A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

A windmill revolution


Molen de Put, we’ve all been there.

Leideners, like many citizens of the world today, will no doubt be suffering from a collective food coma of epic proportions. If I’m anywhere near the mark, having been filled with turkey, stuffing, gravy and all sorts of other amazing things (which I can assure you, mother, did include vegetables before chocolate…just), I think we’re part of the global village of guilt today, where we can all safely say “I ate too much”. If not, we can join the latest internet craze of shaming ourselves or our friends by taking pictures of the guilty individual holding placards saying the same thing. Whatever our preferred method of owning up to it, or not, we’re all in this together as one big, fat, egg-like blob on our couch on a public holiday… you are what you eat. We should nevertheless take stock at this time of coming together with food, and instead of making more gravy, do something creative for the year. Easter is a time of growing and rebirth; it’s a time to celebrate Spring, flowers, and rabbits. That’s why we paint eggs and hang buns from the ceiling durr. Those of us inclined to the Bible need no further explanation either, Jesus came back to life at Easter, shortly after he died! But that may be nothing compared to the best reincarnation news I’ve heard all week…


city hall sources: “best. idea. ever.”

This year, Leiden has gone one step further in bringing rebirth into Easter, which is so awesome and so Dutch that I couldn’t wait another day to let The Leidener have it. That’s right guys, my favourite group of local government officials, the Leidse Gemeente (City Hall) has opened tenders for a number of engineering firms (Dutch and international) to safely rebuild the city’s renowned bevy of 17th Century windmills. Say whaaat?! Heelzyeeh.

As you probably already know, but may have been stated in Robyn’s post about Museum De Valk which I haven’t bothered to re-read (sorry Robyn), Leiden was known to have had 19 fully-operating pump windmills in the 1600s. The way they worked was to pump the water around the canals so that if the water rose because of a storm, or an invasion, or people ate too much at easter, they would regulate the flow of the Rijn and the Mare (the confluence around which Leiden’s prettiness rests), and make sure we didn’t drown in our guilt, or water. The windmills appear in Rembrandt paintings from when he was born here (yeah he started early) and naturally have become ‘ghost landmarks’ of the city in modern times. They were removed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries because they had become obsolete, and kept falling on people. But in typical Dutch fashion, there is no point in having a ghost landmark when you can have a real operating landmark, and with tourism levelling out I guess the gemeente have decided it’s high time to reboost the city’s fortunes and get more people down to the market on Saturday.


the graphics software employed will be far better than this

How good is this for international students though? Within two or three years you’ll get to pack your bags for Holland, where you’ll be not only hanging out with the coolest kids on the planet at Leiden Uni, you’ll also be hanging out with the whirring buzz of 19 windmills creaking and cracking around the city. As nice as Leiden is in the spring and summer which never seem to arrive, the amount (one to two) of photo opportunities that you’ll have from De Burcht (the man-made hill in the middle of town) will be at least tripled with the sight of so many amazing spinning buildings to choose from. Maybe there’s even some form of Engineering or Architecture students group here at Leiden who can get in on this too? I can imagine not all the tenders will go to the same company, so why not get one branded with Leiden University logos? I’d pay to see that. Regardless of who wins the tenders, I’m sure they’ll all be colourful and safe to walk a dog near, and probably generate electricity and therefore have something nice to do with saving the environment.


Rembrandt could haz. We kan haz too!

So if you didn’t have reason enough to come to Leiden already, I suggest you start seriously thinking about it, as a tourist, as a student or as a lover of all things Engineering. Whatever bizarre motives you may have for being as excited as I am about the new windmills, in the meantime, you can check out the two which we have here already, or even just take a nice springtime ride out to the beautiful countryside, through the budding tulips, to find one or more of the extant old spin doctors carrying on as they have for time immemorial. The winds of change are finally blowing, and the reunion of Leiden with her long lost servants is set to be the talk of the nation in the coming weeks, so get behind the project and get excited, the revolutions are coming…

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