I know, cheap joke. Most visitors to Amsterdam’s infamous coffee shops probably aren’t aware there’s more than one way to get a legal high in the Netherlands. The International Kite Festival in Scheveningen provides a far more interesting take on Dutch highs. Look upwards for too long though, and your head is just as likely to be spinning.
I’d never been to a kite festival before, in fact I didn’t now such things existed. A little research shows that there is in fact an international calendar of professional kite flying. From New Zealand to Japan, India to South Africa, Italy to Guatemala, and pretty much everywhere in-between, there are kite festivals with teams of people flying some extraordinary, and extraordinarily bizarre, kites.
At the Vliegerfeest, or Kite Festival, on the Scheveningen beach in The Hague, there were around 200 inventively designed kites flown by visitors from 20 countries. As well as showcasing some of the very best, and very biggest, kites I’ve ever seen, the event also hosted the Dutch Stunt Kite Flying Championships. Who knew!
You’re allowed to walk amongst the kite flyers on the beach and you can get pretty close to the kites, which definitely brings out the inner child. I soon found myself milling around with Nemo, Spongebob Squarepants (who?), several dragons, Winnie the Pooh, and a massive, scary looking clown.
As I wandered around I noticed a huge kite being unfurled across the sand. The MC of the event started shouting about ‘de gigantische’ and ‘el diabolo’, which I’m pretty sure isn’t even Dutch. Ominous music played and a throng of people started to gather. Slowly the ‘gigantische’ took shape, the wind inflating it a little like a hot air ballon.
The anticipation started to build, excitement was in the air, small children (and some adults) looked on in a mixture of awe and terror. Finally, fully inflated, this behemoth took to the skies casting a giant shadow over us puny humans below…and it looked a lot like a giant leech. This might have been disappointing but for the enormity of it, I mean it was really big.
Leaving the worlds largest inflatable leech behind I went off to explore some of the smaller kites. Some never really leave the ground, some spin furiously, others look like torn clothes flapping in the wind. The larger ‘inflatable’ kites are not really kites, they are more like inflatables that, if you look closely, are held aloft by kites flying at much higher altitudes.
It all makes for an entertaining spectacle…this may not be my last kite festival.