Exploring Leiden

A couple of weekends ago, I finally decided to visit the beautiful city of Leiden. It’s only a stone’s throw away from The Hague – just ten minutes away by train! – so it was a wonder I hadn’t visited yet. Despite the short distance, I was always drawn to visiting more popular cities like Amsterdam and Delft, but after hearing nothing but good reviews from friends, I finally decided to check it out!

In my mind, I had thought of Leiden as a ‘student city’, since one of the oldest and most prominent Dutch universities is based here. However, it was almost the complete opposite – so peaceful and tranquil, with the shopping streets nowhere near as busy as The Hague can get. The canals were stunning, with one on almost every corner you turned. Canals aren’t very prominent in The Hague, so it was a nice change to see so many in Leiden. And with the setting sun, the views were incredible.

It’s really not this time of year without some sparkling twinkle lights in the tree branches here in the Netherlands. Seeing the trees lit up like this was a lovely glimpse of Christmas.

This is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve been to, and a great place to visit for a day if you’re nearby!

International Open Day (Just Peace Festival)

This past weekend was a time of celebration in The Hague, as it was the International Day of Peace on September 21st. As a world-famous city of peace and justice, there were loads of activities and events happening all around the city to raise awareness of this day and promote the main goal of the United Nations. Aside from the concerts, photo exhibitions, and various other happenings, a very special event was a highlight – 13 of the most prominent international organisations in The Hague opened their doors to the public!

The Hague is famous for hosting many international organisations symbolising peace and unity, most famously the International Court of Justice (in the Peace Palace) and the International Criminal Court. However, there are lesser-known but equally important organisations too, including the Hague Conference for Private International Law and the International Development Law Organisation. All of these organisations welcomed interested visitors for free to see how they work and promote their goals and practices. Since I’d already visited the Peace Palace and the ICC numerous times, I decided to visit the Hague Conference and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) this year.

First up was the Hague Conference. Private international law has always been an area of particular interest for me ever since we had a course on it in university, especially in relation to commercial law (to those who know me, this doesn’t come as a surprise). There was a wonderful lecture given by a professional of the Conference – Mr Thomas John – on the history of the organisation, its activities, and its ever-growing importance in a closely linked world. I met some lovely people, got to ask questions, and there was even a jazz band afterwards – always a plus!

Next on my list was the OPCW. I’ve already visited this organisation before for a lecture by the Director-General, but yesterday’s visit was even more informative as there was so much to see! I got a chance to look at equipment used during chemical warfare, including protective suits, gas masks, and detector equipment. There were also several screenings of documentaries – I watched a particularly poignant one on chlorine gas attacks used during warfare in Poland, killing thousands of people. I also took a walk through the beautiful gardens behind the building, with sculptures donated by countries who have suffered through the use of chemical weapons, as well as see the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the OPCW. This organisation deserves even more recognition for its efforts to rid the world of such deadly weapons, especially in light of the warfare the world is seeing these days.

Definitely some great and memorable visits this year, as always!