I share the city I live in with half-a-million other people. This morning The Hague welcomed its 500,000th resident. The city went crazy for a couple of hours: the bells of the Grote Kerk tolled, cannon shots were fired on the Plein and Dutch rusks with green and yellow aniseed comfits (beschuit met groen-gele muisjes) were doled. I was at work and missed that all.
Until I was fifteen, I haven’t seen a city smaller than one million inhabitants. The one million one was Saratov (even though because of the heavy military production it never officially reached one million, attributing people to surrounding villages) and I used to think of it as a small town. Which in a way it was back then. When I started travelling, I’d discovered that the world is much smaller than I thought. Amsterdam is smaller than Saratov!
The Hague is smaller than Saratov, but somehow it’s not. There’s much more life here on this tiny piece of land – our government, The Queen, international organisations, theatres, cinemas, museums, concerts, festivals, art galleries, shops, parks...
Still of all the cities I’ve lived in and visited so far The Hague is the one that resembles Saratov the most. It’s not the look of it. It’s the way sun lights the buildings on a March afternoon when the tram number eleven strolls along. It’s the way the air smells on a chilly morning in February. It’s the way the August voices sound when I hear them through the open door of my kitchen.
I think I´ll stick for a while.
Mélissa Laveaux - Needle in the Hay