The Pilgrims Before Plymouth

A tour of the Dutch city of Leiden yields new insights into a chapter of the Thanksgiving story not taught in schools

Aerial view of the city of Leiden, Holland (© Picture Partners / Alamy)

Leiden Castle (Burcht van Leiden)

Leiden Castle
(John Hanc)
We leave the museum and head for a crowded, outdoor beer garden around the corner. We’re not there to partake, however. High on a motte (man-made hill) overlooking the garden is an ancient circular castle, built in the 12th century. Used primarily as a fortification and refuge, the castle and its grounds had become a public park within the city walls by the time the Pilgrims arrived. They, like many Leideners, would no doubt have visited the area to buy fresh fruit from vendors and stroll the walkway around the ramparts, taking in the cityscape of their new home. “You could relax here,” said Bangs. “And yes,” he deadpans, “the Pilgrims did relax.” Occasionally.

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