Leiden, The Netherlands

Posted on March 14, 2010

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It is hard not to love Leiden. It is beautiful, with an ancient feel, lots of canals, and a Saturday market that can not be beat. It is a very tourist friendly town, with a tourist office right next to the train station and a very helpful two hour loop marked throughout the town to see all the highlights.

The oldest reference to Leiden goes back to the year 860. This town of just of 100,000 features Leiden University, one of the oldest schools in Europe. They had their incoming student orientation this weekend, so I had a lot of company in town. The heyday of Leiden was in the 17th Century, so it is much smaller and less important than it once was. It is still a great place to visit.
In the center of town is De Burcht, a circular castle built upon a man made mound of earth. You can go up and walk on top of the wall and get a great view of the city. In the center of the castle is a very deep well that according to legend reached to the ocean. Stories of bodies dumped in the well winding up on the beach were popular, though untrue.

A visually stunning cathedral near the center of the city immediately draws your attention. The Hooglandse Kerk was built in the 15th Century. Unfortunately, it was not open for visitors, so all I could do was circle the outside.
Leiden was the refuge for the Pilgrims after they left England in their search for a place free of religious persecution. From 1609 to 1615 they made their home here, many teaching at the University. The Pilgrims found their children turning too worldly “Dutch” and decided to leave. In deciding to leave, the Pilgrims left Leiden, headed to Delft via the canals, then on to Delfshaven where they took the Speedwell to the New World. Well almost, the Speedwell took on too much water so it was traded for the Mayflower in England. The canal below is where the Pilgrims departed Leiden, first passing under the stone bridge in the direction of Delft.
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Posted in: Netherlands, Travel