Thursday, August 25, 2011


During our first week in Leiden, back in the old days when I still got around on foot like a tourist, I noticed one morning that everybody passing over a particular bridge tended to stop in rapt attention, many of them with cell phones out to snap pictures.

My citywalking instincts would normally urge me to walk quickly by the thing of interest that probably isn't actually interesting. But I'm in a town now, so as a first step towards greeting the neighbors, high-fiving the milkman geniality, I figured I could at least slow down and give some credence to local curiosity.

Good thing I did.

As it happens, a place that mixes waterways, bikes, and (I'm presuming here) alcohol, then removes excess litigation (and with that, railing), can end up with quite a collection of muddy frames stopping up the Rapenburg. And so we have the dredging-for-bikes brigade, a questionably official group of men walking through the water and pulling out anything they trip over.

It was only after after looking at the picture later that I realized the leader of this troupe was none other than my favorite random dude of Leiden - we'd already spotted this gentleman riding his bike down the pedestrian-only shopping street as if "Batavius" read "Harley-Davidson," and the next day smirkily captaining a tourist barge. Here he was with yet a 3rd calling. Whether this was Leiden's way of keeping the canals clean or just a group of guys trying to round up some stuff for a pawn shop, it was an awesomely entertaining reminder that I've moved to a strange new land.

And for the record, re: our friend in the picture - I'll be sorely disappointed if anybody else in this town tries to wear the fuzzy red suit in December.

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