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13 August 2005

NehalenniaI always forget how good it is to be near the water so much of the time.  I love Leiden! After living here for a few months in the early 90s, I often think of visiting so this is a great excuse.

Nieuwe RijnEssentially, Leiden is a Renaissance town – probably the closest equivalent in Britain is Oxford. It has, perhaps, a similar mixture of respectable burgers and more-or-less scruffy students. Staying until today meant I could browse around the market and indulge once more in my favourite chips with peanut sauce. I eyed up the stroopwaffels (syrup wafers), served freshly made and hot but perhaps I’ve got too old for such delights, the smell was too sweet and sickly for me today.

I forgot how you take your life in your hands crossing the road – not the cars but the incredible number of bikes. The lethal quotient of these is now enhanced by a fair number of “bromfietsers” – bikes with little motors. They come at you from every possible direction and some that seem impossible. I sat outside a cafe with some freshly pressed juice and watched bikes being apparently abandoned – left in rows, most unlocked. As impatient shoppers push through the row of bikes quickly becomes a random heap.

Once in the museum, I headed straight for the Netherlands history section and found a dozen or so large stone altars, all dedicated to Nehalennia. I’d come a long way to see these altars, and the real stone, there where I could touch it, was too much and I felt my eyes fill up again ….

The Ancient History Museum is another seductive place … again, it took most of the day and I didn’t see everything. Feet aching, longing for a hot bath and camera batteries depleted again, I gave up for the day.