Almost 10 years passed before I was able to visit Madurodam again. On this June business trip, due to the high price of the airline ticket, none of my family members accompanied me. Knowing that I was going to be traveling alone, I planned an all day excursion to Madurodam on my one full day before I had to work. In preparation, I bought myself a compact digital camera with removal lenses—a significant step up from a digital point and shoot camera with fixed lens and a much smaller and lighter version than my digital SLR. My plan was to spend as long as I wanted at the park, even all day if I felt like it.
Early Sunday morning, I boarded the train in Amsterdam under overcast skies. This gave me a quick reminder of my first rainy visit to Madurodam almost 20 years earlier. Listening to my favorite jazz music, I watched the Dutch fields zoom by through the train window hoping the weather would improve.
Having been to Madurodam several times before, I knew which exit to take from Central Station in The Haag and which tram to catch. Only when I arrived, the station was under construction and the tram stops in front of the station had been rerouted. After several minutes of exploring and figuring out where to catch the right tram, I found my correct stop and looked up to the sky. Still overcast but no rain. I had high hopes. My tram arrived and soon whisked me off to my destination.
My plan had been to arrive just as the park opened so I could explore it almost on my own. On one of my previous visits, I found a long line just to get in the park and crowds around many of the models. The construction at the train station delayed my arrival some but I was still there within 30 minutes of opening. I walked in still listening to my jazz music and since I was alone, I decided to let my music be my companion.
I stood on the familiar promenade and let my eyes explore the park. I scanned from side to side noticing new models that had been added since my last visit.
I saw a new pedestrian harp bridge, an offshore oil platform, and modern day wind turbines. I then began to explore some of the familiar models, the three sisters windmills as they were being stalked by a larger than life bird.
I came across a new building that blended modern with historical styles, the Unilever building in Rotterdam, that I had marveled at on one of my visits to that port city.
As I strolled from model to model, I would often linger at a train crossing watching for the different trains to go by including their modern high-speed train, Thalys.
I certainly wanted to stop by some of the familiar models I had seen before.
The Basilica of Saint John, with its intricate detail and moving wedding procession.
The Anne Frank House, with its usual crowd of visitors and photographers.
The Heineken Brewhouse, another favorite destination of mine in Amsterdam.
The Dam square and Royal Palace in Amsterdam, a scene I photographed with my wife standing behind almost 20 years earlier.
And even fields of colorful tulips next to the FloraHolland, the largest flower market in the world in Aalsmeer.
As I visited some of my “old friends”, I noticed several new additions — kid-friendly interactive displays. There was one where you operated a large crane and loaded containers onto a cargo ship. Another, where you manually pumped water from a ship making big splashes.
Another where you got to be the little boy trying to stop the water coming through the dike.
But my favorite new interactive display was the one where for the price of a single euro, you could make a miniature pair of clogs. Upon depositing your coin, sawing and hammering sounds would emanate from the factory. Then the sound of a diesel truck cranking up would precede its departure from the factory to deliver your freshly minted shoes to your anxiously waiting hands.
I realized that I would be returning home with a multitude of model photos this time but none of me. One downside of traveling alone is you don’t have a companion to capture your photo in front of something worth remembering. So trying my luck at setting my camera on a wall and setting it for a delayed exposure, I was able to at least get one photograph of myself with a number of model buildings.
After several hours of listening to jazz music and enjoying seeing all of the models, I felt I could leave satisfied. Before departing, I stopped by a new exhibit, a memorial to George Maduro and a model of his birthplace.
As I stared at his profile, I wondered if George had been fond of models and had that been the inspiration for the park. Having died of Typhus in Dachau at a young age, his parents directed that the proceeds from the park admissions be donated to charity to fight disease in young people. But whatever the connection between George and miniature models, I know I had had one of the best experiences of my life, touring the models that day. And if someone had accompanied me, I know they would have seen the little boy in me smiling the entire time.