Bucket list inspiration – Leiden’s Ontzet

This week’s bucket list item is one very close to me, literally. Leiden is one of the cutest cities you’ll ever see. It’s the place I adore so much I started living in it. Every year, on the 3rd of October we celebrate the city’s liberty day (Leiden’s Ontzet), a party that comes with traditional food, music and lots of crazy Dutchies.


3 oktoberWhat do we celebrate?

Back in the day (let’s say 1573) the Spanish surrounded the city of Leiden during the 80 years war. Not being prepared for it, there wasn’t much they could do. People started dying of starvation, if the plaque didn’t kill them before that. The shortages of food got so bad the legend says that mayor Van der Werff started feeding people with his own body.


Then a hero came, Willem van Oranje poked holes in the dike to flood the city. It was a harsh decision because it would ruin all of the fertile ground in the area. It took a while for the water to reach Leiden, but when it did (on the night of 2nd October) things started to change.  The Spanish, afraid of water, fled the city, leaving everything behind. The people of Leiden came out of the town, finding a huge pot full of meat, potatoes, carrots and onions, which later became the traditional food for this celebration, called ‘hutsepot’. Later on the Watergeuzen (sea beggars) came to rescue the rest of the town, feeding them white bread and herring.



Photo credit: nufoto.nl


The party

Nowadays the people of Leiden still celebrate this day. The party starts on the 2nd of October. Roads are blocked and everybody is out on the streets. A lot of inhabitants save up the entire year to spend all of their money on the fair and booze. It is one of the craziest parties you’ll find in the Netherlands, therefore it has to be on the bucket list.


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