Let us go down to the North Sea and see how the Dutch people enjoy themselves in the summer. Of course the largest of the watering-places in the Netherlands is Scheveningen, and it has a splendid bathing beach which makes it an attractive resort for fashionable Germans and Hollanders; and for summer travelers from all over the world. At the top of the long dyke is a row of hotels and restaurants, and when one reaches this point after passing through the lovely old wood of stately trees one is ushered into the twentieth century, for here all is fashion and gay life, yet with a character all its own.
Along the edge of the beach are the bathing machines in scores, and behind them are long lines of covered wicker chairs of peculiar form, each with its foot-stool, where one may sit, shaded from the sun and sheltered from the wind, and read, chat or doze by the hour. Bath women are seen quaintly clad with their baskets of bathing dresses and labeled with the signs bearing their names, such as Trintje or Netje; everywhere there are sightseers, pedlers calling their wares, children digging in the sand, strolling players performing and the sound of bands of music in the distance. So there is no lack of amusement here during the season.
The spacious Kurhaus with its verandas and Kursaal, which is large enough to accommodate 2,500 people, is in the center of the dike. There are concerts every evening, and altho the town is filled with hotels, during the months of June, July, August, and September they are quite monopolized by the Hollanders and the prices are very high.
The magnificent pier is 450 yards long. The charges for bathing are very moderate, varying from twenty cents for a small bathing box to fifty cents for a large one, including the towels. Bathing costumes range from five to twenty-five cents. The tickets are numbered, and as soon as a machine is vacant a number is called by the “bath man” and the holder of the corresponding number claims the machine. The basket chairs cost for the whole day twenty cents, Dutch money. One may obtain a subscription to the “Kurhaus” at a surprisingly reasonable rate for the day, week or season. There is a daily orchestra; ballet and operatic concerts once a week; dramatic performances and frequent hops throughout the season.
There is a local saying that when good Dutch-men die they go to Scheveningen, and this is certainly their heaven. To stand on the pier on a fine day during the season looking down on these long lines of wicker chairs, turned seaward, is an astonishing sight. They are shaped somewhat like huge snail-shells, and around these the children delight to dig in the sand, throwing up miniature dunes around one. Perhaps no seashore in the world has been painted so much as Scheveningen. Mesdag, Maris, Alfred Stevens, to name only a few of the artists, have found here themes for many paintings, and the scene is a wonderful one when the homing fleet of “Boms,” as the fishing-boats are called, appears in the offing to be welcomed by the fisherwomen. There are other smaller watering-places on the coast, but Scheveningen is unique.
In the little fishing town itself, the scene on the return of the men is very interesting. Women and children are busily hurrying about from house to house, and everywhere in the little streets are strange signs chalked up on the shutters, such as “water en vuur to koop,” that is water and fire for sale; and here are neatly painted buckets of iron, each having a kettle of boiling water over it and a lump of burning turf at the bottom. Fish is being cleaned and the gin shops are well patronized, for it seems a common habit in this moist northern climate frequently to take “Een sneeuwballetje” of gin and sugar, which does not taste at all badly, be it said. All sorts of strange-looking people are met in the little narrow street, and all doing strange-looking things, but with the air of its being in no wise unusual with them. All in all, Scheveningen is an entertaining spot in which to linger.