The Hague peace crawl
In the 1940s, the prison was used by the occupying Nazis to hold members of the Dutch Resistance. It is off limits to tourists, but as you are cycling by, marvel at the multi-ethnic success story that the prison embodies: one war crimes suspect told me that with Serbs, Croats and Bosnians celebrating holidays together, playing football and cooking communal meals inside, it is the only place where the Dayton Peace Accords (signed in 1995 to end the war in Bosnia) actually work.
Dunes of Scheveningen
If you continue on bike down the Pompstationweg, past the prison, it is a short and straight shot into the scenic dunes of Scheveningen, home to 250 different species of birds and other wildlife. These rolling, beachy hills are also some of the only knolls in the country and best explored by bike. Follow the Noordzee Route, past the Pompstation (pump station), and if you eventually veer left you will climb a hill with a breathtaking view of the North Sea. The vista is dotted with German bunkers from World War II. Head down the steps and stop at the café at the bottom, or take a well-deserved dive into the sea.
For those whose desire to be an eyewitness to history is still unsated, you can hop a local train to Voorburg to visit the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal where several cases are currently being heard. Or in Leidschendam, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has been established to try those allegedly responsible for the 2005 Beirut attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 21 others. This court is open to the public, but there are no trials as of yet.
Save the dates
If you are travelling to The Hague in September, mark your calendar for the 18th, The Hague International Day, and the 21st, the United Nations’ International Day of Peace.
Most of the courts listed above (and groups such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency Europol and even some embassies) will open their usually closed doors to the public on The Hague International Day, with prosecutors, judges and court officials available for questions. There will also be a an international fair at the World Forum across from the ICTY that same day, with representatives of the various courts and peace organizations on site and ready to explain what they do and why.
For the more globally focused Day of Peace on 21 September, some 1,500 young students will stage the fourth annual Peace Walk through the City of Peace and Justice. While you may not qualify for that event, the concert by Moroccan-Dutch rapper Ali B later in the morning in The Hague’s largest square is open to the public.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the ICTY paraphernalia was not available for purchase. The story has been corrected.