After a day of getting it clear what we wanted to visit in the area and sorting where the local shops and amenities were in Rijnsburg our first full exploration day was to the nearby town of Leiden.
We discovered that driving and walking in Holland towns is extremely interesting. Firstly roads have to navigate around canals which often crisscross a town. Secondly streets can be narrow and the Holland car drivers believe they own the road and are very inpatient. Thirdly, it’s not only cars you have to take account of, but also bicycles who also seem to think they own the road, can come from any direction and are silent. You need eyes 360° vision!
We found a car park just off the centre and just by the Falcon Windmill Museum which we decided to visit. The Falcon or “De Valk” is a tower mill dating from 1743. The windmill had seven floors which are accessed by steep ladder stairs. Each floor was open to the public and for Heather climbing the ladder stairs was something of a challenge as ladders of any sort are never her favourite particularly coming down!
The mill housed not only a very informative history of the windmills of Holland but contained the original milling equipment located on the top three floors. When the mill was working, grain was hoisted up to the very top floor, then poured between the paired millstones on the level below. Flour was collected on the next floor down, known as the meal attic. The miller certainly must have been fit to not only climb the stairs but also to undertake the entire heavy manual work.
From the windmill we then wandered into the main centre of Leiden along the canals that bisect the city trying not to get run over by the many bikes. Looking at some of the old mansions along the canals we thought our eyes were deceiving us as many of the buildings were leaning decidedly off vertical!
One of our main stops in our walk was at the Pieterskerk located in one of the narrow and very pleasant streets of Leiden. This now deconsecrated church has an important place in history. In 1609 a group of English religious refugees arrived in Leiden in the hope to pursue their religious ideals without persecution. They became known as the Pilgrims and about 300 lived in the Leiden area. Their main leader was John Robinson. In 1620 one hundred of the pilgrims left Leiden and sailed via Plymouth to the New World: America: - The Pilgrim Fathers. John Robinson never made it to America and is buried in the church.
We continued our walk around the town enjoying the old buildings and the canals. We were also amazed by the number of bikes parked around the town and the bike traffic jams at times!
An interesting first sample of the Netherlands.