The Hague is probably best known for being the epicentre of government in the Netherlands, even though it is not the capital of the country. But what are some lesser-known facts about The Hague? Well, here are five you can use at your next dinner party!
1. The Prime Minister teaches at a local school
Talk about cool! I doubt this would happen in many other countries, but in the Netherlands, with the majority being so down-to-earth, having your prime minister teach you is totally plausible.
Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister, is a guest teacher at Johan de Witt Scholengroep in The Hague. He teaches pupils Dutch and citizenship and has been doing so since September 2008.
2. The symbol for The Hague is a stork
If you take a look at the coat of arms from The Hague, you’ll find a stork on a shield, stood on one leg, eating an eel. The shield is held by two golden lions. That’s all well and good, but why a stork?
Well, back in the 14th century, the Binnenhof was a complex of farms, and storks happened to build their nests there and these were then maintained. People thought that storks brought luck.
Storks were not only thought to be lucky, they were actually useful too, as they cleaned up the mess at the fish market square. It was in 1541 that storks were first seen on The Hague coat of arms. In 2006, there was talk of removing the stork from the city logo, but after large protests, the municipality decided against it.
3. It’s home to the longest lane
Yes, that’s right, the longest lane in the Netherlands can be found in The Hague. So, if you’re thinking about how long that street you’re walking on seems, just remember, there is one that is so much longer.
The Laan van Meerdervoort, is a great 5,8 kilometres long. But don’t get the lane confused and start thinking it is the longest street, because it most definitely isn’t. The longest street belongs to Oudebildtdijk in Friesland at around 12,1 kilometres.
4. The first tennis courts in the Netherlands were in The Hague
It’s hard to think of people playing tennis in the 1500s, but that they did, and where else than in The Hague, at the Binnenhof to be precise. The only thing that is left of these courts is a commemorative stone with the inscription “Op deze plek bevond zich tussen circa 1500 en 1650 ‘s lands eerste tennisbaan “de Caetsbaan” van de Prinsen van Oranje”.
The inscription roughly translates as “At this spot between around 1500 and 1650 there was the country’s first tennis court “de Caetsbaan” of the Princes of Orange”. Of course, tennis back then is not the same tennis we know today. Back then, the predecessor of tennis was played in Western Europe between 1500 and 1800. Today’s tennis came into existence in 1874.
5. It has a flame that never dies
How it stays alight I do not know, but it does. The Hague has a flame in the Peace Palace, the Eternal Peace Flame as it is called, which never dies. This flame burns beside the entrance to the Palace and was placed there in 2002. The monument housing the flame has a particularly moving inscription: “May all beings find peace”.
In 2004, the flame was surrounded by the World Peace Path, which consists of 196 stones, big and small, from 196 countries. Some stones are particularly special, such as a piece of the Berlin Wall and a stone from the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.