Monday, December 26, 2016

Scheveningen & Den Haag coast, south

Scheveningen then ...
Returning to Den Haag for more research, I visit the Panorama Mesdag, a museum devoted to a single painting. Painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag (a member of The Hague school) in 1881, it is a 360-degree look at the seaside village of Scheveningen. No proper harbor back then, the flat-bottomed fishing boats just parked on the beach. The panoramic painting encircles the viewer and is housed beneath a naturally lit dome.

The cloudscape of South Holland is depicted in great detail. Here I'll cede to the descriptive powers of Russell Shorto: "tunnels and chasms and cathedrals and phantasmagoria of clouds, mounting the heights or furiously crosshatched by the force of an impending storm." Actually he was describing the skies of North Holland but you get the idea. Later that day I watched such an impending storm, then got drenched by it.

... and now
(original date of this entry: Apr 21, 2016)
I'm sitting by the inner harbor of Scheveningen, a rectangular marina. Pleasure craft with names like Sun Odyssey and Luna Verde, yachts with tall masts. Moored along the opposite side are what look like fishing boats with tires hanging from the side of crimson hulls. It's a sunny breezy day and warm enough to remove my sweater. Checking the map I see that I'm by the canal that links the Eerste Haven (first harbor) and Tweede Haven (second harbor), which in turn leads to the Buitenhaven (outer harbor).

Welcome to the fish palace.
There are restaurants along the inner end of the Tweede Haven and I naturally choose the Vispaleis (fish palace) for herring. An old-fashioned cheap seafood stand. They also have mackerel, baby shrimp and eel on a bun, plus the usual fried cod and mussels. Women with headdresses crowd picnic tables. To my right is Dok 28, a proper restaurant serving asparagus and ham for €20. Onward ...

To get to the next harbor I had to circumnavigate the fish depot where, according to the owner of the restaurant Mero, local trawlers deposit sliptong (sole), cod and mackerel, all of which are served at his restaurant, which seems more like a bistro than a dining hall. Down the way is another fish shack, the Haring Huisje. Henk Kraan (opposite) is another unpretentious joint serving shrimp brochettes, shrimp salad, broodjes, etc. I have a paling (eel) sandwich (€4). It's a popular spot.

Outer harbor
From there it's a short distance to the beach. I climb some steps to find a raised platform atop a bank of dunes with convenient benches. Now that the sun has broken through the clouds it's pleasant to sit up here. It's next to the Buitenhaven at the south end of the beach. (If you wanted to proceed further south along the coast you'd have to go back up into town since there is no bridge across the harbor.) From up here I get a good view of the strand. It is broad and flat, beige, and the steel-gray surf rolls in slowly. The harbor is hemmed in by a pair of rock embankments. Some people walk out to a small lighthouse.

Beach market day
At this end of the beach are half a dozen restaurants with typical glassed-in terraces and the Aloha surf shop. Along the back of the beach is a promenade and a two-lane cycle path. Some people in wetsuits carry surfboards.


(Sunday, Apr 24)
Seaside sculptures by the Canadian Tom Otterness
Crowds stroll the promenade where market stalls are set up today. A festive vibe. The sea is choppy with a greenish tinge, the clouds bundle up on the horizon, the sun is bright and strong. Had a look at the Museum Beelden aan Zee, a typically excellent exhibition of sculpture featuring such prominent Dutch sculptors as Geer Steyn. There are outdoor sculpture gardens on decks with the sea as a backdrop (umbrellas provided). The building rests atop dunes and is an architectural marvel. 


After the museum I went back through the harbor zone and a big gray cloud passed over dropping rain on me and the guys toting surfboards on their bikes. Not far from the harbor big orange and green kites swooped overhead while their owners gyrated over the waves like rodeo riders navigating the whims of the crazy winds. But there wasn't much action at this point due to the 'offshore wind,' as a perfectly sculpted young man in a wet suit explained to me while packing up his kite on the sand. We were in front of the Jumpteam association, a clubhouse for surfers. Most kitesurfers here have their own gear and are more experienced as the open sea requires advanced skills.

Westerduin park
West of the harbor I was skirting the back of an apartment complex much like where I used to live in southeast Amsterdam, functional modern brick structures. Then I reached the entrance to Westerduin park, a rectangle of undeveloped dunes and forest. The clouds had parted and it was a pleasure to navigate the trail. Between me and the beach a strip of dunes covered with shrubs and low spindly trees, laced with hiking trails. To my left (inland) the dunes rose higher and were covered in forest in places. Paths wove up into the hills leading to observations posts on the highest hills and bunkers that remained from World War II, built by the Germans as part of the Atlantic Wall that was meant to fend off attacks by the Allies. These have become refuges for bats. Some bunnies scurried through the brush and I spotted magpie jays and jackdaws.

Free parking
At the west end of Westerduin park I emerge at Kijkduin, a lower-key resort with a spectacular stretch of beach (totally deserted) and a couple of beach clubs, Havana and De Kust. Up on the promenade is a string of semi-fancy restaurants.

Den Haag - Kijkduin

The clouds part.
I continue west and for a moment the sun shines and the path runs straight bordered by trees. Then it turns stormy. At a turnoff I see people in wetsuits and I decide to investigate. I park my bike at a sandy corral, go up over the hump and reach a beach club called Klein Ockenburgh. It was now spitting rain again and the winds were fierce, the sky filling with fearsome banks of gray clouds. Despite the stormy weather, big kites in a range of colors hovered in a line all the way down down the coast toward the smokestacks of Europoort. I had arrived at the center of kitesurfing in Holland, fueled by the Zandmotor, a typically innovative public works project just south of here.

Klein Ockenburg

Aeriel view of the Zandmotor (looking south) at high tide
The 'sand engine' is a great artificial sandbank at Ter Heijde, formed by wind, waves and sea currents that spread the sand along the South Holland coast. It's an experiment to see how the forces of nature can be harnessed to contruct new areas for wildlife and recreation. 

The Zandmotor has formed a hook that extends northeast toward Klein Ockenburgh, protecting the waters from the open sea and providing excellent conditions for learning kiteboarding. The small lake that's formed in the middle of the sandbank is also a popular spot to practice this high-adrenaline sport.

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