A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Ahh, autumn! Crunchy leaves under foot, grey, moody skies above. The wind has a sharpness to it, and brings a crisp smell that warns that winter is not too far away. The autumn colours have turned the leaves from vivid green to smoky oranges and reds. I’d forgotten about the smell that comes with fallen leaves as they decay on the ground: a particular smell that reminds me of searching for spiky conker shells amongst the yellow leaves.
I have to admit that I haven’t been enjoying the weather so far. Cold and stormy days, heavy rain, and even an early onslaught of hail has often made walking to and from the library an arduous journey. And yet, autumn in Leiden has many things to look forward to. For one, it is almost Halloween. I’m looking forward to planning a costume and joining one of the parties in town. I’ve also seen some pumpkins for sale at the market, and I’m keen to give pumpkin carving a go this year. My attempts from two years ago were pretty basic, but this time I’m determined to make something great (as long as my uni workload allows me enough time for a masterpiece…)
After Halloween, autumn brings bonfire night. I’ve missed this UK event since I moved here. No gigantic bonfires, with or without the Guy on top, toasting to a crisp. A most grisly end indeed. No fireworks display lightening up the cloudy night skies, and no sparklers either. But, one thing that cannot be claimed of the Netherlands is a lack of fireworks, it’s just that they happen in an exuberant frenzy on New year’s eve rather than earlier in the year. Be prepared for a level of firework activity that borders on the dangerous, as fireworks are let off in every street, on every rooftop, and outside every front door. That’s something I’m really looking forward to as winter approaches.
Finally, autumn means comfort food, especially involving apples and spices. I bought a large amount of apples and the last of the summer peaches at the market on Saturday, and stewed them with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger until they made a stodgy jam that I’m going to eat with hot porridge over the next week. Autumn welcomes the return of erwtensoep, the Dutch pea soup. This thick, green goo is not to everyone’s taste, but I love it. I love it with sausages in it, or with rye bread on the side. I’ve never tried making it, so maybe that is something to do as the nights close in.