The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2015, Part I, A Leiden Portfolio
Updated March, 2015

Moored in the Zijlsingel

I really didn't know what to call this installment. In past years we have left home in late fall and returned in the spring, so using the fall date seemed somehow logical, perhaps especially because I lived for some time according to the academic year. But now that we are away all the time that makes less sense, and I finally decided to switch to the calendar year, so this is the start of Cruise 2015 (The last episode of "Cruise 2014"came out in 2015 too, who said consistency is either good or necessary?).
Sunset Behind the Meelfabriek

Our berth in Leiden is at 5208'N, while Chebeague is at 4330' and change. This means that we are about 500 Nautical Miles north of Chebeague, which is far enough north to make a big difference in the light. Around the winter solstice, the daylight goes down to 7-1/2 hours, but the worst time is in late December to early January, when the sun keeps appearing later and later, hardly rising before 9:00. The sunset is also getting later, of course, and faster, so the days really are longer, but that is not very noticeable.
The Clerk's Bridge Opening for a Tug


February Morning

The gulls here are subtly different from ours, but similar in their raucous and aggressive nature. Sometimes one of them will do a little dance on the strip of grass between us and the street. Pat-pat-pat go the feet in a fast tattoo, and then the bird looks at the ground, sometimes picking something up. We think that perhaps they are trying to attract worms or some kind of bugs to the surface for dinner.
The Weeshuis - the Old Orphanage

One day as I rode along the New Rhine I saw the Christmas skating rink being dismantled. It was supported, it turns out, by a large number of relatively small barges, locked together into a pretty solid whole. As one worker hosed the decks off, and another opened the locks that held the barges together, a truck-mounted crane picked each one up and stacked it on a huge trailer. It was not long before the whole rig was moving down the quay, scattering bicyclists ahead of it, on its way back to the barge-rental company.

We have noted before that much of the history of Leiden is preserved in its buildings, and there is around the university a Doelensteg and a Doelengracht; My Leiden history book (more about this later) tells me that the Doelen in question were ranges where the militiamen, archers and crossbowmen, could practice. I went one day to see whether anything was left of these, but they have left no traces, replaced by an undistinguished apartment complex and a truly awful university building.


The Orphanage Courtyard

The days are getting sensibly longer now. Barbara now comes home in daylight, where it used to be dark when the library closed at 5:00.

February 16th was the first day the sun was far enough north that the setting sun no longer hid behind the great bulk of the Meelfabriek, the enormous flour mill next to our berth.


The Christmas Skating Rink Bring Disassembled


Where the Vliet (Canal) Used to Flow Under Houses

The winter of 1586 had been cold, but by mid-March, when young Hendrik ("Henkje") left his father's smithy on the Marendorp- straat, the ice was melting and water dripped from all the eaves. Carrying a repaired cooking gridiron, he slipped out the back way, through the lumber-yard and turned left on the Rhine- quay, past the shipyards, where he was well known. He liked these trips across the Rhine to the fancier part of town, and felt proud to be entrusted with the delivery. He crossed by the Vrouwen- brug and lingered for a bit to watch bales of goods being unloaded by the town crane from a ship and trundled
The Jean Pesijn Hofje

into the weigh-house. The crane was in truth a little bit out of his way, but he loved to watch the unloading and dream of far-away ports.

Reluctantly, he turned and walked uphill through the Basket-makers' Alley to the pub on the corner of Broad Streeet, where he delivered his load. He always felt a little out of place in this part of town, but he liked seeing the rich merchants in their fancy clothes and their carriages with their shining horses.


The Jan Michel Hofje

A story could begin like that; what a pity I don't know how it goes on.

Leiden was developed in stages, with the earliest (medieval) settlement being south of the Rhine. The river curves here to the southeast, and a small moat (today's Rapenburg) was dug to the south and east, enclosing a foobtall-shaped oval. The Breestraat still runs parallel to the Rhine, and on old maps it is shown as the Breedestraat, or Broad Street.

The new merchant class lived along both sides of this street, on the high ground. To the southwest, the remaining space in the oval was divided between the Count of Holland (who maintained a seat in Leiden) and the church authorities, the Teutonic Order, who were assigned to staff the new St. Peter's Church.

Apart from the Count's own homestead and orchard, his section was largely filled by military installations, and in 1574 the University was founded in this area, originally in what had been a convent before the Reformation. In the manner of major universities everywhere, Leiden University has spread out and taken over buildings all over the area, many of them originally housing other kinds of institution (the Count's prison, an arsenal, the the aforementioned shooting ranges, among others).

Of the original military presence, there remains only the lovely gate on the Doelengracht, with St. George (patron saint of crossbowmen) slaying his dragon on the pediment and military items in relief on both sides.


The Narrow "School-Alley"

My knowledge of the history comes from a book (of course): Leiden Binnen en Buiten de Stadsvesten, a two-volume history of Leiden from the urban planning point of view, covering the period from the earliest settlements to the end of the 17th century, by H.A. van Oerle. Volume One is the descriptive history, while Volume Two is an atlas, with very detailed maps. I saw the book in a used-book store and just had to buy it, though it was expensive.
The "Modern" Public Works Buiding

Henkje is imaginary, of course, but his family smithy, the shipyards, the crane, and the pub where he delivered the ironwork are as described. He lived on what is now the Haarlemmer- straat, and although the crane is gone, the weigh- house (actually its 17th- century replacement) is still there.

The experience of a city so full of old buildings, and so conscious of its history, is greatly enhanced by knowing something of how it got to be that way, or at least I think it is.


The Alley Leading to the Local Teutonic Order Headquarters


The Herensteeg Leading to the Pieterskerk

One day in January, as I was working, there came a knock on the door; the knocker turned out to be a young (for us) woman named Hanneke, who said that she often passed us on her way to visit clients (she is a visiting nurse), and thought it was special that two people had crossed the Atlantic in a boat to live in Leiden for a time.

She invited us to her house for dinner; we (particularly Barbara) were already so scheduled that it was a little tricky to find a date, but we succeeded and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Hanneke's husband Wilbert is an engineer and an avid sailor, so we had many interests in common. One of their twin sons was away as an exchange student in an American high school, and because they then had an empty bedroom they had invited a Japanese exchange high-school student to stay with them.

Leiden was not developed beyond its 17th-century borders until the 20th century, and Wilbert's grandfather bought their house when it was new, in the mid-30s. It is a beautiful house, 3-story, with a little garden in the back, and doubtless unaffordable nowdays.


Back Corner of the Count of Holland's Prison


The Hogelandskerk From the Castle


Two Towers: the Hartebrugkerk and the Marekerk


Looking Down into Backyards From the Castle

Although the Gulf Stream is perhaps not everything it once was, it is still doing its job, and this has not been a cold winter for us. On Groundhog Day we still had half our wood and more than half our coal. But there was one morning that window- pane ice made all the way across the canal. By the end of the day it was gone, but it was a little comical to see the gulls standing around with cold feet. Our coots could not figure out how to get to us around the ice; they would have to go away from us first to get around a "point" in the ice sheet, and this was beyond them
Meelfabriek With Swans and a Little Ice

The canal swans are not often in our neighborhood; they tend to stay in the more confined waters. Perhaps more people feed them there. One pair did hang around us for a while, though, and we were a little surprised to see them grazing on the moss on the canal-sides.
Swan Grazing on Moss

On Epiphany we put away the Christmas decorations, as one should, and on the following Saturday we had a proper Twelfth-Night party. Barbara made a king cake and I made a big bowl of eggnog. The Dutch like to sit, rather than stand, at parties, and I was quite surprised at the number of people who managed to jam themselves around our small dining table. I have always figured that at parties one should have some freedom of movement, so as to talk to different people, but . . .
The Oranjegracht


A Doorway on the New Rhine

In Leiden, if a contractor is working on a canal-side house, he will often have a barge in the canal in front of it, where he can stack materials or demolition debris. These are usually pushed around by open-cockpit tugboats so small that they look almost like toys.

"Push" is duwen in Dutch (one sees it on doors, for example), and a push-tug is called a duwboot. One day, in one of those blinding glimpses of the obvious that occasionally come along, this answered a question that has been in the back of my mind for many years.


The Sterrewacht - The University Observatory

Freight is moved on the U.S. rivers by huge rafts of barges tied together and pushed by a very powerful boat, always called a "towboat," although quite different from ordinary harbor or sea-going tugboats.

I could never figure out why such a boat, which never "tows" anything, should be called a towboat, but suddenly it came to me. "Towboat" is not so far from duwboot, and is one more maritime word borrowed from the Dutch, like "tide."


Old Brick


The Oostenrijck Tower: The last Remaining Bit of the City Wall

Our mooring place in the Singel is in one of the first areas developed outside the original city walls.

In the mid- to late-19th century, industries began to develop in Leiden, and with them an increase in population. The space inside the old city walls began to be quite crowded, and at some point it occurred to the city fathers that their walls were not really very useful for defense any longer, so they were demolished.


Oostenrijck Tower from Inside the Walls

The first result was that slums grew up in the space vacated by the walls, but in the early 20th century various associations ("non-profits," in our terms) were formed to improve the workers' housing situation. One of these, Eensgezind- heid, or "Harmony," a protestant association, was particularly active in our area. They built planned neighborhoods, with apartments and local stores.
The City Emblem on One of the Oldest Bridges


The Tower of the Hartebrugkerk

Most of these houses are still in use, and later develop- ments have followed the same outlines, with similar houses and narrow strreets that are challenging to modern car owners, let alone moving vans and trash-collection trucks.

Many of the old houses are now owned by a huge corporation, Portaal, and many of its tenants would say it is not so benign as its predecessors.


Our Road Home From the City Center: the Oude Rijn

I don't know quite when or how it happened, but this neighborhood is called the Zeeheldenbuurt, the "Sea-Heroes Neighborhood." Many of the streets are names after famous admirals, mainly from the 17th century (De Ruijter, Tasman, Tromp. Evertsen, etc).

One of the main streets, however, is Munnikenstraat, the "Monks' Street," because the earliest building outside the walls in this part of town was a monastery of the Minor Friars.


Early 20th-Century Workers' Housing

It has been argued that 17th century admirals were really just pirates with an official license, and on one of the walls, part of a neighbor- hood beautification project, is the text of the Kaperliedje, the "Pirates' Song," on a nautical stretched canvas and illustrated by local children. This echo of the Leiden Wall Poems is a children's song that says in part: "Anyone who wants to be a pirate must have a beard;" beards are still quite rare here.
The "Pirate Song" in the Zeeheldenbuurt


A Barrel-Organ, Common in Utrecht, but Not in Leiden

Our life in Leiden continues full and happy. Barbara works most days at the library of the Netherlands Institute for the Near East, and I alternate working on the boat with wandering the streets, enjoying the many corners of the city. Friends visit us and we visit friends; there is probably less incidental contact here than at home, so we tend to have more planned occasions.
Back View of the Organ


Ornate "Stepped Gable" on the Galgewater

One happy evening there was a "pub quiz" at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, the National Museum of Antiquities, and we formed a team with the librarian from Barbara's Institute. The subject was ancient Egypt, about which we know nothing (but the librarian, Odile, knew quite a bit), and we did not do very well, but we had a good time.
Electric (Rental) Car and Charging Station


The Park Replacing the City Walls


Elephant for Sale on the Kaasmarkt


Fancy Houses on the Singel


The Stille Rijn Looking Toward the Center



Cruise 2015, Part II

Cruise 2014
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII

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