Walking 69,000 steps around Holland and exercising in street photography

Snaps of The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Leiden, and Haarlem

Slava Shestopalov 🇺🇦
5 a.m. Magazine
Published in
11 min readApr 20, 2024


© All photos by Slava Shestopalov

Over Easter weekend, a friend of mine, Serhiy, came from Berlin to visit me in The Hague. Eager to test out his new Fujifilm camera and for me to dust off my Ricoh GR after a break, we embarked on a three-day walking adventure across various cities in Holland, capturing snapshots of our journey along the way.

Deserted Scheveningen Beach around Friday noon.

We kicked off our adventure on Friday morning at Scheveningen Beach. The day started mostly sunny, but gradually, scattered clouds rolled in. I had taken a day off work, and it was quite unusual to see the beach so sparsely populated—apart from numerous cyclists on city and racing bikes.

“No walking. Cycling only.”

We followed the shoreline from the harbor to the pier — my usual walking route. Serhiy was tweaking his camera settings while I was enjoying the view with my camera tucked away since I had already taken many pictures here. Suddenly, we saw a figure clad in black dragging a large wooden plank into the water. Without a moment’s hesitation, I retrieved my camera and instinctively snapped the shot using the current mode. It turned out to be monochrome.

I have no idea what this guy was doing, but it makes this shot even more mysterious.

I typically don’t focus on photographing people; instead, I prefer capturing various locations and buildings. Some argue that “true” street photography encompasses any unstaged photography of the human environment, while others insist on candid depictions of people in public places.

The old tram departs from Scheveningen to The Hague city center.

As we pondered our next destination, I couldn’t resist capturing a photo of a creatively decorated motorcycle in my neighborhood. Although I had seen it numerous times before, it was only now that I finally decided to snap a picture of it. With its unique pattern, I joked that if it ever got stolen, it would be found in no time!

How much did it take to make this Yamaha motorcycle look so psychedelic?

Then we visited Delft, a city adjacent to The Hague. On that day, the old flour mill was open to the public, allowing us to climb to the platform and enjoy a panoramic view of the city under the cloudy sky.

Delft panorama with the Old Church’s crooked tower.

It was a relaxing walk. Serhiy and I didn’t want to take photos in the cliche Dutch Instagram style, so I only captured what I jokingly called “Schrödinger’s windows.” Street-facing windows on the ground floor are always curtained to prevent passers-by from peering in. Technically, you have a window, but you don’t see anything through it.

A colorful facade of a house in Delft, with the same green tint of window frames and flower leaves in front of the house.

Upon returning to The Hague and gazing out from the apartment, I caught sight of a vibrant glow on the building across the street — a promising sign of the upcoming burning-red sunset.

The right sign of a beautiful sunset.

We hurriedly went to the sea. The sky was turning pink and purple. I took a picture of the sun beginning to dip below the horizon with the almost deserted beach in the front.

Then I ran to the hill toward the harbor lighthouses. I knew this beauty would last only a couple of minutes, and I wanted to witness it from an elevated point. The photo above and the one below are only four minutes apart.

A dozen people were observing the scenery from the pier leading to the red lighthouse. Someone even arrived there on a motorcycle.

The last rays of the setting sun.

It got dark quickly, but we didn’t feel tired yet. So, following the sunset, we took a train to Rotterdam, a city I believe is best experienced in the evening when the street lights are turned on.

Green-illuminated construction site in The Hague.

Rotterdam endured near-total destruction during the Second World War, so nowadays, it has a predominantly glass-and-steel skyline with numerous skyscrapers and experimental buildings. One of the most famous pieces is the 1970s Cube Houses complex. The unique shape of the apartments necessitates specially designed furniture with tilted facets. Having already taken many photos of this place for my architecture-focused Instagram blog, this time, I decided to show it from a fresh perspective, in its urban environment.

Stacked outdoor tables perfectly rhyme with Rotterdam’s famous Cube Houses.

Next, we visited the century-old railway bridge, colloquially known as De Hef, which ceased train traffic in the 1990s. Owing to the heavy light pollution typical of such a bustling megapolis as Rotterdam, the street was surprisingly well-lit.

De Hef railway bridge late in the evening.
Serhiy waits for a suitable moment to take a picture and the perfect line of parked cars.

I love evening and night city photography for the vibrant colors, which are often difficult to capture during daylight, especially with bright sunlight. For instance, William’s Bridge takes on a deep, bloody red hue that’s truly striking when the darkness sets in. I recall when I only started this hobby; like many beginners, I hesitated to use high ISO due to the grain it produced, resulting in bland and hazy pictures.

When I called it the “Coca-Cola Bridge,” Serhiy initially thought it was a joke, but upon spotting the company’s logo, he realized it was indeed sponsored by Coca-Cola.

As I said, I usually prefer snapping places rather than people, which kind of sits at the intersection of street and architectural photography. But when we were in Rotterdam, I decided to mix things up and took the chance to do some street portraits.

With such a photo, Serhiy can apply for a position in a communist party.

Even though we were starting to feel tired, our curiosity kept us going. Since there was still plenty of time left, we decided to wrap up for the day and headed over to the nearby Rotterdam Blaak Station.

I don’t remember what I said, but it was definitely a dad joke.

The Blaak Station we have now is pretty new, completed in 1993. What I love most about its design are those backlit glass tiles; they have a vibe that takes me back to the 1930s Interwar Modernism era (look up Fisher Studio House in Chicago or Wohnanlage Schorlemerallee in Berlin — and you’ll see this parallel, too).

As a designer, I couldn’t miss such a perfect alignment.

The next day brought a stark contrast to the previous one; instead of the sun, we were met with a grey sky and light rain. Did it stop us? Of course, no. I packed a couple of trekking-grade rain ponchos in my backpack just in case, and it was a damn wise decision. Living in the Netherlands for more than seven months has taught me to never rely on the weather and always be prepared for unexpected changes.

First, we took a tram to Oostduin Park, and it was the driest part of the journey on that day.

Again, perfect alignment and colors. The trams and the car look like a flipped French flag, but if you turn it 90 degrees, you’ll get the Dutch flag.

We climbed the hill, which had a viewing platform and a meteo tower on top. The horizon appeared blurry due to the persistent drizzle.

I opted for a monochrome picture to highlight the mood of the moment.

We put on those rain ponchos and I also took a bottle of tawny port wine, which turned out to be the perfect drink for such weather.

This is a bicycle parking at the beach, but the sea is barely visible behind it.

The dunes had a mystical charm, almost like a scene straight out of “The Lord of the Rings.” I half expected a patrol unit of elves to emerge from the vibrant, misty greenery at any moment.

Oostduin Park with the old water tower.

The path through the dunes led us to a beach cafe with a spacious but empty terrace.

Beach cafe “Puntje” used old doors and windows as decoration.

Surprisingly, there were other people here despite the rain, most likely locals. It seems the Dutch are practically water-proof!

Rain walkers.

By the way, this place has an interesting history; Oostduinen was heavily fortified by Nazi Germany during the Second World War as part of the so-called Atlantic Wall. This formidable defensive line was designed to impede Allied forces from landing on the coast in the event of a two-front war. The Hague, along with the Scheveningen port, were among the strategically vital locations in the Netherlands.

Remaining casemates of the Oostduin coastal battery.

The rain almost stopped, so we could take off and pack the ponchos and think about where to go next.

Look how the bench top merges with the lake. Surreal!

The choice fell on Leiden. Arriving just as the local farmers’ market was closing, we witnessed people busy washing the pavements: clearing away spilled drinks, vegetable peels, and fish bones — which in turn attracted a flock of seagulls. I had never attempted a close-up picture of a seagull before, so I made an effort to capture one right before the arrogant creature took off.

One more visual parallel: cloudy-white seagull’s wings and the sky reflection in the canal.

Suddenly, the sky cleared, and the sun made an appearance, though it was more shining than really warm.

A sunny canal in the center of Leiden.

Desperately searching for a subject to capture in this perfect light, I turned my lens toward a drawbridge. While you can’t see it in the photo, the bridge keeper’s house was a treasure trove of interesting artifacts visible through the windows: taxidermy birds, a collection of plastic waste, and jars filled with various seeds. And there was a nest on the side with a family of a duck and her cute ducklings.

A sunlit drawbridge somewhere in Leiden.
This train window created an illusion as if we were moving through space.

After our visit to Leiden, we stopped by a supermarket to grab some snacks before taking a leisurely stroll along the Scheveningen Harbor towards one of its two lighthouses.

An old ship in the Scheveningen Harbor and one of the two lighthouses marking the harbor entrance.

There was nobody in sight, not a single person. It wasn’t surprising, given the late hour past midnight and the weather. There’s probably a physics phenomenon behind it, but I’ve noticed that when I take evening pictures on humid days, streetlights create these beautiful starry halos.

A massive empty parking lot near the pier. I bet it’ll be packed in the summer.

As we neared the lighthouse, the sound of the sea filled the air with its soothing hum. One of the things I enjoy about living by the sea is how its sound quiets my inner dialog, serving as a form of meditation.

Always bright The Hague coastline.

It was well past midnight, and with plans for the next day, we knew it was time to get some sleep. Besides, the air was thick with moisture, making it challenging to retain warmth without movement.

The color of this beach cafe resembles the rainbowy inner side of seashells.

Water condensation was collecting on all surfaces and nicely glared on parked cars.

Ultramarine blue is one of my favorite colors.

On the third and final day of our walking and photographing adventure, we started by considering where to go. Ultimately, we settled on Haarlem since neither Serhiy nor I had visited before.

An example of beautiful Art Nouveau advertising from the edge of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The city center was bustling due to a beer festival. We maneuvered through the crowd and soon found a quieter neighborhood where I captured a picture that I’m quite proud of, to be honest. While Serhiy was standing near a hair studio window, I took a mirror snap featuring him, myself, and some hurried passing woman. It was one of those “true street photos” like the ones I often see on professional photographers’ Instagram accounts.

This is the peak of my street photography endeavors so far.

Haarlem is an ancient city with many historical buildings. I had seen many cute Dutch houses and cathedrals in the Netherlands, but this was probably the most impressive medieval city gate in the country. The city had fourteen gates in the past, but now only one is left, oriented in the Amsterdam direction.

The massive Amsterdam Gate on a cloudy afternoon.

And then we got into prison… Yes, real prison!

The Haarlem Dome Prison, fondly nicknamed “Koepel” (meaning “dome” in Dutch), was constructed between 1899 and 1901 and was one of three such structures in the country. It contains 240 cells spread across four stacked rings. In 2020, the prison underwent repurposing and now houses a cinema, restaurant, and office spaces.

Neon-lit interior of the Dome Prison.

Another structure that caught my eye was the helmet-shaped Catharine Bridge keeper’s house. Its turquoise body perfectly complemented the steel hue of the sky. Even though I tried to abstain from taking my usual architectural pictures that weekend, I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of photos of these interesting buildings.

A contrast of old and new architectural shapes.

The next morning was leisurely as Serhiy was awaiting his flight back in the afternoon. We grabbed traditional Dutch herring sandwiches and strolled along the beach. It was chill yet sunny weather, much like the first day. I felt I would need some time without photographing to let the impressions sink in. Luckily, the following day would be the start of a new workweek.

“People like crows.”

By the way, here is Serhiy’s Instagram, where you can get a glimpse into his perspective on this journey.



Slava Shestopalov 🇺🇦
5 a.m. Magazine

Design leader and somewhat of a travel blogger. Author of “Design Bridges” and “5 a.m. Magazine” ·