This weekend I made the trip to Scheveningen Beach, a few miles outside of Den Haag/The Hague, for the International Kite Festival. It’s not that I’ve harboured a secret love of kites or anything, I mostly anticipated and interesting trip out of Leiden on one of the few vaguely nice days left of the year. Scheveningen is a slightly strange seaside town, simultaneously exuding the depressed seaside atmosphere typical of most British coastal resorts, yet seeming very salubrious at the same time. Being some of the nicest beach near Den Haag it’s managed to keep fairly lively and boasts all sorts of bars and a casino. Then again, I also bought 5 DVDs for €5, including the Patriot starring Steven Segal; I was lead astray by a friend into that misguided purchase. It’s not that classy. Sadly no 1950’s saucy postcards to be seen.
Scheveningen also retains a very Dutch flavour though. For reasons that escape me the pier contains a naughty lingerie shop, so browsers looking for a good sea view are treated to mannequins dressed as smutty policewomen. There is also a nudist section of the beach further north – It’d have to be a nicer day to visit that strip though.
I found a few interesting bits of history with about 12 seconds of googling the town. The Battle of Scheveningen was a Dutch-British naval battle, watched from the beach by the citizens of the town. Apparently there was ‘no clear winner,’ but the Dutch ships all sank or fled, so I think that basically counts as one for the Brits. Sorry chaps. The Netherlands very own Boat that Rocked was moored a few miles off the coast, and even ran aground on the beach during a storm. Pirate radio Veronica (now the name of a commercial TV station).
The thing I’d heard before going was that the name was used to identify German spies by Dutch resistance groups. The German and Dutch accents have a different pronunciation of the SCH; the Dutch used it to root out Germans during WW2. Not quite as jazzy as ‘good luck,’ but served a purpose.
Cycling there and back was an adventure in itself, I had to nonchalantly bike past a mob of angry Muslims protesting… well, it’s hard to say. The US state department maintains it was “a protest against the U.S. and French Embassies outside the Ministry of Finance,” although why there I couldn’t say. It also impressed upon me just how easy it is to bike anywhere in the Netherlands. Cliché I know, but even longer rides on main roads were a doodle on my single gear bike.
I should probably mention the actual kites. The number of them was impressive, from large whales to small… kite shaped kites. Well, they can’t all be funky shapes. I’m not sure how one gets into the international kite circuit, but a nice bunch of eccentrics put on a good show. I’ve put some photos below, you can pick your own favourite. Myself, I had my heart set on one kite: I was understandably distraught when I heard that the largest kite in the world – all the way from Kuwait – wasn’t able to fly. It was, if you can believe it, too windy.