Here I am again by one of the shores of Den Haag. Notice my Dutch improvement? In my last note I called it “The Hague.” I had never experienced the feeling of being at a place where you cannot speak the language. The past week since I moved here – I am indeed celebrating one whole week today; funny how time flies – I have gone through a quasi cultural shock. First, my utter incapacity to pronounce the names of the streets in a Dutch as opposed to German way, my difficulty in remembering them, my illiteracy when it comes to reading signs (yes, the Dutch here have no English translations on their signs; so the Peace Palace when you’re on the road trying to find your way there is Vredespaleis etc) and labels at the supermarket.
After a 3 miles bike ride and the help of tram 1’s lines I made my way to Scheveningen. Apparently this is either the largest or the most popular beach of Den Haag – I have yet to decipher which of the two it really is. When I first set eyes at the shore, one though came to mind: this is just like Atlantic City minus the boardwalk and the casinos! In a second sight I am able to detect many more differences between the two. Less restaurants and bars, less commercialization overall, less dirt. I kind of like that. The weather has been optimal these days which has gathered large crowds at the shore areas.
I am determined to figure out where exactly it is that you surf in this city. I see sailing boats and some kite boarding (sounds like a new plan ahead?) but no surfers and no good waves. It’s a Sunday today so you see families with parents, grandparents, children, and dogs going up and down the shore. People smile here, they walk slowly, they ride their bike to work in a suit, and the cars will wait for the pedestrian or the biker to cross the road. I get the feeling that this city is like a complete suburbia minus the pretentiousness. And this wind, ah this wind, which I surely will despise in the winter, in this weather gives you a sense of liberty, a sense that you can get on your bike and ride it to the horizon. As I was coming here today I cycled to the Peace Palace through an area that resembled so much of Central Park. I feel that this is the first city in Europe, maybe along with Paris and Berlin, that gives you the full impression of fall. Yellow, red, pink leaves falling on you as you cycle under the trees, the crunching noise the leaves make as you step on them with your feet or bicycle wheels, I always loved the fall.
“Real life” starts on Monday. John Bellinger’s lecture tomorrow, yet another PhD proposal presentation to the University’s dean this time. I got myself a permission to go back to Athens for a few days to vote. No, it is not an excuse to go back; I need to catch some of you before reaching quick conclusions! And this time my leave shall not be indefinite as my time off may not exceed 7 to 10 days. O tempora, O mores!
Scheveningen, 20 September 2009