Signs of stillness (Or: Wandering through The Hague)

I took the day off today. It almost – almost – felt pointless, but not quite. I have a bad habit of logging in early (07:30) due to not having a commute and then still working past 17:00. So the workdays feel a bit long right now. And having the day off means I can get out of the house for a bit longer. I’m getting “used” to staying inside some days as I have not been outside since Tuesday morning for a quick trip to the grocery store. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Therefore, I walked and walked and walked today. Past the statue of Haagse Harry, past the Grote Kerk (Great Church / Sint-Jacobskerk), through the Palace Gardens, and through the Binnenhof. It was quiet and everyone was mindful of the social distancing rules. I even got to see a mini interview at the Binnenhof, although I have no idea who exactly they were interviewing. My politics knowledge is less than ideal.

Funny story about the Palace Gardens: while walking I noticed a small section with about 10 benches that would have added a few extra steps. I had no intention of stopping, I was just mindlessly wandering. I took a few steps in that direction and then noticed one of the benches was occupied. I did a quick calculation of the path size and deemed it a bit too narrow for me to comfortably walk past. I also wanted to be nice to the other person. So I changed my mind and did not go that way.

And then a few seconds later the person began coughing like crazy – a painful cough that was most likely nothing serious. But I’ll admit I was glad for my choice not to go that way! And I only felt a tiny bit guilty about it…

Mannequin wearing a face mask
Entrance to Florencia ice cream (http://www.florenciaijs.nl/home)

And just to show how Dutch this country is….

‘COVID-19 is coming out of my nose!’ Hmmm. Good artwork though.

Then I made my way to the local Albert Heijn for groceries. In most Albert Heijns you are now required to shop using a full-sized shopping cart. While this is the most ordinary thing in the world in America, not many people use them in The Netherlands as the stores are smaller and people generally shop more often than once a week. Therefore I was not looking forward to this new rule.

When I walked in there was a manager and a worker cleaning each of the shopping baskets and then handing it to each customer. (In some stores where a full shopping cart doesn’t make sense, this is the next best option.) So no shopping cart for me, yay.

Otherwise things were fairly quiet, with only a few occasions where I had to plan how I would best get by someone (or patiently wait). The self scan area looked more like a hospital word, with curtains hanging floor to ceiling between each self-scan machine.

These are strange times. Keep safe, everyone.

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Empty streets of The Hague (Or: Plenty of places to park your bike)

Recently Marco took a photo of the bike parking outside of Hema:

This was at the start of what is normally evening rush hour, as everyone heads home from work. Normally this area would be packed with bikes, crammed so tightly together that it would then be impossible to remove your bike once you returned from your shopping trip.

The area is normally so full that it there are ‘bike coaches’ which help you park your bike. Or bike coaches that stand around all day talking with each other… one of those two is true. Although one time I did see one of the coaches help an older lady diagnose a problem with her bike, so that was nice to see.

But still: the strange times continue, with no end in the near future.

The government launched a campaign today called ‘alleen samen’ which can be translated as either ‘only together’ or ‘alone together’. Basically reminding us that we are together in this – even when we must undertake so many actions alone (article in Dutch).

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Chocolate eggs by Hema (Or: Stroopwafel flavor, anyone?)

It feels like a lifetime ago, but a few weeks ago (13 March) I was browsing in Hema. I could not resist snapping a few photos of their chocolate egg collection:

Some of the flavors included dark chocolate banana cream, white chocolate matcha lemon, milk chocolate cookies and cream (that one was almost empty), milk chocolate orange, milk chocolate coconut, milk chocolate peanut butter… I definitely learned that everyone’s favorite flavor is milk chocolate, not dark chocolate.

There was also a display near one of the entrances.

But the best (and most Dutch) flavor was…

You guessed it… Stroopwafel flavored chocolate eggs!

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Stuck inside? (Or: Libraries are still the answer)

Similar to the photo I posted yesterday, one of the rotating advertisements on the digital advertisement boards is for onlinebibliotheek.nl.

The advertisement says “If you can’t go outside, you can still bring the world inside, right? … Visit (online) your bookstore or go to onlinebibliotheek.nl”.

Luckily the library here in The Hague says no fines until 13 April due to all of the branches being closed They ask that you hold onto the items you have checked out for now. Like a typical book junkie, I only wish I had realized in advance that all of the library branches would be closed so that I could check out more books in the meantime. I suspect the libraries won’t reopen on 6 April, especially considering the new rules that the Netherlands is taking to enforce social distancing.

Right now I am reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, in Dutch. If I am honest with myself, I have plenty to read after that, books that I already own (including Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin Rafferty). But there is just something about getting a library book and cracking open the binding for the first time…

Sometimes you get lucky and someone who had the book before leaves a checkout receipt inside or a bookmark or something like that. The last book I checked out from the library had a pressed flower inside that was presumably used as a bookmark. With little purple flowers.

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Additional coronavirus measures in The Netherlands (Or: It is about time)

There was another press conference this evening, with the prime minister Mark Rutte and the ministers De Jonge, Grapperhaus and Van Rijn speaking. Note: The Netherlands is not yet in lockdown.

For the full list of rules from the Rijksoverheid in Dutch, see this page.

Translated, the rules are:

  • Stay home as much as you can. Only go outside for work when you can’t work from home, or when you need to get groceries, or you need to care for someone else. You can go outside to get some fresh air, but do not do it in a group. Keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) between you and others and avoid social actives or groups of people. At home, you should limit yourself to three visitors and 5 feet between you at all times.
  • If you cough or have a cold, stay home (as before). If you get a fever, then everyone in your household has to stay at home. The only exception to this is for workers in vital occupations – unless they themselves get sick.
  • All events are canceled until 1 June instead of 1 April, even those with less than 100 guests. Exceptions for funerals and weddings will be announced later.
  • Stores and public transportation are required to take measures to make sure people stay at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. An example of this would be only allowing a certain amount of people inside at a time.
  • Hair dressers, beauticians and others in ‘contact’ occupations in the area of beauty care are not allowed to practice until 6 April. Physiotherapists should try to work as much as possible over videochat.
  • Casinos are required to close from 24 March – they fall under the same ruling as eateries and drink establishments.
  • At locations like vacation parks, the owners of the establishments must assure that people stay at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. If they do not do this, the municipality can force them to close.
  • Mayors can establish areas where groups are not allowed to form. For example, parks, beaches or neighborhood. Groups of three or more people that do not keep at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart can be fined. Persons in the same households, like families and children are exempt from this.
  • Markets are exempt from this ruling because they provide a vital food service. However municipalities and market owners must look at how they can assure visitors are kept at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart.
  • The government wants the current measures to be followed correctly. Therefore mayors have received the authority to take control more easily and quickly. Mayors are allowed to close certain locations, such as parks, beaches and camping ground. They are also allowed to give out fines.

The earlier announced measures will still be enforced (see also this Rijksoverheid.nl page in English).

The above picture was taken last week just out Den Haag Centraal Station – the hashtag #applausevoordezorg means ‘applause for health care workers’.

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NL-Alert (Or: We really are a social bunch)

I think the word of the year for 2020 will be social distancing. Although perhaps it would be disqualified due to being two words. Check out the Dutch Wikipedia article for the history and previous winners (for best results, leave the language as Dutch and use Google translate).

The Dutch government sent an NL-Alert a half hour ago to remind people that they should keep 1.5 meter distance between themselves and the next person (around 5 feet).

NL-Alert

It reads: Follow the instructions of the government. Keep 5 feet between you and the next person! Are you sick or do you have a cold? Stay home. Protect yourself and the people are you. We are unified against Corona. And then simply in English: keep your distance to others.

Read more about NL-Alerts at Wikipedia. The last one sent nationally was to inform citizens that the 112 service (911) was not working.

And why did the government need to send this message?

  • because people are still visiting the beach in Scheveningen (article in Dutch)
  • because people are still visiting the beach in Noordwijk or taking the train for day trips (article in Dutch)
  • because people think it’s the perfect time to do work around the house… and get materials from the local hardware store or IKEA (article in Dutch)
  • because people are still visiting Amsterdam’s Vondelpark in massive groups (article in Dutch)

There are no words…

Just in: Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are closing their beach parking lots and turning people away (article in Dutch).

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Art in the city centre (Or: Heaven holds a sense of wonder)

The Hague is home to many pieces of art, especially in the city centre. One of those is is called Heaven holds a sense of wonder by the artist Femke van Wijk.

It is a bronze sculpture created in 2011. You can find it on the Kalvermarkt – to the right is the Kalvermarkt-Stadhuis tram stop and in the background is the Primark retail store. In the distance is the Grote Marktstraat, a large shopping area.

A close up of the crown:

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You'll Never Walk Alone (Or: Played across Europe)

A few minutes ago a lot of radio stations played You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The original idea to play it this morning at 08:45 came from the Dutch DJ Sander Hoogendoorn from the radio station 3FM. The idea spread first in The Netherlands, and then to all of Europe. Officially 183 European radio stations signed up to the action (article in Dutch), but even the radio station we were listening to (Arrow Classic Rock) played the song at 08:45.

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

The next song Arrow Classic Rock chose was Everybody Needs Somebody from the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. Go Chicago!

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Empty cities (Or: De Passage in The Hague)

Four working days into the new reality: a look at De Passage (“The Passage“), the oldest shopping centre in The Netherlands.

This was taken yesterday morning around 10:00. Quite empty, considering shops would normally start opening around then. In the far distance, not quite viewable, is the entrance to Bijenkorf. Yesterday they announced that they would be closing all stores in The Netherlands for the foreseeable future (article – scroll for English). The day before that, Ikea closed all of their physical stores. They did this out of necessity, since so many customers were coming to the stores due to everything else being closed (article in Dutch).

The prime minister announced during an evening press conference that visitors would no longer be welcome at nursing homes (article in Dutch). Exceptions would be made for residents who are expected to pass away soon. There are also warnings from the Dutch healthcare system expects at least 500 to 1,000 patients in the ICU next week. As of today there are 210 in the ICU. Therefore they have begun moving some of those patients to other hospitals, freeing up beds in the harder hit parts of the country (article in Dutch).

A group of students have also begun providing unofficial translations of the Dutch public broadcast NOS, in an aptly named Facebook group NOS in English.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Restaurants in The Hague (Or: Take your food and go)

Here is a look at one of the local Burger King locations:

The Burger King itself is open, but the table and chairs are blocked with caution tape. This is because restaurants are currently closed in The Netherlands, with only take out and delivery allowed.

Coronavirus in The Netherlands: what you need to know (in English, from DutchNews.nl)

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