I adore The Hague. I'm not much of a city slicker myself, but I think the ideal Nathanopolis would look a lot like this place.
That said, I find it difficult to capture exactly what enthralls me about the town in pictures. No one could fault The Hague for being unphotogenic - it probably comes down to me lacking inspiration and experience in street photography. Actual touristy photos of statues and buildings and suits of armor and stuff will have to wait until I learn how to pull that off.
In any case, what currently interests me about Den Haag isn't just the rich history or intriguing architecture or whatever proper tourists are after - it's the way people get around.
Just like you can guess someone's overall health based on their cardiovascular fitness, I think you can judge a city based on how quickly, cheaply, easily and safely its inhabitants can move throughout its arterial streets, sidewalks, alleyways and tram lines. The Dutch nailed it. You can get almost anywhere using almost anything. Bicycle to work on nice days, take the tram when it's raining ice, walk wherever you want and get there in under an hour, take a train to another European wonderworld...I've never experienced such flexibility anywhere I've lived - not England, not New Jersey, and (duh) not Texas. Naturally, one of my first purchases when I got off the plane was the Dutch equivalent of the Ford F150 - a bicycle.
She's not much to look at (or to ride) - an old Gazelle with a steel frame, 3 speeds, and drum brakes that are occasionally sufficient. The ride is exactly as smooth as whatever road you're on - there's no suspension at all - and the seat is uncomfortable by design, perhaps to encourage would-be thieves to look elsewhere. It's the worst bike I've ridden, for sure.
But I love this thing. Because of all the bike lanes (and their sacredness), bicycles in The Hague represent freedom go to anywhere - work, home, shopping, touring, whatever - for free, and to get fit while doing it. Even if you're a fan of sophisticated organic junkfood and beer, which - rejoice - is totally a thing down here.
Bicyclists have no fear 'round these parts, they rule the world. It's not uncommon to see a father speeding along in the wet running a red light to go the wrong way down the road, with one daughter on the handlebars and one in a backpack - all three without helmets.
Where else do bicycles ring their bells in annoyance at enroaching Aston Martins? Nowhere, that's where.
People don't put up signs outside their establishments, they just park decorated bikes out front. This one is outside De Galerie, Den Haag:
A few dozen meters (hee! meters!) down the road is Lola Bikes and Coffee. They sell all kinds of charmingly whacky two-wheeled creations that hang on the walls, giving you conversation material with your buddies so you don't have to spend your coffee break scrolling through Tumblr (they don't even have wifi - and they don't need it).
I have two big resolutions while I'm here: Learn Mandarin while taking public transport, and get fit while biking everywhere else.
Another lofty goal is not eating everything in the window below:
Window shopping around here is dangerous - luxury watches that I had only heard legends about in the US are on proud window display. The dollar is going to need to be worth about 4-5 euros before I can take the plunge and still be able to eat.
In this area, the Europeans and I seem to have very similar taste, but very different budgets.
I would have given up an entire semester of basket weaving in exchange for a 6-week course in dressing business casual. Before departing Houston, I picked up two suitcases worth of new duds that I think are ever so slightly more "casual" than "business". At least I never run out of weekend outfits.
Here's my office - it's this butterfly/H shaped building on the opposite side of The Hague from the seaside town of Scheveningen where my apartment is.
I'm not sure about the purpose of the skeletal frame is surrounding the elevated tramline nearby. Aesthetics? Noise containment?
As I said before...real tourism photos to come.