Leiden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    Leiden is a small city in the Netherlands. It is also known as the Venice of Holland since it is interlaced by canals and a river. We went there for a rather rainy week-end and had already decided that we’d visit both the city of Leiden and the famous Kuikenhofen, whose name I apparently can not pronounce correctly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At least this is what I concluded from my dutch friend desperately trying (and failing) to keep a straight face whenever I pronounce it.
Saturday morning, after a nice breakfast, we set out to Kuikenhofen, a huge garden planted mostly with tulips. Luckily we didn’t even need to pronounce the name of the place correctly, since the bus is easily recognized by the huge tulips printed all over the bus and has only one stop: The main entrance of Kuikenhofen.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were a bit late in the year for a visit and quite a few of the tulip fields had already been cut down. Even more remained in full blossom though. We strolled through the garden, doing our best to ignore the unstoppable rain  but not quite succeeding. My feet were soaked long before the day was over. The tulips were beautiful, the water droplets collecting on them made them even prettier. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABesides tulips there is not much to see at Kuikenhofen. It has a mandatory wind mill, some canals and a few huge halls were different creations with flowers displayed. Many of them flower arrangements with cut flowers. This kind of implies that these must be recreated every few days. Quite insane, really.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next day we visited the old town of Leiden. Leiden was an economically important city in the medieval ages, but declined after the 17th century. This led to very little changes being made in the city center after that. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday it is one of the best preserved medieval town centers in the Netherlands and indeed it is very enjoyable to stroll through the streets of Leiden, even if it is raining. The old houses, small streets and potted (or non-potted) plants everywhere make a very picturesque scenery, not to mention the canals. The most important historical buildings in Leiden are an old fortification from the 11th century, which is perfectly located to get a good look at the old Hooglandse Kerk and the lovely Stadhuis, the town hall.
But not just the buildings are nice in Leiden, there are also quite a few parks. The van der Werff park has a quite unique origin. Leiden used to be big in the trade of gun powder and this park was created in 1806, when, accidentally, a ship loaded with gun powder exploded and created a large empty space there. The explosion could supposedly be heard in Amsterdam some 40km away.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA