We sleep well and only get in the car at 11 o'clock. We leave from the Ibis hotel in Leiderdorp and the first destination is Leiden, so we are within a few minutes in the center although it takes some effort to find a good parking spot. Eventually we can visit one of the canals that Leiden has, like so many other, originally medieval, cities that flourished in Holland. However, they were often used as open sewers and therefore became sources of infectious diseases such as cholera and typhus.
Since the 15th century, more and more canals have been filled up (and because of the lack of space for parking wagons!) And there are only a fraction left of the original number. We are parked along the Rapenburg, which also houses the Academy Building of Leiden University and the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden (museum of antiquities), for which we actually came to Leiden.
Churches and beautiful monument buildings can also be found in Leiden. You can clearly see that this part of the Netherlands has had a rich past. The entire city center of Leiden is a protected city area. There are enough sources of information on Leiden's history and monuments on the internet, so we will not repeat that here.
The weather is better than the last few days although we still have to wear a thick coat. So first we walk to the city center where we see information signs on many of the monumental buildings. We wander around without a real goal, just look around.
It is crowded and we already meet quite a few foreign tourists. After a short coffee break we walk back to the Rapenburg to visit the museum. And to put some extra money in the parking meter, because you never know if they are here fast with fines and wheel clamps as they are in Amsterdam.
In the Museum for Antiquities we can store our coats in a locker and explore the museum on our own. A large part of the museum is dedicated to ancient Egypt, but there are also finds from the Netherlands, the Near East and the classical world. This is a statue that we find most beautiful, the official Maya and his wife Merit, who lived in the time of Tutankhamen. It was excavated in Sakkara, not far from Cairo, where the museum still makes excavations every year.
Due to the high-quality collection, the museum is very well known internationally even though it is relatively small. On this picture you can see how the roof of the old building has been removed and a roof has created an extra floor. Very interesting is the special exhibition about the life and death of the Egyptian priest Anchor around 600 BC. lived. The Egyptians were very busy with death, as a continuation of life here and thanks to that interest and the tombs and mummies that have been preserved, we know so much about their civilization. The exhibition will last until September 2006.
It takes a few hours to see everything in the museum and our feet are very tired when we are outside again. However, we strongly recommend a visit to anyone who is somewhat interested in Egypt or history in general, it is worthwhile. We avoid the main roads when we leave Leiden and think that we still have enough time to visit Gouda. We drive through the green land and are amazed at the large quantities of farmland that we see everywhere. As northerners we have the idea that the Randstad (the conglomeration of cities in the west of the Netherlands) is only full of cities and residential areas, and even though we know better, we are still surprised. Next time, we should also try to get these kinds of landscapes in the picture; we regularly see nice places and things but it is 'too' normal to stop for a while and take a picture. A bad habit that we will improve (we try, at least ...)
We can park the car right outside the center and walk past all kinds of beautiful and stately homes to the city center. It has become dry and even sunny which makes it much more pleasant to walk around outside.
Gouda also has canals, but not as many as the other cities we visited during the last days. Most of them have been filled in the 20th century. In the Middle Ages, Gouda grew into an important port city on the trade route between the south (France, Flanders) and the north (Holland and the Baltic Sea area).
When we arrive at the Marketsquare we notice first the beautiful gothic town hall, one of the oldest in this style in the Netherlands. Originally it was built around 1450 but of course the necessary additions were made later, such as a landing in Renaissance style (1603). There is a market on the Grote Markt and the people are lured out by the sun, even the terraces are almost full.
Gouda is of course most famous because of the Gouda cheese, but we find out that the cheese is not made here, but around Gouda. On the Markt is the Waag where the cheese was weighed and traded. The municipal authorities arranged strict quality control so that the cheese eventually became world-famous. In the summer there is still a cheese market every Thursday, just like the past centuries.
In a restaurant we drink a cup of coffee and give our feet finally the peace they deserve after the long walks today. After a last round of the Market we eat some fries on the platform of the town hall and then we decide we have seen enough. It takes some time to find the car again and then we take the first hour quiet roads that slowly bring us to the north. In the vicinity of Utrecht we are looking for the highway and then we are back home within 2 hours.All in all a short, but very nice trip that came very unexpectedly, actually because of Flyglobespan's invitation for a breakfast at Schiphol. It is a shame that it was so cold and we regularly got wet, but well, you have that chance in the Netherlands in March. And we finally have seen a bit more of the Netherlands, because we don't often come in this region of the Netherlands. And the prejudice that we had about the Randstad as just a very busy region of the Netherlands, we have fortunately also lost by these beautiful days! In a month we will continue our journey of discovery through the Netherlands, then we go a few days to North Brabant.