So now that I am midway through the semester, well more than midway but I do will not dwell on that fact, I have adequate material to put into my blog. I first want to talk about my excursions to Holland.
I have visited the Netherlands on two occasions, first a day trip to Amsterdam, then a weekend excursion through my program to The Hague and Delft. An interesting thing you will realize when travel north from Brussels biking becomes more and more popular. I thought there were a lot of bikes in Antwerp, but then I arrived in Amsterdam. If this isn’t already, it should be named the bike capital of the world. There are bikes all over the place, so much so that I became confused every time I saw a car. This being said, when you travel to the Netherlands, you have to be aware of your surroundings, these bikes come from everywhere. One of my friends was hit by a biker when she wasn’t paying attention. So when you cross the bike lanes, be sure to look both ways multiple times as there will be someone coming with a basket full of food or maybe a couple small children and they will not stop for dumbfounded pedestrians.
Amsterdam was a fun city to visit but for me a day trip was enough. It is a good place to go if you are extremely interested in Dutch art or if you are a sucker for canals. And if you are looking for that scene, I wouldn’t advise going out at night. It will be extremely difficult for you to immerse yourself in Dutch culture in this city especially at night. Amsterdam reminded me of a low key Las Vegas, there are a lot of tourists and anything goes. I was not expecting to see a lot of Americans but Amsterdam is a small city and many people are interested in checking out the red light district and the coffee shops. I also found Amsterdam to be a lot more expensive than Brussels and it was hard to find lunch or dinner in a quiet area.
But the trip was worth it to see the architecture and to visit the Anne Frank house. My friends and I wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum but there was a two hour wait and some of the exhibits were closed for maintenance. As for architecture goes, I was able to spot the smallest apartment in the world while we were walking around the city trying to get our bearings. The most interesting and most moving part of my day was my visit to the Anne Frank house. It was the most eerie experience of my life. I had read Anne Frank’s Diary a couple times when I was growing up and I was extremely interested in the Holocaust when I was younger. It was first weird seeing the setting of a book I have read. Most books I read are fiction or history books so I have never really been able to visit the scene where a book took place until I visited Amsterdam. To see the annex that Anne and the Van Pels family went into hiding was overwhelming. It made the book and the entire war extremely personal. There was so much history and grief in one little annex it was unearthing. That experience alone made my visit to Amsterdam worthwhile.
A couple weeks later I went with my study abroad group to The Hague and Delft. The Hague is the third largest city of The Netherlands. It houses the International War Tribunal in the Peace palace in the center of the city. We weren’t able to go in to the Peace palace but we went to the visitor center it was semi-interesting a visit inside the peace palace would have been better. The hotel was fun in The Hague, I was finally able to watch English tv, with dutch subtitles of course. The bed was small comparably to the United States, but I guess that is expected when traveling to Europe. Delft was the cutest little town in the Netherlands, it is famous for the blue and white ceramic pottery that they hand paint. So I picked up something for my mom then visited a cheese shop and had a wonderful tasting experience. They were throwing cheese at me left and right, I was so full I didn’t need to eat lunch. My favorite dutch food, however, had to be the syrup waffles, they are to die for. Our last stop was Mini-Holland, a type of amusement park that showcases all the important buildings and structures all over the Netherlands in miniature size, my favorite attraction so far. Over all Holland is a fun place that I would recommend visiting.