A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Who does not know the cliché of falling in love on Erasmus? Finding someone you can spend all your time with, a daily fellow. It could be just perfect, if only time were not limited. Friends warn you: don’t get too attached, don’t invest too much in it, you will have to leave in the end, and it will hurt even more then.
This is the story of me and Piet. But I will have to warn you, this story will have a sad end. With me and Piet it was different. It was not love at first sight. It just happened we started seeing each other. We got introduced by my friend Marta, she had been going out with him before me, in the first semester, but she had to go back to Italy and didn’t want to leave him without anyone, so she called me, since she knew that I had just been through a break-up and could need some cheering up. I actually did not fancy Piet at all in the beginning. But I felt so sorry for this poor boy, wheel-broken, pale, even his sad eyes weren’t shiny anymore. So I decided to give him a chance, which I’ve never regretted.
When people in Leiden talk about falling in love, they are not only talking about a human being but most of the time about this lovely, trustworthy creature on two wheels: the bike, or “fiets” how the Dutch call it. They would tell stories about the painful experience of leaving their daily companion at the end of the semester; some would even toy with the idea of taking them home.
Not having a bike in Leiden is almost impossible. It excludes you from nearly every social event. Likewise, walking in Leiden is regarded to be a waste of time. And our time abroad is limited. We don’t have time to waste! Furthermore, a bike is very handy to transport things, such as monster courgettes and mattresses.
Have you found a perfect bike yet? If not, Leiden offers plenty of possibilities to find your perfect bike-friend. The various second hand shops around Leiden are a good place where bikes and humans can get to know each other. Besides that, I would recommend to first check the various Facebook groups such as Leiden Housing ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/239427083843/?fref=ts) , ISN official (https://www.facebook.com/ISNLeiden?fref=ts) or Leiden expats (https://www.facebook.com/groups/5374052789/?fref=ts) or the Dutch homepage Marktplaats (http://www.marktplaats.nl/).
The prices for bikes can differ immensely through the seasons. Leiden’s bike trade mirrors the law of supply and demand. However, I would not pay more than 80 euros for a second hand bike. Especially around February and July all students who have to leave their beloved bicycles are desperately looking for someone who will take care of them. These months are often the best times to find a new bike.
But let’s come back to Piet. He was my second bike-friend in Leiden. My first one got stolen during the night, which happens very often in Leiden when you don’t have a proper lock.
I didn’t listen to the advice of my friends and the repairman, who said this bike would not even be worth the valve for the wheel. I did not care. Sometimes, I told myself, you have to have faith. I just knew Piet would be the right one for me, even though he was not perfect. I got his wheel and brakes fixed and painted him in a new colour. The rest of the semester, he was always there for me. I was sure he would never leave me. And he actually did not in the end. But I did. I had to go back over the summer and gave him to a friend to take care of him. It seems as if these guys just had too much fun together. One month after I left, I received the sad message: Piet died on the 15th of June.
It’s been exactly one year ago now that Piet and I got introduced to each other. Thinking of him still hurts deep inside. I do not blame my friend though. Piet was old, fragile and on his last wheel anyway. He just let him feel young and energetic again and gave him his last honour. I think Piet had a great last summer. At least they look pretty happy together, don’t they?
Though I love my new bike Petra, she will never be able to replace my first bike-love. Therefore, I am entreating you to listen to my advice, choose your bike carefully and take care of it!
Oh Piet. I miss you so much. You were the bike of my life. I will always love you. RIP.