It’s Sunday afternoon and I need to unwind after completing my homework for the Dutch course I am attending at The Kickstart Language School. It’s a bit cloudy and windy outside (The Netherlands, you know…) but I know the perfect place to be. A hidden gem in the crown of The Hague. A magical spot full of birds’ songs and quiet paths. The green island in the urban jungle: Park Overvoorde.
A short walk through history: from nobles to soldiers
The park has a multi century history. Everything started in the 12th century when the noble Overvoort
family lived in Rijswijk (an area currently located in the outskirts of The Hague). Their Medieval property called Overvoorde
was transformed to the abbey of Rijnsburg in 1289.
In 1623 a mansion with the shape of a coat of arms was built at the same place. It stands on a 6-hectare island with an English landscape style and a lot of old trees.
The house and the surrounding park are national monuments since 1722. A curious fact: century after century the house was inherited until 1931 when the municipality of The Hague bought the estate from its owners and inhabitants at this time - the Vredenburch’s family.
During the Second World War, several bunkers were built in the park by the German soldiers. Currently the bunkers’ area is known as the Bunkercomplex Park Overvoorde / Commandopost Rijswijk
(part of Museum Bescherming Bevolking
) and is open a couple of days per year.
Love at first sight
Since I arrived in The Netherlands, I have been constantly hearing people (even myself) complaining about the Dutch nature. Or the lack of it. That’s partially understandable - there are a lot of green areas but most of them are too tame. Too tidy, too symmetrical. I always liked hiking in the forests of my country and the thing I was really missing here was a wild place where I can recharge my batteries and gather my thoughts.
Park Overvoorde was the first place I visited in The Hague as it’s located right next to my home. It was a chilly February morning after a hectic moving from one city to another. After the last box was unpacked and the last frame was hung on the wall, it was time for me to relax. To explore the area and to find a piece of mind. Ever since I am going back there again and again - for a walk, a running workout or a picnic.
As many reasons to go as trees in the park
No matter if you’re living in The Hague and you’re already tired from the crowds in the Haagse Bos
(The Forest of The Hague) or you’re visiting this urban jungle as a tourist, it’s worth to spend a couple of hours in Park Overvoorde.
The park is charming at any time of the year. During the spring you will feel like you’re in a fairytale - the colourful explosion of the blooming Rhododendrons which lasts only for a couple of weeks in May creates a unique magical atmosphere.
In the summer you might see a whole family of ducks or swans, swimming around in one of the lakes located in the park with their small ones.
The autumn robes of Overvoorde are fascinating - you can see all the shades of yellow, orange and red within a single meadow. And during the winter you can have a peaceful walk on the empty paths while contemplating the frozen lakes in the company of the lonely but majestic blue herons or the colourful and playful rose-ringed parakeet. That’s right! There are more than 10,000 parrots of this type living in the urban areas of the Netherlands. Around the Overvoorde Park there are a couple of flocks as well. Actually, if you’re lucky enough you might even spot other beautiful and rare birds as part of the park is a bird sanctuary.
Park Overvoorde is not just a park. It is also a mansion, a bunker museum, a bird sanctuary. My favourite place to be. What else is there? You should definitely go and find your own hidden gem.
The park is easily accessible by car (you can leave it at the parking, where Kenenburgstraat meets Guntersteinweg), bike, tram 16 (stop Erasmusplein), bus 50 and 51 (stop Guntersteinweg) and even train if you feel like walking for 20 minutes from station Moerwijk. The exact address is Van Vredenburchweg 172A, 2285 SE Rijswijk
Just start walking around and don’t hesitate to take one of the small paths that go through the grass and vanish behind the massive trees. You won’t get lost but... be careful! You might find yourself.
Marina Yaneva, Kickstart student