A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Towards the end of August, I concocted the idea of cycling to Madurodam, a sort of model village for the entirety of the Netherlands. Honestly, the prospect of the 20km cycle on my rickety second-hand bike didn’t excite me too much, but I just had to see the Netherlands in miniature.
Thankfully the day in question was bright and warm (I’d quickly learned after moving over in July that this was a rarity in Holland), and we set off early. Half an hour into the cycle I realised that this would have been much easier a journey by train, but I was eager to take advantage of the extensive network of cycle paths (and save money – I’m a poor international student after all). All in all, the cycle took us just over an hour, and I was so consumed with achievement that I wasn’t even fazed by the endless queue of children waiting to enter the attraction. Later, when we had to find a place to eat lunch, the sheer amount of families there would become slightly frustrating, but for now I was just happy to have arrived.
Madurodam’s namesake is George Maduro, a sort of military hero for the Netherlands in WWII. After a quick Wikipedia search, I failed to find the connection between Maduro and tiny miniature models, except for the fact that his parents donated quite a lot of money to build the attraction. In any case, the children in the queue seemed extraordinarily excited to be there, so I assumed the attraction must be quite impressive. Upon entering, you’re guided along a walkway that provides views over the entire attraction, which essentially is a miniature Netherlands, replete with Amsterdam, Rotterdam’s port, factories, windmills, and more. I believe the 8 year old in me might have resurfaced at this point, and I was also extraordinarily excited. For someone that hadn’t been in the Netherlands for that long, the fact that I could see (in miniature) famous landmarks from cities I may never visit was, I thought, fascinating.
As well as the models, Madurodam offers two small theatre-like attractions that tell the story of the creation of the Dutch Republic and the settling of New Amsterdam in the present-day United States. These were clearly geared towards an audience under the age of 21, but were entertaining nonetheless. Really, the main attraction was the models, and we spent at least a couple of hours wandering the park. I was especially excited after finding a model of Leiden University itself, specifically the Academy Building and Hortus Botanicus.
Maybe Madurodam only works because the Netherlands is such a miniature country anyway. I mean, I’d managed to cycle practically to the next city and still managed to have an entire day out. Coming from London, where an hour’s cycle might just get you to a neighboring borough (and there’s always the possibility of death on the way), the relative compactness of this country will remain exciting.