Last night, I returned from an idyllic weekend in Leiden, Holland, where my brother Noah recently started a yearlong master’s program in archaeology. Admittedly, my timing was good — I just happened to come for some gorgeous weather, Monument Weekend (which meant free entry to normally closed or pricey sites), the first big party at Noah’s student house, the last day of a great outdoor nature photography exhibit in Den Haag, etc. — but even without all that, it would have been a life-affirming visit.

Given that my return to cold, rainy Berlin weather already has me feeling like I’m coming down with something, I’ll go the lazy route and give you a quick photo tour in lieu of the thousands of words that, according to the saying, would be the equivalent.

Noah's house in Leiden. It's a well-known social hangout for Leiden students, with a reputation for late-night parties that bring the (friendly) police a-knockin'.

The view from Noah's window of the Herengracht below.

OK, so you can't really see it too well, but lining this canal is the big Saturday market, where the whole town seemingly turns out to buy fresh produce, fish, cheese, stroop waffles, bike parts, clothes, and pretty much everything else.

Despite the pronunciation of this store's name, it's unlikely that the country's small Jewish population could really sustain it without additional clientele.

After hitting up the market, Noah and I biked across town and rented a canoe for an hour and change. Boat transport in Leiden doesn't strike me as all that useful, given the bike culture, but it sure as hell is pleasant -- particularly when the weather's as perfect as it was on Saturday.

Rowing up Noah's "street."

Yup, it's Holland, all right.

This is where Rembrandt grew up -- not this house, exactly, but somewhere in the alley.

A windmill.

The view from the top of that windmill. Out in the distance, you can make out the skyline of Den Haag. It's a small country.

Speaking of which (and going a bit out of chronological order), here's what Den Haag looks like. Certainly one of the prettier images I've snapped in my life.

One of several outdoor sculpture exhibits in Den Haag.

As soon as I met Noah outside the Leiden train station, he took me to a herring stand, where people eat raw herrings on buns like hot dogs, or just suck them down straight. The next day, at the market, Noah decided that we'd thank ourselves later if we bought a few herrings. And so, at midnightish, after some absinthe and beer, we did. A brotherly scene if I've ever seen one.

I spent yesterday afternoon wandering around Amsterdam before heading to the airport. Highlights included a tour around an art restoration facility next to the Rijksmusueum by my old high school friend Tamar (she even let me put my own little restoring touch on a Rodin "Thinker" sculpture she's working on ... but shh); a long read in the Vondelpark; and a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. Here, a shot of the city's filthy, seedy red light district. Disgusting, isn't it?

Another view of Amsterdam.

In short: I can see why Holland has an immigration problem.

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