Scheveningen in The Netherlands used to be a tiny fishing village. Towards the end of the nineteenth century it was a hangout for a group of artists called The Hague School. Scheveningen was to them what Pont Aven was to Gauguin, or what Paris was to the Impressionists. The Hague School of painters, whom you may never have heard of, included a certain Vincent van Gogh who went on to gain a modicum of fame.
Scenic views of this fishing village were being slapped on their canvasses when there was some clear space between Scheveningen and the nation’s seat of government, The Hague. Nowadays The Hague’s suburban sprawl has almost merged with the seaside holiday homes. Any sliver of no-mans land that still separated them has been connected by the umbilical cord of tram tracks.
So it is no longer a scenic little fishing village but now The Hague’s very own personal seaside resort. This is very much in the classic British sense, complete with candy floss, smutty postcards and gale force winds. I always thought that Holland had a little more sophistication than the UK, however Schveningen puts paid to that myth.
When Charles II left Holland, to restore the monarchy in England, he sailed from the beach at Scheveningen. This was after we’d chopped his dad’s head off a few years earlier so that we could have a go at a proper democracy. If I was Charles II I’d have stayed in the slotty-arcades of Scheveningen, rather than risk another beheading in the family.
Another interesting fact about Scheveningen is that it was used as a test for suspected German infiltrators of the Dutch resistance during WWII. The suspects had their hands tied behind their backs and they were then sat backwards on one of the beach’s donkeys. The donkey was then slapped on the arse and if the suspect fell off before getting to Amsterdam he was shot for being a spy. Cruel but fair.
This isn’t true. The real test was to see if they could pronounce the word ‘Scheveningen’. This is because they say that only a true Dutchman can pronounce it properly. It would be a little like us barring Americans from the UK, in a post-Trump banning frenzy, and testing suspected Americans at Passport Control by getting them to say ‘Leicester’*
So Scheveningen has an entertaining history. There was bonkers artist Vincent, the restoration of the British monarchy and Germans falling off donkeys (I prefer that version). Unfortunately, these days it’s a little less entertaining. This is especially so when you’ve travelled all the way there to see a firework display that’s been rained off.
Not that I’m bitter you understand.
*For our American friends: You’ll know it as Lycester.