One of Leiden's landmarks is a place called De Burcht, literally the castle. It's a fortification that was built around the year 1000 on top of a hill. The Netherlands are a very, very flat country; I come from a mountain region and probably I love going up there because the altitude -if you can even call it that- has a calming effect on me. The place feels like it doesn't even belong to the town. A hill is certainly a very extraneous thing in the Netherlands.
Since discovering the burcht it has become one of my favourite places to notice the changing of the seasons. First the hill was covered in snowdrops, then dandelions, now there are leaves on the trees, and cowparsley and tiny white flowers I don't know the names of. Unexpectedly I had an hour to kill today, and instead of going home I read an article in a cafè at the bottom of the hill -something I never do- and then went up to the burcht. No one was there, except a fluffy cat and me. I wandered around a bit. I recalled all the times I went there just to take a breather, and how I was a very different person every time. The seasons changed and I changed too.
The first time I went there was brought there by someone who I don't even speak to anymore. One time it was sunny and I ate an ice-cream while looking at the church through the bare trees. Another time it was after lunch and I sat inside the castle looking up, and I remember seeing the trail of an airplane while the church bells rang. (The church bells here sound different than back at home, and I am almost sure that they play a slightly different melody every time.)
I had lunch with a dear friend, we went to class and then to a café where we had cake and juice, and sent postcards to our mothers for Sunday. The sun had come out again and it was lovely and bright. When I woke up this morning I hadn't anticipated to have that free hour at the burcht; I hadn't anticipated to hang around with my friend after class; I was meant to be studying in fact. But I'm trying to make the most of the time that I have left to spend here, and trying to keep in mind that what I will miss the most when I have to go back home are these special, quiet moments.