Moving to new city is always filled with excitement and a degree of trepidation. The adventure of discovery as you explore new streets, try new food and meet new people is thrilling. It is the very essence of travel. I’ve been in The Hague for ten days and, although there has been limited time to venture too far off my route from home to office and back again, I’ve had the opportunity to explore some of the historic and picturesque streets in the centre of the town, and to wander a little off the beaten track.
First impressions are frequently lasting, and my impression of The Hague is of a town at ease with itself, low key and comfortable in its own skin. As if to prove a point, three days after I arrived there were local elections across the Netherlands. They passed without incident, and if it wasn’t for large posters in windows I might not even have noticed. Settling in has been fairly straight forward, greatly assisted by the fact that most Dutch people speak near-fluent English and The Hague being an international city.
The contrast in the pace of life with London couldn’t be greater. There aren’t many cars on the roads, or many people on the streets, but the number of cyclists is off the scale – one clichè that holds true. For the uninitiated and unwary (of which I’m both), cyclists are problematic in their own right. They have priority over cars, and regularly career around without much care for their own or other people’s safety. They certainly give pedestrians short-shrift.
Under Dutch law any accident involving a car and cyclist is the fault of the car. I’ve already heard tales of accidents caused by cyclists where blame is placed on the car driver. Bizarrely, bike fashion is definitely retro – the antique-style favoured by many people make it feel a bit like being in the 1930s. Almost unbelievably for someone from London, many people don’t bother to lock their bikes. I once left my bike chained to something solid in London, only to discover the seat had been stolen in the three minutes I was away.
Despite the occasional close call, my wanderings around the city have been hugely rewarding. It is an attractive city, a royal city, full of wonderful architecture, quirky shops and restaurants, and lots of public spaces, including many parks. Although the centre is very walkable, if you don’t have a bike the trams which crisscross the city are excellent. Since we don’t have many trams in the UK, I still get a child-like thrill travelling on them. I’m sure it will wear off, eventually.
The weather is unpredictable, frequently cold, wet and windy. Luckily there have been a few sunny days when I’ve been able to explore at leisure, taking a few photos en route. There will be more exploring to come and, as we’re moving into Spring, the tulip fields should start to bloom soon. The colourful flowers spreading for miles is something I can’t wait to see…in the meantime, I hope this selection of pictures will whet the appetite.