On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


It Was Mayhem

Random pops began a couple of weeks ago. I kept thinking that cars backfire a lot around here. It wasn't until a Christmas day stroll through the dingy park around the corner that we found the source of the noise... fireworks.

The Hague has the reputation of being the most explosive city in the Netherlands. Armed with this knowledge, we still weren't prepared for the absurdity of New Years Eve.

It officially started about 9am yesterday, when bands of teenagers began roaming the streets. Cigarettes dangling from their lips, they nonchalantly tossed firecrackers on the sidewalk, in the gutters, in garbage cans and in the occasional phone booth.

We were in a war zone. A near constant ratta-tat-tat sounded all around the city, a slow crescendo to the main event.

At 5pm the city shut down. Shop, restaurants, trains - everything closed. Hardly a car was on the road. We bagged our dinner plans and went home, shaking our heads at the missed opportunity of restaurants and bars to cash in on holiday revelry. In retrospect, we get it.

At sundown, the intensity picked up as people carted out whole paycheck's worth of explosives. These were proper fireworks, the kind you camp out for on 4th of July. Blasts boomed from all corners of the city. The dog was trembling and the cat was hiding in the bathroom.

We joined our neighbors on the square around 10 minutes to midnight, fireworks launching all round us. Inevitably, bonfires sprung up as people burned whatever they could get their hands on. Smoke stung our eyes and lungs, and all we could do was laugh and laugh. The generally staid Dutch seem to get it all out of their system at once on New Year's Eve.

Today, the streets are a wreck. Because there's no way I've adequately described last night's craziness, I leave you with scenes of the aftermath.

Remnants of massive rolls of firecrackers.

You'll remember this trash can from a previous post.

The shells of a particularly good display.

Yes those are bikes, microwaves and computers.



Blogger Reid said...

Good God! It's like an American city after one of their teams wins a championship!

12:15 AM GMT+1

Blogger tntawny said...

You are so right. We were in Den Haag on New Year's Eve too! We don't do this in America even on the 4th of July. You are so lucky to live in such a great place. When we are there we stay close to the beach with friends. Happy New Year and Thanks for the great description of the wild night!
Doei from America.

4:25 PM GMT+1

Blogger akaijen said...

You must have seen the bonfires on the beach then.

We heard the city organized specific beach bonfires in an attempt to discourage people from lighting them in front of their homes. Word is the beach fires towered over 100 meters!

4:30 PM GMT+1

Blogger Doc Paradox said...

Sorry, I'm late to the game. You sure your bike isn't in that pile? It would neat if they had mini LoJack devices you could put inside the frame.

12:51 AM GMT+1

Blogger akaijen said...

It's definitely possible! B-'s convinced that most of the goods in that pile were stolen, especially the bikes.

12:15 AM GMT+1


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