When the sun shines

For those internationals staying in Holland for the summer, here are three great Dutch reads and cool beaches to read them on.

Noordwijk aan zee at sunset. (Photo: Erik Jansen)
Noordwijk aan zee at sunset. (Photo: Erik Jansen)

The typically ‘sunny’ summers in the Netherlands are best enjoyed with visits to a beach for swimming, sunbathing, kite flying or just digging holes in the sand. Apart from famous nearby beaches like Scheveningen, Hoek van Holland and Kijkduin, there are many other nice places to visit.

Thirty kilometers southwest of Delft is a 10-kilometer beach stretching from Rockanje village to Oostvoorne. Rockanje’s a beach like Scheveningen, with lots of facilities and bars, while Oostvoorne is more interesting for people who love nature. The dunes nearby, called the ‘Voornse Duinen’, are unique in Europe, with more than 100 bird species, Iceland ponies, Galloway oxen and many different plants species.
For those preferring quieter waters, an option is to visit a small beach near a lake, like the Delftse Hout, but without the poisonous cyanobacteria and goose crap. One such place is the small beach near Zevenhuizerplas, a lake in Rotterdam, which is ideal for surfing, sailing and canoeing, and the subway station Nesselande is nearby.
Holland’s northern islands offer many huge, beautiful and empty beaches. The nearest one is Texel, a great place for outdoor sports, like parachute diving and horse riding, and part of the island, ‘de slufter’, is flooded daily during high-tide.

Summer reads
Some awesome Dutch literature (available in translation) is the perfect accompaniment to lounging on a great Dutch beach. For those into mysteries, ’De donkere kamer van Damokles’ (English title: The Darkroom of Damocles) by W.F. Hermans is a perfect novel. With lots of twists and turns, the book portrays Dutch life during WWII through the eyes of a pathetic figure - Henri Osewoudt. Facing a series of jinxed experiences and restrained danger, Henri’s actions solicit consequences that are both perplexing and arduous. Revolving around photography and the development of films corresponding to exposures to events, Hermans’ depiction of the ‘truth’ is kept in a haze of unexpected outcomes. The novel takes place in Amsterdam, Scheveningen, Rotterdam, and even on tram #1 in Delft, which is sure to create a sense of historical attachment for Delft students.

A modern, radical love story set in the 21st century and a very emotional read is ’Komt een vrouw bij de dokter’ (English title: ‘Love Life’), by Ray Kluun, a book full of brutal honesty and shocking confessions. Kluun, the narrator, tells the story of the last days of his wife’s struggles with breast cancer, of his own faithlessness and flawed past, sins and infidelities, of dark, wrenching moments which often cross the borders of decency. ’Komt een vrouw bij de dokter’ won a Dutch book prize in 2006 and was made into a movie in 2009, titled ‘Stricken’,. You may not agree with this unusual ode to the various absurdities and aspects of love in Kluun’s story, but you’ll definitely need a box of Kleenex to finish the book (and movie).

’De tweeling’ (The Twins), by Tessa de Loo, tells the story of Anna and Lotte, twins who were orphaned at six and sent to live with different relatives on opposite sides of WWII. While Lotte is taken in by relatives in the Netherlands, Anna stays in their native Germany, with their lives taking very different turns. In De Loo’s detailed narrative, conversations unfold between the sisters during encounters occuring at different stages of their lives: youth, when they missed each other terribly, in married lives, when they both lost their husbands in the war, and also during the last days of their lives, when they lament about missed opportunities to forgive and forget. This poignant story of family ties ingeniously presents the compelling conflicts between love, hate, and the despair of being caught up in cruel times. ’De tweeling’ is a great book that you’ll want to read in one go, so be sure to pack some sun protection.

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