A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Kneeled down, petting a kitten near the farm house on Clingendael estate in The Hague this evening, I looked up from the cat twirling around my legs, and it hit me that the trees have started to turn their leaves. Indeed, the initial “awww” that I exclaimed as the tiny cat ran towards me, quickly turned into an internal “aaahhhh” and monologue about needing to purchase another jumper. And needing to go back to uni this week. And needing to hunt down all my required readings. And needing to actually stick to meal prepping this semester. And so forth.
As someone who takes evening walks around the Estate in order to seek cover from such rumination “storms,” I did at first feel deflated when I twigged that summer is no more. Some may say “doe normaal” at this point, but I would personally prefer to cope with this loss by drawing inspiration from the wise words of a former Danish study mate, who said: “If I waited for the weather to be to my liking in order to go outside, I’d effectively be building a prison for myself.” And he wasn’t wrong.
Beyond this point in the year, spending time outdoors can really become a matter of mindset. At least, to some extent, because being rained on continuously still sucks and it makes sense to want to avoid that.
However, come rain or come shine, one would be much better off doing the things one enjoys today rather than putting these off in hope for a perfect tomorrow (and, yes, I too feel attacked). There is only now, autumn, and it is as good a time as any for being outdoors and indulging in the best woodland walks The Hague has to offer us.
Moving in the direction of Den Haag Centraal from Wijnhaven, one is confronted with crowds, the occasional maestro, and concrete. However, not too far beyond the Leiden University College The Hague side of the station, this description barely applies.
Less congested, quieter and greener than the city centre, the Haagse Hout district of The Hague is brimming with picturesque parks and the jogging, dog-walking and horse-riding locals that frequent these.
Whether you’re into running, fresh air, or are easily excited by wildlife (like me), by cycling down Bezuidenhoutseweg from Den Haag Centraal, and turning left onto Laan van Nieuw-Oost Indië, you’ll quickly find yourself on a road that essentially divides Haagse Bos into two exploration worthy and need-fulfilling parts.
Travel far enough into the woodland that’ll appear on your left, and your chance of stumbling, for example, upon a flying fox–sturdy enough to carry your inner child–becomes incredibly high. Travel far enough into the forest on your right, and you may happen upon Palace Huis ten Bosch, the current residence of the Dutch reigning monarch and his family. Alternatively, you may skip Haagse Bos and pedal along Laan van NOI long enough to cross over onto Van Alkemadelaan, to visit my favourite place in The Hague, Clingendael.
Although a mere commoner, I too, reside in the Haagse Hout district. I chose to live in Benoordenhout over Leiden, despite my study being vested in the latter, ultimately because the opportunity arose to live near Clingendael Estate and the lifestyle this enables.
While acknowledging that I was probably very lucky to find affordable accommodation in (what my neighbour once referred to as) “het reservaat,” or “the sanctuary,” living here enables me to do more of the recreational things that I enjoy regularly while still being able to reach my classes by train from Den Haag Laan van NOI or, for example, Student Services by cycling to the Beehive Student Centre.
Not only does living near Clingendael Estate bring me in contact with kittens then, it also fulfils my needs for picnics, exercising, and, most importantly, serenity. The latter is especially important for pacing ourselves through the semester ahead, and I personally find it difficult to see how this mindset can be attained, or maintained, when chasing deadlines while being cooped up all the time.
With so much green space, living in The Hague means that we don’t have to cage ourselves. Why not make the most of this? Why put off serenity indefinitely, when one can find peace of mind and relaxation at Haagse Bos or Clingendael today?