The Hague was host to the 2020 Invictus Games (English Wikipedia) last month. Like so many things, it was postponed for two years due to Covid-19. The Invictus Games are for injured, wounded or ill military personnel (active or veteran). It ran from April 16 through April 2022 with about 500 athletes from 17 countries competing.
I noticed today that they were taking down the Invictus Games flags from the Buitenhof:
Here it is from another angle, where you can see the provincial flags better:
In total there are 12 flags for the Dutch provinces and 1 flag for The Hague. In the background is the outside of the Binnenhof (English Wikipedia). It is currently closed for renovation. At the moment they are hoping to finishing the renovations by the end of 2026. We’ll see…
So last time I talked about King’s Night, which is when you go to music festivals, drink overpriced beer, and dance like a maniac. Oh, and try to avoid being pickpocketed–apparently the police found a 13 year old and 20 year old with a bag full of 21 stolen telephones on King’s Day (article in Dutch over at omroepwest.nl). Sheesh.
In contrast, King’s Day itself is about selling cheap stuff. This is the one day a year it is legal for anyone to sell their old furniture, toys, books, you name it. Well, anything except food. Almost all cities ban that. I didn’t get any photos of these vrijmarkten (free markets) this year, but check out my post from way back in 2012 (!). Back when it was Queen’s Day, before she abdicated the throne and became Princess Beatrix. Marco took those photos for me since I was till living in America back then.
One thing I did get photos of was the flower sale at the Lange Voorhout. It was quite colorful, and not just because of the flowers:
These juichcapes (cheer capes) were sold by the grocery chain Jumbo last summer when there were a lot of high profile sporting events going on (Tour de France, Dutch Grand Prix, UEFA Euro Cup, etc.).
Tonight is the 10th anniversary of The Life I Live festival. Note: their website is definitely experiencing server capacity issues, so it is a bit hit or miss to visit it right now.
The last edition was of course in 2019. It is held in The Hague’s city centre, with musical acts spread out over about 8-10 stages. The opener this year was the Ukrainian band Go_A. Last year they participated in the Eurovision Song festival held in Rotterdam. This year the band got special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel to The Hague to perform (as technically Ukrainian men are not supposed to leave Ukraine right now).
This stage was at the Lange Voorhout not far from the Escher museum and Hotel Des Indes.
This smaller stage was on the opposite end of the Lange Voorhout, featuring the band Kuzko. I didn’t stay long, but they really brought the bass! It was a weird feeling to feel the bass after not going to any concerts the last two years.
King’s Night (and more accurately King’s Day) is a holiday to celebrate the birth of the Dutch King Willem Alexander who turns 55 tomorrow. The joke “Max komt misschien later…” is a joke that Max Verstappen, the 2021 F1 world champion, might stop by here later. Hmm.
(Man, I still remember when it was weird to see Willem Alexander with a beard!)
This coming Wednesday is King’s Day here in the Netherlands, a public holiday for most of us. The larger Dutch cities like The Hague and Amsterdam also have parties to celebrate. The Hague has “The Life I Live” festival (official website in Dutch) traditionally held the evening before, dubbed King’s Night. This free musical festival is held throughout the city centre. This year there are 8 small stages for artists to perform. The Ukrainian band Go_A will open the festival.
I suspect things will get a bit insane Tuesday evening as the event has not been held for the last two years due to corona. The 2019 edition drew 275,000 visitors for those two days (omroepwest.nl, in Dutch), so it will be interesting to see how many we get this year. The local transportation company HTM runs an alternate route due to how congested the city centre gets. (I must admit it is kind of fun to walk down the middle of the street and not worry about cars or trams.) HTM and the national train service will also add extra night buses and trains to help everyone get home at the end of the evening.
But why did I mention orange in this post’s title? Because everyone wears orange, of course! Well, the tourists and the diehard Dutchies do, at any rate. Here is a look at the King’s Day merchandise at Xenos:
Anyone else remember the attempt to rename Koningsdag to Woningsdag for the first year of the pandemic? Woning = home, so it was an attempt to be clever and tell people to be safe and celebrate the holiday from home.
Amare is the cultural complex that opened last year. Progress has also been made around the building, including the side. It actually looks pretty good now, which is important considering this area is the walkway between the central train station (behind this photo) and the city centre (ahead of this photo). For some months only a tiny sliver of walkway was open on the right side, about 5 feet across… Not fun when you have pedestrians and cyclists competing for the same space, let me tell you. Either way, we have come a long way from this graffiti-filled construction area two years ago.
Here is another look at the flowers in the front. You can still see some construction off on the right side, where they aren’t quite done yet.
This is the first weekend where it has truly felt like “everything is back to normal”. For instance the festival Paaspop (“Easter pop”) was held this past weekend. Back in early 2020 it was the first large festival to be cancelled and now it is the first large festival to be held again. The outdoor terraces are also full as everyone has flocked outside to bake in the sun a bit. (In the Netherlands, most people get Easter Monday off.)
Speaking of outdoor terraces, Marco and I were just at a local Bagels & Beans to get some coffee and banana bread. The coffee was a mocchaccino to be more specific. How hipster of us. And the banana bread was made with walnuts and dark chocolate. Yum yum.
We also took a long walk around the city centre to soak up some more sun. Here is a look at the Hofvijver:
You can’t really tell in the above photo, but the area was very crowded with everyone having the same idea. There was also a market in the area as well.
I think this might have been the first day of the year that I went outside without a jacket on (although I find a long sleeve shirt to wear). Bring on the sun! ☀️
Marco and I just celebrated my birthday with a small cozy session of gourmetten for dinner. (Small meats and veggies cooked on a mini grill at the table, see other posts about this topic.) Next year will be the big 4-0, but this year I will happily settle for the slightly smaller 3-9.
Here is a look at the birthday card and present my father-in-law and his wife made for me!
The joke present is on the left. Can you guess what it means if you don’t speak Dutch? I will give you a hint. “Leeftijd = age”.
No? It basically means, in less polite terms, “who gives a crap about your age”. Hence the emoji and toilet roll, haha. The card is on the right. As usual, another beautiful handmade card from them.
Over the weekend I was distracted by Reddit’s April fools experiment. They created a subreddit called “place” where users could create pixel art as a group. See also the English Wikipedia page. It was first held in 2017 and then they waited 5 years to hold another “place” event. The sticking point was that a user could only place one pixel every 5 minutes, so if you wanted to create anything good you had to work together (or have a lot of bot accounts at your disposal I guess!)
As expected, most drawings were done by various groups. The Netherlands also had a Dutch reddit competing, /r/PlaceNL. You can see an image of the various Dutch contributions in the final image. My favorite artwork was probably the NS train with a flag from each province. Of course the paintings “The Night Watch“, “The Seven Provinces” (ship) and “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” were made by bots and/or helper programs. I didn’t use any bots or programs so I spent most of my time defending (aka putting pixels back to the right color), either defending /r/PlaceNL creations or allies of /r/PlaceNL. It was very diplomatic in that regard. It also meant I almost drained my phone battery a few times, since I could only place one pixel every 5 minutes!
/r/PlaceNL was quite proud that, in terms of the country’s population, The Netherlands placed the most pixels of any country (about 6.19 pixels per resident, reddit.com in Dutch).
Also, the coolest thing ever: the 2022 r/place atlas (thanks to Roger who found it!). Use the zoom in tools and then hover over each object to get more details about it. Most of the Dutch contributions are at the very top, with two of the paintings in the lower left.
Marco and I decided to visit Umami, a Chinese restaurant in the city centre. We had looked at the menu a few years ago, but it seems like they have added a street food option since then. The only unexpected thing was that even though we were able to make a reservation for 15:00, when we got their the hostess seemed surprised and said that the kitchen closes between 15:30-16:00. (Why does the website let you make reservations for that time slot then?)
But in the end it wasn’t really a problem as Marco and I had stared at the menu in advance and had a general sense of what we wanted to sample already. The only difference was that we ordered everything at once, whereas we were hoping to order a bit, see how full we were, and then order a bit more if needed.
The snack attack platter, comprised mostly of croquette/bitterballen type snacks, plus 4 spring rolls. The croquettes are filled with meat paste or ragu. The quality of these snacks can differ greatly based on the restaurant you are at, but luckily upscale dining restaurants use high quality meat. In this case the croquettes were green curry, chicken satay, shrimp, duck and rendang. But as they say you also eat with your eyes – the photo above just begs to be eaten (and to be photographed).
Above are two bao buns. In the foreground is chicken thigh and in the background is beef. A bit messy (especially the beef which leaked everywhere) but still quite tasty.
And finally, sandwiches. In the foreground, chicken thigh and in the background duck. We actually only had a half each, taking the other half home for later.
It was a great experience. We do plan on going back to sample some other stuff later (and perhaps the actual lunch or dinner menu, versus the street food menu). If you like good food that is Instagram worthy than this is the place for you.
This past weekend Marco and I visited the food halls in Haagsche Bluf (denhaag.com in English), a tiny, upscale shopping area in the heart of the city centre. The food halls (official website in English) have 10 food stands with various types of food like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Malaysian, etc. We chose CeeCee’s chicken and chips for our first visit:
At the top of the photo we have mozzarella sticks with sweet chili sauce and twister fries with sweet chili sauce and ketchup for me. The chicken tenders were hot and spicy on the left (obvious, I am sure) and lemon and pepper on the right.
The food was good, although none of it really stood out. So good, but not great. (In comparison with the tacos Marco and I shared at the Mall of The Netherlands last month.) The service could also be better. Marco and I ordered via a QR code at the table which you can see in the lower right of the photo. The website said that I would receive a text when the food was ready, so we thought it would be okay to switch tables. However, I received a call saying that they went to my original table and we weren’t there. Oh well.
Don’t get me wrong though – this is on my list to go back as the concept of food halls are always nice, and I either want to try some falafels or some Malaysian food next.