Monday, October 27, 2014

Herfst en 's-Gravenhage

The Hague has the most beautiful trees of any city I've visited. There are many parks and lanes where you can step out of the bustle of city life into a different world. Autumn (Dutch herfst) brings a whole new aspect of color and light as the sun sinks towards winter and the leaves blaze with shades of orange.

The city has a long association with forest. It's modern name, which is officially 's-Gravenhage but the Dutch usually shorten to Den Haag, is derived from "Des Graven Hage." This means something like The Count's Wood or Hedge, and it was used as a hunting ground for nobility.

A couple weeks ago I took a short-cut through the Haags Bos. These woods used to be part of a much larger forest which may have been the origin of the name Holland. That forest was referred to as the "Houtland" (wood land), or "Holtland" in old Dutch. (An alternate explanation is the name comes from the "hollow" land in this low-lying country, but I like the idea that Holland is an homage to these beautiful trees!)

Over the years the trees were cut and the forests shrank into small enclaves, until the "Act of Redemption" was enacted in 1576 to protect the remaining woodland.

As I walked through the Bos, it was just beginning to show the first signs of Fall. Golden sunrays cut through still green leaves.

 Looking behind a tree, I discovered I was not alone.

In fact, the woods were full of tiny life easily overlooked by those of us living on a human scale. I stopped to examine this miniature forest within a forest.

Shortly after my walk the leaves abruptly changed color and drifted off on the not-so-gentle breeze. This photo from a previous year shows how amazing an autumn stroll through the city can be. This lane isn't part of the Bos--it borders the Binnenhof in the center of the city, but views like this can be found all over.

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