Before leaving Belgium we made one more stop at The Atomium.  This is from the 1958 World’s Fair, the last one organized in Belgium.  It’s really remarkable.

Through various stairs, escalators and elevators you can make your way to every section of it, and each one has special exhibits and unique views of the city.

This area had several pods where children can camp out during special events.  What a fun place to sleep!


Belgian Food

In Belgium we were looking for a good restaurant with our friend, Hugues, and we came across this one.  We didn’t choose to eat here, because we wanted tradition Belgian food, but we thought it was pretty funny.

Instead we chose one that served us outside.  It was delicious!

We also found the best Belgian waffles with lots of toppings to choose from!

All too soon is was time to say farewell to Hugues, and to be on our way.




Belgium Up Close

When reviewing my photos of Belgium I noticed several showing some of the details of the city, so here they are.  I love this exquisite detail on old buildings and cathedrals.

It was great hearing this small group perform.


One of the reasons we wanted to go to Brussels was to see our dear friend, Hugues, one of our first Rotary exchange students that lived with us years ago.  It was exciting to meet him in the square, and to spend a few hours with him.

And clown around with him.

So now we had our own private tour guide and he showed us all around.

Of course, he took us right away to “Manneken Pis,” the peeing boy, which oddly I had never heard about before.  He’s quite famous; you can buy statues with clothes for him; what a riot.

Hugues also showed us where to find the best Belgium chocolate, explained all the important government and international buildings and showed us some beautiful places.

Next time we go we’ll need to see his family and the area where he lives and works, but it was great to see him again.

Pilgrims Depart Leiden

If life was good in Leiden, Holland, why did the pilgrims depart for the New World?  William Bradford gave several reasons:

  • They were working hard but living in small houses and their families were growing
  • They were beginning to experience extreme poverty
  • Their children were becoming more Dutch than they were English
  • The Netherlands was too liberal and they feared for their children
  • Threat of war from Catholic Spain
  • King James of England would fight against Spain, but would take control of all Dutch congregations
  • Their religious freedom was under threat
  • They strongly opposed the many followers of Jacobus Armenius’ doctrine in Leiden
  • The pilgrim printing press of William Brewster had been confiscated by the British Ambassador, and he had to go into hiding
  • It was increasingly difficult to maintain their language, religion and habits

So they began to make preparations for leaving Holland.  It was not going to be easy.  Only one third of their six hundred-plus congregation could go.  This meant that the one they most wanted to go–John Robinson–would have to stay behind.  When it came time for departure, Robinson declared a day of fasting and prayer, culminating in a farewell dinner that celebrated with goose, pudding and wine; along with the singing of psalms.  Edward Winslow wrote:

We refreshed ourselves, after our tears, with the singing of Psalms, making joyful melody in our hearts as well as with the voice, there being many in the congregation very expert in music; and indeed it was the sweetest melody that ever mine ears have heard.  [The Light and the Glory, Peter Marshall & David Manuel, pg. 113]

Many accompanied them by barge to Delftshaven (Rotterdam).

The chosen boat–the Speedwell–was loaded with all the supplies, and before departure, John Robinson knelt on the dock and prayed for them, as they followed his lead in kneeling.  They sailed for Southampton, where they would meet the ninety-ton Mayflower and a good number of “strangers” that would make the voyage with them.  It’s interesting that the colonies here would be founded by people of various faiths, some of no faith at all.  They came from different backgrounds and careers.  They wanted to establish a free and open society.  It truly was a remarkable event.

John Robinson didn’t live much longer after the Pilgrims left; he died in Leiden in 1625 and is buried at Pieterskerk.  There are signs for him inside and outside of the church.  This is what it says (note that the dates are of his ministry in Leiden to the pilgrims):

In Memory of


Pastor of the English Church in Leyden

1609 – 1625

His Broadly Tolerant Mind

Guided and Developed the Religious Life of


of Him These Walls Enshrine All That Was Mortal

His Undying Spirit

Still Dominates the Consciences of a Mighty Nation

In the Land Beyond the Seas

This tablet was erected by the General Society of Mayflower

Descendants in the United States of America A.D. 1928.

This sign memorializes family members that died in Leiden before the journey to America. Included are children of both Isaac Allerton and John Allerton, Robert Cushman’s wife and children, Samuel Fuller’s wife and child, William Brewster’s child and John Robinson’s three children.

These brave people faced many hardships, but their days were only going to get harder, for 1/2 of the pilgrims would die in the first harsh winter in America.

It appears that the fears of the Pilgrims regarding staying in Holland were well founded.  It was true that the Dutch society caused the church to merge into the culture.  A sign in the church says this:

For a small minority like the Pilgrims, it was difficult to maintain their own language, religion and habits.  There were several marriages with Walloons, who had similar religious viewpoints.  After many of the Pilgrims left for America it proved impossible to remain a clearly defined community.  After their own preacher Robinson died, the people left behind in Leiden joined Dutch churches and, after 1630, the English reformed church.  Finally the group merged into the Leiden population.

I had always heard that they fled to America for religious freedom, but it was also about not losing the specific doctrines and beliefs that they held so sacred.  They were concerned for their children above all.  Their leaders had often debated with other religious leaders in public, such as follower of Jacobus Arminius, who is buried in Pieterskerk.

Another thing I had not known previously was that the tradition of Thanksgiving most likely came from Leiden.  It had been a custom there since October 3, 1574.  From another sign in the church:

After the siege of 1574 it became custom to have an annual service of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Church, for the liberation and the delivery of food to a hungry city.  Herring and white bread are distributed to remind people of the ships with food that came into the city via the river Vliet.  People also eat “hotspot,” a kind of vegetable stew that the Spaniards are reputed to have left behind.  Some people believe that Thanksgiving Day consists of elements of this celebration added onto a harvest festival.

Another sign reveals the practice of civil marriage, which also came from Leiden:

Civil marriage is a Dutch invention.  Normally, only a marriage performed by the state church was legal.  Because the Republic had such a large Roman Catholic minority it was impossible to deny marriage to almost half the population.  The justices could marry those who did not belong to the state church.  Their own church could bless the marriage afterwards.  Only the civil marriage was legally binding.  The Pilgrims brought this invention with them to America.

Finally, the custom of elected administrators came from Leiden:

Leiden was divided into districts (bon) and neighborhoods (gebuurte).  Chosen district governors ruled a city district.  The district took care of fire fighting and prevention, preventing pollution, the collection of special taxes and the distribution of money amongst the poor.  The neighbourhood took care of things like burial rituals and other neighbourly tasks.  The election of civil administrators, as proscribed by the Mayflower Compact, can be traced back to this system and to the election of church officials.

As you can see, there is much to learn about the Pilgrim Fathers from travels and from many great books.  I would recommend The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick, and Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners, Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation, by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs.  Of course, original books by the pilgrims are always great too — William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Robinson, Thomas Morton and others.  What courageous lives they lived, and all because of their deep religious beliefs and concerns that these be properly handed down to their children!


Pilgrim History

It was interesting to see the information and memorials related to the Pilgrims in the Cathedral of Pieterskerk, Leiden, Holland.  This one area of the church is dedicated to them.

Here are some of the posters on display:

Several legal documents can be found here, such as this wedding record for Francis Cooke and Hester Mahieu.  William Bradford and Dorothy May’s marriage is also registered at the town hall.


This is what they said of their time in Leiden:

For these and some other reasons they removed to Leyden, a fair and beautiful city, and of a sweet situation, but made more famous by the university wherewith it is adorned…they fell to such trades and employments as they best could, valuing peace and their spiritual comfort above any other riches whatsoever; and at length they came to raise a competent and comfortable living, and with hard and continual labor.  Being thus settled, after many difficulties, they continued many years in a comfortable condition, enjoying much sweet and delightful society and spiritual comfort together, in the ways of God, under the able ministry and prudent government of Mr. John Robinson and Mr. William Brewster…they grew in knowledge and other gifts and graces of the spirit of God; and lived together in peace, and love, and holiness.  And many came unto them from divers parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation…  [New England’s Memorial, Nathaniel Morton, William Bradford, Thomas Prince, Edward Winslow, pg. 254]



Pilgrims in Leiden

I was excited to walk in the Pilgrim’s footsteps, because my grandpa’s ancestry descends from several of them.  From the Mayflower, he was descended from William and Alice Mullins, John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden, George and Juliana (Carpenter) Morton,  Thomas and Joseph Rogers, and Richard Warren.  However, not all of these arrived from Leiden and not all the Leiden Pilgrims travelled on the Mayflower.

They were called Separatists, for they wanted to separate both from the Catholic Church and from the Church of England, which they felt had not reformed enough from Catholicism.  Because of this, they found themselves banned from England and persecuted in their congregation in Scrooby, England.  In 1607 they booked passage on a ship but were betrayed by the captain.  William Brewster, John Robinson and others were imprisoned in Boston, Lincolnshire, England’s medieval guild hall.  A year later they tried again and finally made their way to Amsterdam, little by little, in various passages (some had even made the move in the late 1500’s).  Here they could practice their religion freely.  William Bradford wrote:

They all got over at length, some at one time and some at another, and some at one place and some in another, and met again according to their desires, with no small rejoicing.

After a year in Amsterdam, over 100 of the separatists decided to move to Leiden, Holland, in 1609, which initially worked out very well for them.

Chris and I were there in 2015, and made our way towards Pieterskerk Cathedral, near to their homes and businesses.

Sure enough, we found an alley named after William Brewster, where he lived and worked.

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants placed this sign in 1955, 335 years after the Pilgrims sailed to America.

The alleyway is very narrow and at the very end is a building where William Brewster and Edward Winslow set type for books that were forbidden in England.  These books were then smuggled back into England under much danger.

I loved seeing the old brick along this way.

We then turned around and headed back to the archway.

Here I am near Brewster alley.

We also found the area where the Pilgrim Pastor, John Robinson lived, and where he held services.  This almshouse replaced his home soon after his death.

Through the archway and back in the courtyard behind his home is where most of the Pilgrims lived, in small homes.

Just imagine all the singing, worship and discussion that took place in this courtyard!