So finally I have some time to tell you about our little trip to the Netherlands and our visit to the beautiful Leiden.
Leiden is just 20 minutes outside Amsterdam, with easy rail links to Schipol and the city centre. It’s twinned with Oxford in the UK, which is understandable given this university town is known as “the city of books” and it’s university has produced no fewer than 13 Nobel prize winners.
It’s literally teeming with world class museums and galleries, which you’d also expect from the birthplace of Rembrandt.
Just walking around, the architecture is beautiful, and the working windmills (the windmill museum is also here) make sure you know you’re in the Netherlands.
Leiden has a more relaxed, more bohemian vibe than Amsterdam, lots of independent shops and restaurants, gorgeous canals and tonnes of culture. The University attracts students from all around the world which really adds the the international, cosmopolitan feel.
We stayed at the Golden Tulip hotel, close to the station and I’d highly recommend it. Great service, great breakfast and really well located to visit all that Leiden has to offer.
I started with the Botanical gardens (Hortus Botanicus), part of the handsome and rambling University Campus which also includes an Observatory. These very gardens grew the very first tulips that were introduced to the Western world which is totally cool. It’s a mixture of tropical glasshouses, a butterfly house with tropical pool (none fluttering about in February sadly) and outdoor themed areas including my favourite, the Japanese garden. It was rainy and overcast as I entered the glasshouses, then when I passed through and out the other side by the canal, the sun came out and completely changed the dynamic. Dappled sunlight through all manner of trees falling on informal woodland gardens full of snowdrops and celandines, just beautiful. Special mention to my friend and travelling companion for the afternoon, a most photogenic cat. We hung out, had a bit of a chat, ears were scratched and fun was had.
Students were scurrying about with notebooks, and there were various study houses in picturesque locations that made me very much want to go back to school. A very nice way to spend an hour or two.
I had passed the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudhedenon) the way to the gardens so decided to visit on my way back to the hotel. This museum has some absolutely world class exhibits but a couple of issues for me. Firstly the €15 entrance fee. This is not far removed from the admission fee for the Musee D’orsay in Paris which is a different league to be honest. The main issue with this is the lack of English translation on the exhibits themselves, but also the audio guide was extremely limited. Many of the scan points didn’t have any audio, and much was restricted to the main event, the National Geographic sponsored Nineveh exhibition. It’s such a shame given the quality of the exhibits, especially the Egyptian pieces, that I didn’t have any background information. Fortunately being a bit of nerd and no stranger to a Ushabti figure or canopic jar I sort of felt my way around.
The lobby of the museum contains the oldest monument in the Netherlands, the Temple of Taffeh, which dates back to the reign of Emperor Augustus, between 25 and 14BC. There’s a really great projection mapping film shown directly on the temple walls, at certain times of the day which was thankfully in English, and I loved it. To be able to stand inside the temple and just breathe in the history is brilliant, there’s even ancient graffiti in there. It makes the hairs stand up on your arms.
The Nineveh exhibition was great, famous from the bible story of Jonah and the Whale. The heartbreaking part is that a number of exhibits were reconstructions of the originals due to systematic destruction of the sites by ISIS. It’s a sad sign of the times that museums, such as the museum at Mosul in Iraq, now exists online in virtual form due to the destruction of artefacts and whole sites with bulldozers, pneumatic drills and hammers. Two magnificent throne room lions have been recreated in resin as part of this exhibition as the originals were destroyed. I just don’t understand the mentality of such actions in the name of religion.
I enjoyed my time here, unruly large groups of school children aside that were touching the exhibits and making me want to punch them. Also had some really great coffee and my kryptonite, Dutch Apple Pie here too, while my aching feet thanked me.
After a quick change back at the hotel, some beers overlooking the canal, sunshine on the water, barges, windmills doing their thing, we were starving.
Mr RB booked a restaurant called Waag, which was housed in an old weigh house, and both the food and the decor was just stunning. If this was in Leeds I’d be a regular for sure. We had a really lovely evening. Leiden felt very safe to wander around at night, twinkly lights in the trees reflected in the water, cobbled streets and trying to remember to really look when crossing the road to avoid death by bicycle. All in all a really great place for a weekend citybreak.
My handsome cat friend.a little bit of Hemingway on a pretty cobbled street.Florists here are just gorgeous.Sculpture at Hortus Botanicus.Most excellent view from most excellent beer.Decor at Waag.Delicious salmon.Waag from the outside in the gorgeous old weigh-house.
Love a good windmill. Shame about the pest problem though.In the glasshouses of Hortus BotanicusI need a Japanese garden.Just beautiful, but may challenge my garden design abilities.I could totally go to school here if Hogwarts won’t take me.Look at it though. So much history.The projection mapping film at the National Museum of Antiquities.More excellent beer.My feet. Just because.Celandines everywhere.Are the horse and bull fighting? Discuss.A lovely place to stop for more Apple Pie.
Damn that blue bin to hell.