Friday, March 7, 2014

Hello! Since my last post I've just been keeping up with my classes and assignments and making more travel plans. Two friends and I bought Eurail passes that will allow us to hop on and off trains throughout Europe over our Easter break. Our break is 3 weeks long! Right now our plans include starting in France, then going to Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria! I'm excited for this adventure but I am constantly realizing how difficult it is to make travel arrangements. When I went to Scotland and Ireland with RSU I just followed the group and didn't have to worry about booking flights, hotels, and navigating. There really is a lot to figure out before we can get to where we want to be! I was never very good at directions but I think I'm getting much better while over here.

It was a bit sad not being home on my birthday but my nice friends here surprised me with a doughnut cake and a small party. On our way to town we got on a bus full of tipsy Brazilians who decided to sing me Happy Birthday in Portuguese! It was pretty memorable!

February 28th through March 2nd I went to Amsterdam! 

Thursday went to the Rijks Museum to see some of the famous Dutch paintings

Rembrant's Night Watch is their most famous painting. There is even a "Rembrant Square" in town that has most of the painting's characters represented in life-sized statues. The museum also put on a Flash Mob that depictied the painting to announce the reopening of the museum after it was closed for a while. The video is pretty good! You can watch it here 

The Van Gogh museum was my favorite place we visited. They didn't allow pictures inside but it was great! It's usually a treat to see one Van Gogh in a museum but this was full of them! There were a few other impressionist painters as well. 

I learned that there are more bikes in this city than there are people! It really is pretty dangerous to walk around and only look for cars. The bike come out of nowhere pretty quickly! 

We thought about renting some to ride around but we didn't feel experienced enough. We settled for taking a picture on someone else's... 

Some of my favorite parts about the city were the flower and food markets! Even though it is not Tulip season there were plenty of flowers out around town. 

This is an outdoor bakery! We really enjoyed walking around the streets Saturday morning looking at all the fresh food. There are also some nice art and book markets! 


It was a bit too cold for Chris when we got to the city

This was a really strange exhibit(?) of iron Iguanas in the middle of the city. They looked very lifelike! 

Friday we went to the Anne Frank house/museum. I read her Diary in junior high but I don't think it struck me how intuitive and reflective she was at such a young age. In the house we were able to see the attic where they stayed in hiding for several years. The bookcase hiding the door to the attic still remains and we were able to walk around what were their small kitchen and bedrooms. 

This quote from Anne's father reads, "We cannot change what happened anumore. The only thing we can do is to learn from the past and to realize what discrimination and persecution of innocent people means. I believe that it's everyones responsibility to fight prejudice."

This is inside the coolest library I have ever seen (sorry Stratton Taylor)! The library had eight floors and an amazing cafe at the top with lots of freshly made food and snacks, kind of like the one at Whole Foods in the States. There was also a movie theater that we wanted to look inside. While walking in we somehow got swept into a class tour. We were already half way in so we just sat down with them and their teacher started lecturing in Dutch while the kids started staring at us. We decided to awkwardly sneak out after 10 minutes.  

The cafe also had an amazing panoramic view of the city. 

Apple cake/pie and a cappuccino from the cafe! This was the first place we went where everything was actually labeled in Dutch. Everyone we ran into spoke English as well as Dutch, though. I read that 86% of the people in Amsterdam speak three languages! 

Saturday Hannah and I split off from the boys to wander about the flower markets and shopping areas; they didn't want to stop and smell the roses! We decided to buy some fresh bread and cheese from one of the markets and have a picnic in this huge park!  

Again, the labels were in Dutch so we were taking a gamble when purchasing this cheese. It turned out to be the smelliest awfullest (and most expensive) cheese I have ever tasted! Neither of us could eat very much of it. We decide to go back to the market and buy some fruit instead! 

It was much easier to get lost in Amsterdam than London! We often found ourselves on back streets and alley ways. We always figured out where we were going eventually! It wasn't so bad to be lost during the day but we were less adventurous at night. Our hostel was right in the middle of the Red Light district! It really was pretty scary trying to find it the first night we got there. It was really uncomfortable for me to see all the women in the windows as well. Our hostel was run by a Christian company that does some outreach in the city. They told us that many of the prostitutes are immigrants who chose to work there and send money home to their families while others may have been promised dance careers in Western Europe and ended up there instead. 

I didn't realize there were so many canals in Amsterdam. They're everywhere! Apparently they had to reclaim some of their land, so some of it would actually be underwater. 

While Hannah and I chose to eat from the bountiful fresh food, Will was adventurous enough to eat from one of the famous vending stores. There are lots of these around the city and they are just vending machines full of hot food. It looked a little too unsavory for me. The fried tube Will got was full of a chicken/beef paste. 

I had never seen a draw-bridge working before so it was interesting to watch them go up and down. 

Our time in Amsterdam was pretty good overall! Our flights in and out of Bristol went smoothly and the bus ride back to Swansea wasn't too bad. Like London, Amsterdam was a nice break from the Swansea weather that welcomed us back with characteristic wind and rain on Sunday. I have six weeks now till our European adventure. During this time I need to motivate myself to finish all my course work before we leave! I'll have to find something interesting to post about in the mean time.