Here, although it is separated from Scheveningen by some miles of sand, I should like to say something of Katwyk—which is Leyden’s marine resort. A steam-tram carries people thither many times a day. The rail, when first I travelled upon it, in April, ran through tulips; in August, when I was there again, the patches of scarlet and orange had given way to acres of massive purple-green cabbages which, in the evening light, were vastly more beautiful.
At Rynsburg, one of the villages on the way, dwelt in 1650-51 Benedict Spinoza, the philosopher, and there he wrote his abridgement of the Meditations of Descartes, his master in philosophy, who had for a while lived close by at Endegeest. Spinoza, who was born at Amsterdam in 1632, died in 1677. His house at Rynsburg, which he shared with a Colleginat (one of a sect of Remonstrants who had their headquarters there) is now a Spinoza museum; his statue is at The Hague.
Katwyk-aan-Zee is a compact little pleasure resort with the usual fantastic childish villas. Its most interesting possession is the mouth of the Old Rhine, now restricted by a canal and controlled by locks. There is perhaps no better example of the Dutch power over water than the contrast between the present narrow canal through which the river must disembogue and the unprofitable marsh which once spread here. The locks, which are nearly a hundred years old, were among the works of the engineer Conrad, whose monument is in Haarlem church.
From the Old Rhine’s mouth to Noordwyk is a lonely but very bracing walk of three miles along the sand, with the dunes on one’s right hand and the sea on one’s left. One may meet perhaps a few shell gatherers, but no one else. We drove before us all the way a white company consisting of a score of gulls, twice as many tern, two oyster catchers and one curlew. They rose and settled, rose and settled, always some thirty yards away, until Noordwyk was reached, when we left them behind. Never was a Japanese screen so realised as by these birds against the pearl grey sea and yellow sand.
Katwyk is more cheery than Noordwyk; but Noordwyk has a prettier street—indeed, in its old part there is no prettier street in Holland in the light of sunset. As Hastings is to Eastbourne, so is Katwyk to Noordwyk; Scheveningen is Brighton, Yarmouth, and Blackpool in one. A very pretty lace cap is worn at Noordwyk by villagers and visitors alike, to hold the hair against the west wind.
From Noordwyk we walked to Noordwyk-Binnen, the real town, parent of the seaside resort; and there, at a table at the side of the main street, by an avenue so leafy as to exclude even glints of the sky, we sipped something Dutch whose name I could not assimilate, and waited for the tram for Leyden. It was the greenest tunnel I ever saw.