A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It is now just over a week since the infamous 3rd of October Leiden Ontzet (or the ‘Siege of Leiden’ – wikipedia it) and I’m just about starting to get over my hangover. For those of a studious nature, it gives you two days off university to stay at home, catch up on reading, rearrange your collection of teas and whatever else you studious people like to do. What wikipedia mightn’t tell you, however, is that for the less diligent amongst us, it gives you two days to get horribly drunk, fist-pump your way round Leiden and, in my case, book spontaneous flights to Barcelona…
Now, if you have any sense, Leiden Ontzet can be much less of a financial commitment than it was for me. For two days, the city turns into one massive funfair with rides in the Beestenmarkt, open-air concerts on the Nieuwe Rijn and food stands lining thoroughfares in between. Like the Koning(s/inne – delete as appropriate)dag, the party starts the night before on the 2nd with the traditional cobbling together of the so-called ‘Hutspot’. This bangers-and-mash-style creation is typically hearty Dutch fare and consists of mashed potatoes, carrots and a few other bits with a large sausage sitting gracelessly on the top. For the foodies amongst you, I hereby include a neither tried nor tested recipe: http://www.hutspotrecept.nl/hollandse-hutspot/. I can, however, recommend the much less traditional, but infinitely more creative, beetroot ‘stampot’ recipe that I made with my housemates to take to a hutspot tasting competition. We may not have won, but we should have done.
250g smoked lardons
500g roasted beetroot
Cook everything and mix it together. Simples!
So. After a more intimate dinner with friends or family, most people start to spill out onto the streets to meander through Leiden with a drink in hand, nosying at the market stalls and enjoying the party atmosphere. A stage had been erected over the Nieuwe Rijn just in front of the Koornbrug, and this area thus became a focal point of the festivities with DJ sets and revellers on both banks. This is when the real party starts with Nieuwe Rijn favourites such as Einsteins and Meneer Jansen throwing their doors open till late and Heineken stands keeping locals suitably fuelled for about €2.50. Also, chips/fries/patat are mandatory so don’t try making any excuses regarding how much hutspot you ate.
For most, Thursday is very much like the day before it, although the eating and drinking starts around the slightly laddy time of about midday rather than the more gentlemanly time of early evening. Expect more parties, more chips, more conversations with tipsy middle-aged Leideners, more collective waving of hands in the air, more stroopwafel pit-stops and even more fun than the previous day. I ended up in Einsteins until the early hours and although I wouldn’t be able to recount 100% of the evening’s details, I can vouch for the fact that it was an awesome night (and day) out.
So awesome, in fact, that my friend and I decided that we (in the words of Amy Winehouse – Never Mind the Buzzcocks, series 19, episode 4) “never wannit to end”. Cue flights from Schiphol to Barcelona booked six hours before departure. Was I in full control of my senses? No. Was it a clever idea? No. Do I regret it? Definitely not. Who wouldn’t want to swap this…
Even if only for a couple of days.
Three more days of partying later however, and my liver was longing for me to get back to the library. The plane-ride back to the Netherlands was not as successful as my efforts to down multiple tequila shots whilst standing on one leg had been the night before. The book on international relations theory that I had optimistically shoved in my holdall whilst ‘packing’ (read, throwing various things that may or may not belong to me into a bag) spent the flight stuffed into the pocket of the seat in front of me and I spent our 2.5 hour flight-time writhing in misery, flicking endlessly through the onboard magazine. It took me a good half-hour to realise that the magazine was in fact in Dutch. And upside down. International relations theory may have passed me by during my long weekend in Spain, however I was determined to learn something other than the fact that the Sagrada Familia closes at 6pm.
“Sorry to bother you, but what does ‘hoteldebotel’ mean?” I said the guy next to me, pointing at the vacuous interview with a Dutch TV presenter that had been confusing me for the past five minutes.
“Um, it’s like when you’re really in love, like, straight away. Here the interviewer is asking her if she’s ever had a holiday romance.”
“Ah cool, thanks! And, has she?”
“Um” *scans article quickly* “No. And you? Did you fall head over heels in Barcelona?”
“Kind of, but neither love, nor lust, were involved. A large quantity of beer and a total lack of eye-foot co-ordination did, however, play a large role…”