Visiting the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden

On Sunday (01-06-2019), I visited the botanical garden of the Leiden University: de Hortus Botanicus

A thin line between hobby and profession

There is a thin line between my hobby and my profession. Yes, I am a father who takes care of the children and my wife brings in most of the money. But I am still a photographer and writer. My photography profession started out as a hobby. Today I was in the botanical garden of Leiden University and I saw so many beautiful things there. Not as a professional, just for the hobby.

Bees
The botanical garden

A must-see

It seems strange to still be able to enjoy the hobby, once it became your profession. Sure, there are moments that I don’t use my camera because I already held it too much during a certain period. This Sunday wasn’t that day. It was time to visit the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden. Everyone who hasn’t been there must definitely go there!

It’s the oldest existing botanical garden of The Netherlands. It’s history dates back to the sixteenth century. The garden was and is part of the university. This university was founded after the liberation of Leiden. The city was besieged by the Spanish troops and was liberated in 1574. For their bravery, the city was rewarded with a university. A few years later, the botanical garden was founded. It was a wish of those who lead the university, to offer students the chance to study plants.

I’ve been there so many times. I lost count of how many times I’ve been there! Not only me but also my children. They refer to this botanical garden as the “Tuin van Leiden.” In English: The garden of Leiden. When you walk around this beautiful garden, you won’t even notice that this is located in a crowded city. Well, Leiden isn’t that crowded as other major cities in the world. For our small country near the Northsea, it is rather crowded.

For children

My children did not feel up to a bike ride to the Hortus Botanicus this morning. I went alone. In total silence, I walked around and shot photos.

There is always a good reason to visit this botanical garden. It doesn’t really matter what the season is. Even in Winter, there is a good chance you will see some beautiful things. Well, not on the outside. The Hortus has its own greenhouses. In one of them, the Victoria Greenhouse, you can see the Victoria Amazonica. Its leaves can carry a weight up to 40 kilograms! Impressive right?!

Since the temperature was already tropical this morning, I decided to skip the greenhouses. I walked around and I asked myself the question what the attraction of this garden? Is it because I can take photographs there? Or is there more? There is more. It’s the serenity and the beauty that is attracting me to go there more than once a year. I even made a promise to myself: from now on, I will visit the botanical garden every month. Starting on June 2 (today). So my next visit will be on July 2.

My son learned that photography isn’t about taking photos very fast. In the garden, he learned that it’s sometimes all about precision and patience. He started taking his own photos when he was six years old. Nowadays, he doesn’t shoot as much as he used to do. I hope this will change. Not because I do this. Because I know he is good at it. Take a look at his own Insta page or website.

There is a lot to do for children. Even when you don’t own a camera. There are scavenger hunts and every specimen is explained with a sign near it. When you don’t feel like walking, you can sit down on one of the benches. Most of them are located in places with lots of shade.
Hanging
Crowded?

Crowded?

Just after the gates of the Hortus Botanicus opened, I was present. I doubted if it was going to be crowded today. The tropical temperatures would force people to other places. Swimming pools, the beach or whatever was refreshing enough.

I noticed there was a lot of staff in the restaurant. I asked one of them why there were so many of them working this Sunday. He guessed it had to do with the weather. As six of them were involved in a discussion with some tourists about the possibility to take glasses into the garden, one of them tried to point out that they also sold plastic bottles. I smiled as one of them asked her colleagues what the translation from Dutch to English was for the “Green Ice Tea” and “Peach Ice Tea.”

The sighing but a friendly waiter who gave me coffee was so kind as to help me with the payment since the other ones were quite busy. It was ok. I wasn’t in a hurry. Then I made my way out to the exit. A somewhat surprised tour guide asked me if I was also joining them. I kindly declined. Did she know this location used to be the ambience of the nuns? That was before it all became part of the Leiden University and the Hortus Botanicus.

On my way home I again thought about the times I visited the Hortus Botanicus. I forgot how many times I’ve been there. A lot. And guess what? It’s not the last time!

When visiting the Hortus Botanicus, you can buy a combi-ticket. With this ticket, you can also visit the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities).

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