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29 January 2012 / M

Photo Sunday: Leidens Ontzet 2011

Leidens Ontzet, aka 3 October, is Leiden’s big, annual city festival. It is to celebrate the end of a seige of the city by the Spanish in 1574 and is commemorated in a number of ways. It is rich with traditions: parades, reenactments, a hutspot meal, and, the top of them all, the handing out of haring en wittebrood (herring and white bread). Hutspot is served because some that was found abandoned in a kettle outside of Leiden was a sign that the seige was over, and the herring and bread was what was fed to the starving citizens who had been holed up within the city walls.

This was definitely the most I’ve experienced the festival since living in Leiden, due to living in the center now. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I got was a 4-day onslaught of drunken crowds, music, and general madness. Those things may apply to most 3 October celebrations, but I think it was all a bit ramped up this year. One thing was the timing. The 3rd was on a Monday, so most bars decided to get things started on Friday. The bar across the street from us was no exception and never seemed to close for those 4 days. Every night music was blasting till 5 or 6 in the morning. Our view was blocked by a temporary cover they put up spanning the street. When we came home, we had to squeeze past patrons of the bar who greeted us with helpful statements like “you live here? Hope you’ll be able to sleep tonight!” After a couple of evenings of putting up with the pounding music from across the street, we fled to Amsterdam for a day to get some peace and quiet.

Then there was the coinicidence of the weather. After the worst summer in decades, the sun decided to show itself all that weekend. Instead of the miserable, gray, wet fall weather that always seemed to be the curse of 3 October celebrations in the years I’ve lived here so far, this year we were treated to a taste of the summer we didn’t have. Everyone was out in t-shirts and shorts and skirts. People weren’t driven indoors by the rain. The party atmosphere only increased.

It was an… interesting time. Perhaps things will be a bit less insane this year, but we might want to look into a weekend away this time.

Photos below and more on Flickr.

The street view of the temporary coverHow my street looked for about a week with the wood and tarp creating a cover for the cafe.


SpyingSpying on people hanging out at the cafe.


Stage down the streetStage not far from my house. Pretty much every bar in town had an outdoor bar and/or a stage. Walking from my house towards the Burcht (3 small blocks), I passed at least 4 temporary bars set up and 2 stages.


Gezellige canalside lunchEspecially with the great weather, there was also a great civic feeling. Little scenes like this made me smile.


Urban knitting - railingA woman in Leiden is into the urban knitting trend and so covered a lot of this bridge in colorful knit pieces.


HutspotmaaltijdThe crowds at the hutspot meal. You have to sign up a few weeks in advance. The line to get your serving (it can be seen in the background) went on for ages.


Kermis - ferris wheel and spiderThere is also always a kermis (carnival) during 3 October which clogs up the whole area near the station. It made getting to and from work fun on Friday and Monday. B and I went on the ferris wheel one night. I spotted the guys in the next car snorting cocaine. Classy!


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