War memorials, at least in my limited experience are typically static, stone monuments. They are poignant and long-lasting to be sure, but not ordinarily a place for amusement, where you might gladly stay for hours. Madurdam, located in Holland, is not your average war memorial.
Our story begins in 1945, when a young serviceman named George Maduro died as a POW in Dachau. For his heroic deeds early in the war, Maduro was posthumously awarded the Military Order of William I.
Be that as it may, Maduro’s parents sought another more permanent way to assure their beloved son would be remembered long past the war years. Together with another Dutch woman, Mrs. Boon-Van der Starp, the Maduro’s raised funds for a miniature city. Their “city” would accomplish two things: first and foremost it would commemorate young George and secondly raise funds for youth charities in the Netherlands.
Madurodam was fashioned after a similar miniature city in Beaconsfield, England. The English venture has been so prosperous; the owner was able to make large donations to hospitals in London. The Dutch version matches that success. In our high-tech world, the concept of a miniature city sounds unsophisticated, but the attraction remains as popular as ever. It proves the simplest ideas can sometimes be the most enduring.
The miniature city, located near The Hague, opened to the public on July 2, 1952.
Madurodam is filled with miniature replicas at a scale of 1:25. Nearly all the famous buildings throughout Holland are represented and great care is taken to make sure the buildings and their surrounding terrain appear as realistic as possible. With the help of tiny cars, roads, people, flowers and trees, the illusion becomes complete. Staff claim about 13,000 diminutive inhabitants of Madurodam are on display at any given time. The meticulous attention to detail makes all the difference.
What is it about miniatures which captivate us so? Is it the painstaking work or the incredible realism? Whatever the explanation, we love them.
Of course, at Madurodam, you’ll see the obligatory windmills, but you’ll also see a complete airport, oil rig, football stadium with cheering fans and a brewery. Not only historic structures, but a wide range of modern buildings are also reproduced.
Several of the exhibits include moving parts, set in motion with coins. Youngsters love the Funfair, where the roller speeds along, exactly like the real thing. Tiny trains chug along and ships sail on the waters. The famous canal houses of Amsterdam are faithfully and skillfully reproduced.
At the St. John Basilica, a coin sets a procession in motion out of the church. Being a castle lover, my personal favorites were the medieval buildings such as Muiderslot Castle, built around 1280 and the Town Hall from Gouda.
The design of the park has changed very little since 1952, although there was some expansion of the entrance in 1996.
I found Madurodam unusual for another reason. Having been to a number of theme parks over the years, where the average age is about 11 years, this park was a refreshing change. The entire age spectrum was covered – from senior citizens, to families with young children, blue jean-clad teenagers to couples in their middle years. Every age group from one to ninety-one was represented and all were having a grand time.
In the past, the models at Madurodam were constructed exclusively of wood. These days other materials are incorporated such as brass and synthetics. As you might imagine, a large staff is required for construction and maintenance, since the models are exposed to the climate.
Clearly, our young war hero George Maduro is not forgotten. Millions have enjoyed this miniature city and charities benefit-truly a win-win situation.
This park is laid out with accessible walkways for wheelchairs. Allow at least two hours to see the entire park and they have food available.