewed one of the most enduring parts of Holland history at the Binnehof' (Inner Court), The Hague. The replicated courtyard and surrounding buildings is amazing. And Madurodam minutely details the centuries' old administrative center of the Netherlands.
Once a year in The Hague it is "Prince's Day", but at Madurodam "Prince's Day" happens every day. The children gathered at Madurodam to witness the magical ritual were captured by tiny figures moving to the pomp of the ceremonial opening of the States-General (Dutch Parliament).
The Royal Golden Coach approaches the stately court through the military guard as the Royal Military Band strikes up a patriotic tune. Diminutive people gathered in the court cheer the Queen when she leaves the Hall of Knights and returns to Voorhout. For the Dutch children, all this pageantry is well known, but it still brings smiles and clapping as the ceremony is carried out. For our group, as foreigners, it was a dazzling display of history in miniature.
THE ROAD TO MADURODAM
From the Binnehof' we followed the Dutch Touring Club "ANWB" signposts To the Voordensteyn Castle, the "birthplace" of this famed fictional city of Holland.
Following the signs further, we came upon the remains of the 17th century city walls, the bust of Rembrandt in the Rembrandt Garden, and onto the spectacular Luna Park and Flour Mill. Here we found a roller coaster, plane rides, a moon rocket and ferris wheel and a lot more. A ten cent coin quickly put all the rides and merry-go-round music in motion. The kids were mesmerized!
MODERN HOLLAND’s TRANSPORTATION
But, it's the modern Holland that really catches the attention of both kids and adults alike. Waterways are the highways and byways of Holland's economic lifeline- its' heart the modern container port. This lifestream is dutifully documented at Madurodam. The port - patterned after the largest container port in the world at Rotterdam - of Madurodam is a fascinating busy traffic center of seafaring tugs, steamships, Royal Navy vessels, bulky barges and dredging the bay. All the while, freighters slip in and out of the port while container cranes unload and load ships from all over the world.
And what is more identified with childhood fantasies than trains? A 6-mile railway system is chock-a-block with express passenger trains, trains carrying goods of all kinds, all destined for the Central Railway Station, the Starpenheuvel Station or the Port railway station. The system is run just like its bigger counterpart with automatic safety systems with manual control at the stations so the trains can arrive and depart at stations at any time and any station.
In cooperation with the Schiphol Airport Company and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Madurodam features a modern airport with a fully lit terminal, public notices broadcast on the public address system, sightseeing train and luggage trains making their rounds and major international airliners on the tarmac. So close to its peer layout outside of Amsterdam, the Schipol-Madurodam Airport has the same moving passenger bridge as its centerpiece.
A MAGICAL MEMORY
On our visit, the day was captured as memories as we sat on the cafe patio at sunset - refreshing snacks and drinks at hand - and watched as the 46,000 lights came twinkling on, lighting up this vast panorama of Holland in a demitasse. The beam of the lighthouse swept the lilliputian world before us; the castles, buildings and homes glittered and were mirrored in the canals while brightly lit trains raced through the villages and cities and working ships and liners plied the lace of waterways.
The "tiny" city of Madurodam is so vast in its historical and physical scope, it would take a volumes of space to entirely describe it properly. The only way to appreciate its grandeur is to visit Madurodam, making sure you have a full day to enjoy its myriad of pleasures.
FREE MADURODAM PASSPORT- Children 3 to 11 years visiting Madurodam will receive a free passpost. The passport is packed with questions and interesting facts. It also contains discount vouchers for goodies and a free present with purchase of a Madurodam Memory Game.
HOURS OF OPERATION: Madurodam opening times and schedules vary with the season. It is wheelchair accessible and for those who need one, they are provided free during your stay. It is typically open March-June, 9 am -8 pm; July - August, 9 am-10 pm; September-December, 9 am - 6 pm. The ticket counter closes one hour earlier.
FOOD: A restaurant, buffet and cocktail lounge is available.
TEMPS: Weather is fickle, be prepared for both sunny or overcast days during spring and summer, and definitely cool days and nights in winter.
ADMISSION (in Euros): Adults, 11.00 Î ; Children 4-11, Î 8.00*; Seniors 60+, 10.00 Î . Groups (20+): Adults, 8.25 Î ; Children 4-11, 5.50* Î ; Seniors, 60+, 8.25 Î .
Madurodam is located at Haringkade 175, The Hague; telephone 070-553900.
Al Auger of Redding is a member of the Bay Area Travel Writers association. This is his first article for BAFT.
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