Once upon a time, on the banks of the river Rhine, there was a charming canal house gracing the old town of Leiden. This riverside house has always been known as “The Fisherman”.
To this day, some five hundred years later, we don’t really know why. Was it due to his proximity to the Fisherman’s Bridge, which still lies just across the cobblestone street, where the Old and the New Rhine meet? Or perhaps it was because dried fish was sold from the shop on the ground floor, to townsfolk and voyagers alike?
Whatever the case, our Fisherman ran a lucrative tobacco trade on the side, as he proudly demonstrates on his painted façade. For next to his catch of the day, it features a box of cigars and a jar of snuff. Or Rappé, as the French used to call it.
But where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Our poor Fisherman burnt down spectacularly in 1766, only to be rebuilt in greater splendour by the townsfolk. These loyal locals are thanked in capital letters on the façade of the neighbouring café that, by the way, serves a hearty breakfast, should you be interested.
In more recent ancient history, the Fisherman switched to a more respectable source of income and started trading books. Oh, but the Fisherman didn’t run just any old bookstore. It was an esteemed emporium called the Eastern Antiquarium, full of antique Arabic and Asian manuscripts. Legend has it that many Malaysian kings and ample Arabic princes prized the humble Fisherman for his extensive collections, and paid prices to match their compliments.
But where there’s books, there’s Amazon.
Even though the Fisherman knew like no other where to fish for Eastern gems of the printed kind, the keen skipper could not keep up with the stream of information flowing free from the world wide web. Thus the old Fisherman closed up shop and looked for a new purpose. Sadly, decades of decay followed and the Fisherman started falling apart. Things did not look well for our beloved building.
But in the end, the very same technology became a means to a happy end.
While the internet caused the demise of the book trade it happened to enable the rise of another type of enterprise. The now fully refurbished Fisherman operates as a boutique self check-in hotel that’s bookable over the internet. And while the clientele may no longer include oriental royalty, it certainly has become a more inclusive establishment with plenty a story to tell.
1001 Nights booked, and counting.