Category Archives: leiden

Beer is Cheaper Than Water

water and beerNaj of The Take suggested I use my record company refund to purchase the liquid essence of life: beer. In fact he may be on to something. In the Netherlands you can actually buy flavorful domestic bears like Heineken, Amstel, and Grolsch for less than the price of a bottle of water. Pictured here are the actual items and price paid at my local supermarket. I’ll grant that you do get a little more water than beer, and that the beer required a small deposit for the bottle. Still, this shopping experience brings the old fraternity maxim: “Conserve Water, Drink Beer” one step closer to actually making sense. On the other hand, “Donate Blood – Play Rugby” still has no practical application.

Maastricht Carnival

I went down to Maastricht this weekend for the Carnival festivities. Maastricht is situated in the very south of The Netherlands, right in between Belgium and Germany. It was therefore a very international affair with lots of um-pa music in languages that I couldn’t understand.
There were plenty of colorful costumes, and unlike any celebration in the US, beer was generally available in glasses outdoors. I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras or any other Carnival celebration, so I can’t make any comparisons. I can, however, offer a few pictures:
Sunday’s crowd on the main square:
Maastricht Carnaval Crowd
One of the large ship-shaped parade floats:
Maastricht Carnaval Float
Bar worker rounding up glasses from the street:
Maastricht Carnaval Beer

Super Bowl: Dutch Style

I’m not a sports fan, so if I watch a portion of the Super Bowl it’s purely to absorb the cultural aspect of the event. I will admit that I do enjoy chips, salsa, and beer, and the combination of those is usually enough to get me over to someone’s house on game day.
I didn’t make any plans to watch this year’s Super Bowl, which was began at around 1am in The Netherlands. However, as I was finishing up a paper, I discovered to my astonishment that the game was actually on TV. There were Dutch announcers and slightly less extravagant graphics, but there was one remarkable difference: no commercials.
To many, including myself, the Super Bowl is as much a showcase of marketing as a sporting event. Everyone knows that the commercials are the most expensive television ads of the year, due to the extremely large viewing audience. If you didn’t know that (maybe if you’re from another country, say The Netherlands), all you’d have to do is watch the game on Dutch TV. Instead of showing you the ads, they show statistics about how much the ads cost and how high various Super Bowls have been rated. They also show replays of various game moments to fill the down time. I didn’t expect to see U.S. based ads on a Dutch station in any event, but I’m surprised they didn’t even show the normal ads for dish-soap, chocolate milk, and Norwegian vacations. At least I think those are the products being advertised in the commercials I usually see.

Delft Trip

I’ve been at Leiden for over three weeks now, and the University finally decided it was time to have orientation over the last two days. The only notable event was yesterday’s trip to the historic city of Deflt.
Delft is situated between The Hague and Rotterdam. I think it’s very close Leiden, but we traveled by bus which took ages to get to the freeway. The streets here are not designed for giant buses.
Delft is famous for its blue and white ceramics, which is known as “Delftware”. We were treated to a tour of a ceramic factory where clay is poured into molds, fired, hand painted, glazed, and fired again. It really didn’t seem all that complicated. As you might expect, the tour ended in the gift shop. I was astounded by the price of the “seconds” they were offering. A 12″ painted plate sold (or was at least offered for sale) for upwards of $2,000. Personally, I can do without any blue and white ceramics in my apartment – although the museum toilets, which featured ornate blue paintings in the toilet bowls, would enhance any dwelling.
Clay goes into these molds:
deflt molds
The resulting pots are fired…
deflt pots
And painted:
deflt painter

Amsterdam, City of Sin

I finally got bored enough to get myself to another Dutch city yesterday: Amsterdam. It’s only about 30 minutes from Leiden on a comfortably smooth train. I really need to get out more.
I spent a while in the Rijksmuseum. Last time I was in Amsterdam I had been traveling for a long time and going to a lot of museums. It’s funny that people always go to museums when they visit a city despite rarely going to museums at home. I can say though that I’ve been to most of the big museums in Boston, so I guess I’m not really helping my argument much…
Amsterdam really is the city of sin. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, which generally has that title – perhaps because Vegas doesn’t have the redeeming cultural assets of Amsterdam, but make no mistake about Amsterdam, here is my first conversation in the city:
(Scene: In front of the train station around 2pm)
Some Guy: “Do you speak English?
Me: “Well, yes.” (And I’m really good at it too – probably because it’s all I know.)
Some Guy: “Um, Red Light District? Do you know where it is?”
Me: “No. I think it’s that way…”
It seemed kinda early (both in the day and in this person’s trip) to be looking for the red light district, but I guess that’s what the people want to see.

Dutch TV

I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately. It’s the first time I’ve had cable in about four years. I even have a movie channel called “canal+” which is like HBO. Most of the shows are the same as in the US: Law and Order, Will & Grace, etc. There are also some Dutch versions of popular shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The prize is a little bigger than in the US due to the exchange rate. Idol (the same as American Idol, but not American) has four judges instead of three. Otherwise it’s exactly the same as the US version (equally as boring).
Most of the programs are in English with Dutch subtitles. The commercials are in Dutch, which I can’t understand. It’s pretty funny not being able to understand though. MTV has a promo for Snoop Dogg’s show: “blah blah blah blah Doggie Televizille fo’ Sizzle blah blah blah.”
Another interesting phenomenon is that one can legally smoke marijuana in a coffee shop here, yet isn’t allowed to hear the f-word in a rap music video. This is probably a practical issue (broadcasting beyond the Netherlands – making just one edit of the video), but it is a funny display of priorities.

All Rain

In light of the fact that it’s been in the single digits in Boston lately, I really shouldn’t complain… but in light of the fact that there has been no light in Leiden since my arrival:

Rotterdam Club Scene

I had my first taste of Dutch nightlife this weekend – an expedition to a club in Rotterdam. The place had a little more style than a bad Boston club, but was otherwise the same as what you’d get in the US. Lots of cheesy 80’s and 90’s, including the infamous “Push It”. No matter where I am in the world, I can’t seem have a night out without hearing that song.