Monday, July 27, 2015

The Hague, The Netherlands

It's 8AM when I leave Leiden and set out for The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands with over 500,000 inhabitants. Cycling on a paved two-way bike lane running alongside a highway I spot smoke pouring over a forest of trees. Thinking it could be a house on fire I make a turn at the next opportunity. To my surprise the smoke is belching out of a fired-up steam locomotive.
 Turns out I stumbled upon a train museum but, it won't be open for several hours so it's off I go.
So, the seat of Dutch government resides here as well as parliament, Supreme Court, the king, foreign embassies but, Amsterdam is constitutionally the capital of the Netherlands. The building complex to the right of the water fountain houses parliament.
Behind the water fountain in the previous photo a huge temporary stadium has been erected (seating 5,500). It's big doings as tonight is the finals for the Beach Volleyball World Championships.
 This fountain stands inside a complex next to Parliament.  
 Crowns suspend above several shopping streets in The Hague's old town area. I had no idea why.
Now I do. Right on this shopping street stands Noordeinde Palace. It's the "working palace" for King Willem Alexander. Although nice, it's not as massive as others I've seen during my travels around Europe. But then again, looks can be deceiving. Tourists gather and take photos here but, most don't bother to hike several blocks and go around to the rear. It's huge on the backside with several wings jutting out. Unfortunately a heavily wooded park prevents one from snapping photos.  
 Some buildings are home to unexpected delights.
 This is the Peace Palace. Built in 1913 it houses the International Court of Justice
Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, is headquartered here with almost 1,000 employees.
Adjacent to Europol stands a building housing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This is where the likes of Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic are currently on trial for war crimes. I wasn't sure if the trials were actually being conducted in this building. The answer is yes, thanks to asking a guy locking his bike outside the building. Turns out to be Luke Fadem, Legal Officer, Appeals Division, Office of the Prosecutor AND, a fellow Californian.  I told Luke this stint would look good on his resume.
Spotted this window display at an office furniture store. Wow, that bike seat chair allows one to pedal while working at a desk.
So, when a foreign embassy gets a new ambassador, a horse pulled carriage is sent to the ambassador's residence. The new ambassador is picked-up and whisked away in style to the "working palace".
A red carpet is rolled out along with a small band and honor guard. The ambassador is ushered into the palace where he presents his/her credentials. The ceremony and pomp keeps tradition alive as well as giving tourists like me photo opportunities.
 Part of the bike parking area at The Hague central train station.
The Netherlands is home to some large sandy beaches. The most famous being the seaside resort of Scheveningen with its pier, esplanade and lighthouse.
 Note the sculptures.
 Esplanade (no cycling allowed).
 Beach volleyball.
Parking for cars, though cycling to the beach is by far the preferred method of transportation by locals. From The Hague's city center one can also hop on a tram for the three mile ride to the beach.
 This lighthouse dates back to 1875.
 Had to stop to say "hi" to this chef outside this bakery.
Glad I stopped as these fried treats with apple filling and drizzled with powdered sugar were still warm.  Absolutely fantastic as I wolf down three! I told the owner I'll be back tomorrow for more of these bad boys. Turns out these treats are normally made only once a year (New Year's day) and were made today to celebrate a street fair going on. So if I return tomorrow you won't have them? When the owner answers "no". I tell her, "you better give me two more for the road".
Didn't know the North Sea was home to expansive beaches.

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