Anyone who has spent even a little time in The Hague knows about the winds that sweep off the North Sea. The winds here can be vicious, in winter they drive the temperature down and cut through even the warmest of clothing; they can chill your bones and make you feel decades older than your years. It also makes The Hague a destination for kite surfers and the perfect location for a kite festival.
I have to confess to feeling a little underwhelmed by the the prospect of seeing some kites flying over the beach. My childhood memories of kite flying involved more kite ‘crashing’ than anything else. I had no idea just how impressive and enormously fun ‘professional’ kite flying could be.
We headed down to Scheveningen, once a village in its own right but now a seafront suburb of The Hague, where all the action was taking place. Scheveningen is the most popular beach resort in The Netherlands and, like most beach resorts, it has a pier. Sadly the pier has been closed ever since I’ve lived here, but walking along the promenade it quickly became evident that the pier was open.
The whole thing has been given over to an art installation, a number of pop-up street food stalls and some more permanent restaurants. It’s a two-tier pier, downstairs is enclosed while the top provides panoramic views over the beach and back towards the town. It was quite magical and, best of all, provided grandstand views of the kites.
The International Kite Festival in Scheveningen is the largest kite festival in The Netherlands (which may not be the benchmark the organisers think it to be). Kite designs range from popular children’s TV characters, to animals, to mythical creatures, to random shapes; they range in size from tiny stunt kites to things the size of a London bus.
We were lucky with the weather, autumn on the beach can be decidedly unpleasant. Sun and blue skies is a luxury. We watched as things started to get going on the beach, more and more kites were being launched and the skies were beginning to fill up.
After a quick stroll on the beach – you can get pretty close to the kites – we headed back into the pier for some lunch overlooking the water. Some enterprising person has started a bungee jump using a crane at the end of the pier, beneath which is a cafe that was filled with onlookers sipping drinks and having lunch. It was an odd sight.
After lunch it was back to the beach and more kites…