Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Town Travel - Leiden, the Netherlands

What better way to start a new year than to go globe-trotting!  This month I am starting a new and, I hope, exciting new feature on my Blog: Town Travel.

Throughout the coming weeks, award winning authors will be talking about their favourite town and what makes it special for them. It could be any were in the world and even some of the places will surprise you. I say this, as I admit to taking a peek at a few posts ahead of the launch. Oh yes we are in for some wonderful treats. So dust of your laptop passport and let’s go on a special journey and please come back on a regular basis to see which part of the world we are visiting.

I am kick starting our globe-trotting journey with a trip to Leiden in the Netherlands. Leiden is in the Dutch province of South Holland and lies between Amsterdam and The Hague (Den Haag) We lived and worked there for a number of years; the office we worked in is just outside the Oude Singel and our home overlooked one of the many canals.

Leiden is a city with a rich cultural heritage, not only in science, but also in the arts. One of the world's most famous painters, Rembrandt, was born and educated in Leiden. Other famous Leiden painters include Lucas van Leyden, Jan van Goyen and Jan Steen.

Leiden is also known for its centuries-old architecture and for Leiden University, the country’s oldest, dating from 1575. The university houses the Hortus botanicus Leiden Botanical Garden, founded in 1590, where the tulip was introduced to Western Europe.

Museums are a plenty in Leiden where you can soak up culture and history…
The National Museum of Antiquities is housed in an old monumental building and ‘Begijnhof’. It is the Dutch centre for archaeology. Naturalis Biodiversity Centre has a large natural history collection of over 37 million objects. The National Museum of Ethnology is housed in the monumental, former academic hospital. It owns more than 240,000 objects and 500,000 audio-visual sources from around the world. Stedelijk Molenmuseum De Valk, a mill from 1743. The museum features the only preserved mill house in the Netherlands, from 1900. Hortus Botanicus Leiden, of the Leiden University is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, from 1590. Museum De Lakenhal is the municipality museum of Leiden and is housed in Leiden’s old cloth hall. Rijksmuseum Boerhaave is the Netherlands’ treasure chamber of science and medicine. You can find out all abut these museums and more by visiting this web site - The Best Museums in Leiden.

Like many Dutch villages, towns and cities, windmills are part of the landscape. Both of these windmills were on our daily travels to and from work.

During the middle ages, Leiden had eight city gates, today only two survive, Morspoort and Zijlpoort. The photo is of Morspoort, we cycled through this magnificent arch each day on our way to work – everyone cycles in Holland, well almost everyone!

Leiden has a wonderful selection of restaurant serving local and international dishes. It is a wonderful place to eat out in. As Leiden has so many canals, during the summer months many of the restaurants organise flatbed barges to be moored up to the front of their building and throughout the long warm days of summer you can sit out to eat and drink. We spent many hours sitting on these summer day barges, with friends, enjoying al fresco dinning.

Visiting / living in Holland means you cannot miss the magnificent bulb fields. The colours and fragrances from acres of brightly coloured flowers is a sight not to be missed. During our years there we cycled and rollerblading round the many of these wonderful sights and never ceased to be in awe. And a visit in March / May to the famous, Keukenhof Gardens is an absolute must.  You can find out more these fabulous garden by clicking on the Keukenhof Gardens.

One event I must include and that is Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolass) on December 5th. Dutch children put out their shoes by the fireplace so that Sinterklaas and his helpers, Zwarte Piet, deliver presents. The tradition is strictly kept in the Netherlands with parades in towns and cities. The office we worked in also celebrated Sintaklaas and each year a member of staff dressed up as Sinterklaas and other volunteers played the part of Zwarte Piet. One year I was a Zwarte Piet! Special makeup is plastered on your face, smink, and with traditional outfits we walked around the office delivering sweet to the rest of our colleagues. The picture is of me as Zwarte Piet. I did not recognised myself in the mirror and OH had no idea it was me. The makeup was amazing and took me forever to remove it!

I hope you enjoyed your visit to Leiden. It is a wonderful city and we loved our time living there. Please come back as there are many more fabulous places to visit…

Next Town Travel  take us to Barnstable, UK with Helen Hollick


Ian said...

I believe the university has had a long and favourable press historically. Gulliver (of the Travels) attended the medical school there. I know he's fictional but it's a testament to the Medical School's prestige that Swift decided on it for Gulliver's education. Pauline's article makes me want to visit. The photograph of the tulip fields is stunning!

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Ian, thank your for visiting and I hope you will find time, one day, to visit Leiden, it is a beautiful city steeped in history.

Ann Victoria Roberts said...

I've been to northern parts of the Netherlands many times, but never to Leiden, so it's great to read your description of the city, and to see the photos. Particularly of the Keukenhof Gardens - stunning at tulip time! Only one visit there, many years ago, but your photo tells me I must go again. Thanks for the reminder!

Helen Hollick said...

(Apologies, busy with editing I missed this post) I did two tours of the Netherlands back in the mid 2000s visiting many wonderful places, alas Leiden wasn't one of them. Hmm I wonder if I can organise a third tour...