A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Did you guys make it along to Scheltema yesterday to spend some time at the ISN Cultural Festival? It was loads of fun! The sun was shining and everyone I met on the way to the event wore flip flops and shorts. There was holiday feeling in the air, and this continued through the balloon covered entrance and into the venue.
Having paid my (very cheap) entrance fee of €3, I got a wristband so that I could pop in and out throughout the day, and hurried inside to see what was on offer. One of my biggest motivations for going was to check out food and drink from around the world, and I have to admit to skipping lunch in order to taste as much as possible!
And I wasn’t disappointed, as soon as I entered I came upon the stalls for China and South Korea, where baskets of dumplings were steaming. Next I moved on to Romania’s stall, where I was given a plate full of savoury and sweet samples and a stunningly delicious shot of blueberry liquor. Downstairs in the main hall throughout the day were performances of all kinds from almost all of the participating countries. I caught bits and pieces of dancing, singing, traditional music, theatre and student bands. Everything was lively and energetic, and it was a lot of fun to have something to watch all through the day.
Upstairs, more stalls were lined up, and I got to try snacks and drinks from Spain, Italy, Greece and even the UK! I can’t tell you how lovely it was to have a mini scone, complete with jam and clotted cream. And with a glass of Pimms to wash it down, it was the true taste of British summertime. However, I failed quite badly at a game where we had to try placing iconic UK landmarks on a map…
Back downstairs, and there were more stalls leading through what is usually the restaurant part of Scheltema. Here Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon were serving excellent food, and Turkey had set up spaces for artwork which I thought was a really great idea. Outside were a host of stalls, including the Netherlands (lots of cheese and potatoes), the US (mac and cheese and beer pong) and Mexico (colourful flags, salsa and drinks). We were so lucky with the weather this year, and this outside bit became quite crowded, as revellers sat in the sun and took some time out from the activities inside.
Some more highlights includes waiting in a queue for what seemed like half an hour for a cocktail from the Brazilian stall (it was definitely worth the wait!), getting a big pile of food from the Greece stall, and watching children whacking a piñata outside in the sun. Each stall had lots of interesting information about the different countries, so I ended up learning something new at each table. I think the choice of venue was a really good one, because it provided such an interesting space the different activities, and meant that the event could seamlessly transition from a daytime family occasion into an evening party.
If you’re in Leiden next year, why not get involved with your country’s team? That way, you get to experience the party from the inside, and everyone I spoke to really enjoyed representing their home nation. On the other hand, just being a paying visitor, being free to take my time and walk around all day, was an awesome way to spend a sunny Saturday.