Friday, 9 July 2010
Den Haag - small yet perfectly formed
Although I've been told by friends that the Dutch are abrupt and unfriendly- I'm keeping an open mind especially as yesterday I found a very helpful man at the airport as I was struggling with the machine that sells train tickets, he offered to help me without me even asking so I'm hoping his compatriots are going to be just like him. Besides I lived with the French for nearly 3 years so I think I can do abrupt and unfriendly...you could probably even throw in some hostility and I wouldn't flinch.
Now back to the beautiful Hague, I went for a jog in the park this morning and everywhere you walk there are canals and trams and people riding their bicycles. A lot of streets are not accessible to cars which is a bonus. It seems like a much healthier and greener way of living, although I'm no green warrior, I could happily go without a car if there were equally efficient alternatives which I don't believe there are in London. In the Hague, people tend to use bicycles and trams to get about, it ofcourse helps that everywhere is relatively close. 30 minutes on the train and you're in Amsterdam and the same amount of time on the tram takes you to Delft. Rotterdam is even closer, only 20 minutes by train which is regular and efficient. Southeastern trains could learn a thing or two from the Dutch.
What's even more endearing about the Hague is that the city centre is like a small chic residential area with cute little restaurants, delis, boutiques that sell unique pieces for a prices that do not make me want to cross the road. There are all sorts of odd little shops like a dog accessory store and one that sells bits for bicycles, makes sense. I came across a cute little shop that sells hand painted children's furniture, kenyan kikoyis and little objects reminiscent of East Africa. I was a bit dubious of the name though, '2 monkeys'.... the 'crazee' in me muttered something about the cheek of the owner...but the sane me thought what lovely wares. The flats seems spacious enough although I can't vouch for everyone's place but I guess even if you found yourself in a small one bedroom flat, the city is so pedestrian friendly that you wouldn't have to feel cooped up at home. It's also extremely child friendly with mini play areas everywhere.
I've also noticed how clean it is, I can't say I've spotted any litter at all on the ground and most importantly no dog poo in the park, even though everyone seems to have a dog and they all go for regular walks in the park. The Dutch are encouraged to clean up after themselves - so there are dog toilets.....well dog poo bins everywhere and by all accounts it works. Again the Brits and the French could learn a thing or two here.
Finally the clincher for me is that there are black people in the Hague. Now I know depending on your skin hue or your disposition, this may not be an issue for you but for me it is. I like being around people who look like me or atleast having them within a reasonable distance. Among other things, it minimises the need for others to stare at you in amazement which is always a bonus when going about your business. The first bunch I spotted were some young kids at the train station speaking Dutch no less, I was in awe truly. It's like hearing Black people open their mouths and a Welsh or Scottish accent comes out. It's just one of life's mysteries to people like me who obviously think that outside of Africa and the Caribbean, England and America should have a monopoly on Black folks. I'm curious to learn how on earth they came to live in Holland though and more importantly find out where the afro hair product stores are. Now where's that phrase book - how do you say 'Do you have any vacancies'?