Help! I'm Locked in The Hague!
OK, so I’m not actually stuck in The Hague. But I wouldn’t mind living there although it strikes me more so as the type of city that’s perfect for families raising young kids. Maybe I’m just an old soul?? The Hague is a beautiful city: clean, safe, and very functional. Like I enjoyed living in San Francisco and would consider going back again but The Hague and San Francisco are just opposites. I was highly impressed by life there. Here’s a quick recap of my past weekend:
This is the view out the window of the Dutch countryside. Very flat terrain and populated with wind turbines. Like the focus on clean energy. Overall seems like a peaceful place to be, though I would never describe myself as a person suited for long-term rural living.
Here is the picture I took approaching the actual city. First off, The Hague actually has some tall buildings. I only found this surprising becuase I realized Amsterdam is a flat city, at least downtown. I can recall a few tall buildings but the city is so centered around its old architecture that the rest of the city matches the height of those buildings. I’ve been told The Hague is more… corporate? Certainly more political than Amsterdam, so its cluster of tall buildings around the downtown area makes sense.
And a side note about European trains: they are awesome. The one I took to The Hague was not high speed. It was still comfortable nonetheless. With trains, departure times are timely/frequent, getting on and off is convenient, and not having to pass through airport security is incredible. Going to the Hague I was on a two-story train that was a bit more comfortable than the one coming back, which was only one level. The two-story train had a foldable tray table I could put my iPad on whereas the other did not. I’m excited to take more trains in the coming weeks/months.
I was only in town for a weekend but the city itself is small, so that matched well. This is the Peace Palace, the home of the more-famous International Court of Justice and the lesser-known Permanent Council of Arbitration. Tours inside the building were closed that day and I missed the Garden Tour, sadly. Visitors can go to the visitor center, however, and take an audio tour around the center to understand the history of the building/institutions better.
I can appreciate the idealism around international justice. No doubt there has to be some neutral body for it. But it felt a little hollow knowing that the bodies holding sessions in the Peace Palace don’t actually have any teeth. No enforcement mechanism exists for its decisions, which means strong nations at the end of the day can still do as they please.
The Peace Palace was a big highlight for me since it’s what The Hague is perhaps most known for.
The Hague also has a beach! My friends know how much I love water features…they are a must. Well a 10 minute drive out of downtown gets visitors to the coast, where Scheveningen Beach resides. I visited on a 80-degree Sunday, so you can imagine how many people were there with me. The beach even has a boardwalk, which I would note, also hosted Saturday fireworks the evening before (which I saw from my hotel window). No clue if those are recurring or if it was a special occasion.
The boardwalk also includes a fancy pier. The pier has a variety of activities to do, including bungee jumping, a lengthy ziprope, lots of food and drinks, and shops.
The photo from above is of Kurhaus, the fancy resort of Scheveningen Beach. It’s been around since the late 1800s. Didn’t go inside so I don’t know what it looks like, but people would consider it a notable building in the area.
Now I’m going to include some miscellaneous photos from the city. The first one is of the Dutch Parliament building, called Biennenhof. The Netherlands is unique in the world in that its capital is Amsterdam, but its seat of government is located in The Hague. For that reason, The Hague is seen as the unofficial capital of the country; it’s where legislation occurs, where the Prime Minister works, and even where the king lives! Biennenhof houses the two houses of government as well as the office of the Prime Minister. Lots of stuff going on in this place, let me tell ya.
The next is the Noordeinde Palace. Fancy name aside, it’s better described as the place where the king works. That’s separate than where the king lives, by the way. Where he lives is in a park a little northeast of the city center. Fun fact: it’s also where the US embassy is. Even more fun fact: That’s not where the vast majority of the other embassies are. Most of the others are all located around each other in a different neighborhood on the other side of the city.
The last photo is a quick snap I took while walking around the downtown commercial area. Nothing in particular except that I thought it looked (to an ignorant first-time-visiting-Europe American) like a mini Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan with its overarching glass cover. Visiting Milan next month so will see for myself.