A Travellerspoint blog

Days 12-15: Amsterdam/ Brussels

So I'm sorry I haven't updated in a very long time! It was partly because some nights we got back so late I was too tired to write, others because I was sort of lazy and I wanted to use my downtime for other things, and other nights because of really bad wifi.

So I'll try to recap what I've been up to the past week or so. I won't go into too much detail, but I'll give an overview of what we did.

  • **I wrote this back during my trip but I haven't uploaded any thing after I went to Bosnia... I know I'm so bad! But hopefully I'll have the rest of my trip up soon enough!***

Day 12: Split- Amsterdam

We visited this fortress outside of Split that the ottomans had been in charge of and we learned different stories about how the different cultures in and around Croatia interacted with one another. We heard stories of nobles capturing the fortress for their state, but later being betrayed by that state to keep the peace; and a girl running off to convert to Christianity and almost starting a war. The view was nice there too!




We stopped for lunch in a town right before the airport. We flew out about two hours later (on a two hour flight) to Amsterdam! We had to stand waiting out on the Tarmac for a while. There was this guy in front of me and a girl in my group that started to talking to us and it turned out he was from just outside of Chicago! The flight was fine, nothing really special to say there. Also the flight attendant looks JUST like my friend Matt... SO weird!!!


After checking into our hotels in Amsterdam, we took a canal cruise that was actually really interesting because we learned that the houses in Amsterdam lean forward because back in the day they wanted more room on the street and also because it makes them appear larger.

For dinner a group of us found this traditional Dutch restaurant to eat at. I got the pumpkin soup, which I was so glad that I got because it was seriously exactly what I wanted- incredibly tasty!!

Day 13: Amsterdam

We started the day off at the Van Gogh museum. I liked it better than the Uffizi because it talked in depth about his life (which is impossible in a museum with such varied works as the Uffizi) but it also gave a description about why Van Gogh painted things the way did.


We had the rest of the morning/afternoon free. My friends and I decided to go to a market for lunch and then rent bikes for a few hours until the group dinner later that night. The market was not as good as the one in Florence (it was much smaller), but we still found food that we liked well enough (crepes, soups, and quiches).

We got our bikes and went around the city. I admit we did stop and walk around the red light district, just for the cultural experience. It was what I was expecting, if not a little more shocking to see it in person... And dirtier.


One highlight was that we found this chocolate shop in the district, right by or possibly in (?) the Oude Kerk which had really cute chocolate truffles and stuff! It definitely revitalized us.




We visited the "I AMsterdam" sign (you have to if you go- it's just one of those things you have to do!) and rode around the outskirts of the city to see where actual people lived and get out of the touristy parts.


For our group dinner we went to an Indonesian restaurant (due to the Dutch east indie co they have really good Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands). It lived up to the hype, the owners knew how to make good meat dishes. It seemed like it was a cross between Thai food and Indian food- both of which I love, so I was a happy girl that night!


Day 14: Amsterdam

We started the day visiting a little square of the city, called Begijnhof, that single or married women would go to to have rest and live in righteous ways, but it was not a convent. Then we visited the "Oude Kerk" which incidentally was in the red light district, so that was a lovely sight to see on a Sunday morning! The church was interesting because it used to be a catholic cathedral that was built in the gothic style, but during the reformation the Protestants took down all the extra decorations and simplified the exterior and interior to turn it into a church for themselves.

We then got to go to church in Amsterdam! They had the service in Dutch and if you wanted to understand what was going on you had to have a headset for the translation. I wasn't able to go to church in Rome, so it was cool to finally see how similar and yet slightly different the church is across the world.

The director had found a museum that showcased the Dutch resistance to Nazi power during WWII and we had the opportunity to visit it. I really enjoyed the experience because it had so many stories and facts that I had never heard about. In school we focus on the nazis in Germany and how the German people sort of complied with the new leadership. To hear about a group of people who disliked their rule and actively did stuff to undermine them was a refreshing view of the war.

During free time my friends and I went in a hunt to find good stroopwaffels, a Dutch specialty of two waffle like cookies with a syrup (stroop) or honey in between them. I found the address of the supposed best stroopwaffel place in Amsterdam, which we visited after failing to find a roadside vendor for them. The internet did not lie! The cookie part was crunchy, the syrup was gooey and sweet- definitely the best cookie I've ever had! I only got one, but most people I was with got two or three (and ate them by the end of the day!). So those of you traveling to Amsterdam- visit Lanskroon for your stroopwaffel needs!


After our free time we visited the Anne Frank house all together. I've personally never read her diary and I'm sure that someone who has would have gotten even more out of the experience than I did, but even then it was a moving place to visit. The saddest part to me was an interview they showed of one of Anne's friends who saw her shortly before she died in the camp and who said that she probably would have lived if she had known that her father was still alive. She believed her whole family was dead and she was sick with a disease, she died a month before the camp was liberated.

I met up with other people from my group and we went and grabbed Dutch pancakes from this restaurant just north of the Anne Frank House at a place called the Pancake Bakery (I believe). The pancakes are so big! Basically huge crepes that haven't been folded. I got the apple pancake- tasted like apple pie yum!!

Day 15: Amsterdam- Brussels

We left Amsterdam in the morning, which everyone was sad about because it was a city that we felt we could stay for a long time in and not get sick of it. We met the bus driver that was going to be with us until Poland, Martin. He seemed really friendly (much different than the other ones we had, although that was probably because the others were only with us for a few hours, not weeks).

We stopped somewhere in the countryside to see the famous Kinderdijk windmills! Our study abroad director had a reservation for us to do a bike tour to see them. All was fine and well until we started on our way and this other girl and I crashed into each other (not our fault I promise) which left my bike kind of mangled. Luckily, one of the tour guides and Martin were able to bend it back into shape and I didn't have any other problems.

The windmills themselves were cool, we got to learn why the Netherlands need windmills and how they work. We even got to go inside of one and see it moving water from a lower level canal to a higher one!



The tour guides made lunch for us, so we biked to a park where they had PB and J (everyone was thrilled to see that), lemonade, and stroopwafels (even more thrilled for that!). After lunch, since the park had a field and goals, most people played a game of soccer. Since my foot-eye coordination is dismal at best I decided to stay out of it and instead laid on the grass and decorated my braid with wildflowers. It was fun though to cheer on the teams and just enjoy the perfect day.


Look at how Pinterest-worthy I look!


After biking back to the bus we climbed in and made our way to Brussels! Our director somehow had a connection with a journalist who focused on writing about the EU politics, that also taught at a school, and he was currently in the city. So we drove straight from the Kinderdijk bike tour to the lecture. It was actually quite interesting to learn about how, and under what circumstances, the EU was formed. I had no idea that countries likePoland and the Czech Republic just recently joined back in 2004 and Croatia didn't join until 2013! Learning this information made current European politics that I've heard about on the news make so much more sense to me. The whole issue with letting Turkey into the EU, the problems with Greece... everything!

One funny thing about the lecture was the entire class (minus our Director, obviously) thought that our director was saying the guy's name wrong. Mr. D kept calling him "Gareth" Harding and we all thought he was mis-saying "Garrett" but apparently (as I've now checked) his name actually is Gareth. Who knew that Gareth was an actual name? Not me. Sounds pretty made up...

After the lecture we went to go check into our hotels (we had people in three different ones, just like in Amsterdam). McCall and I were in a room with another girl we were friends with, Kylie, so we were fine with that, but what we were not fine with was what awaited for us in the room.


Floor to ceiling glass window (that you could see through in over half of the room!) looking STRAIGHT into the shower. What sort of weird design is that?! Definitely made for an uncomfortable evening of showers... Well after discovering that little flaw, we decided to try to find some legendary Belgian Waffles and fries.

We got a recommendation from the hotel concierge about where to find waffles, but he actually sent us to a fry place. Not the worst thing in the world, we all ordered fries with different kinds of sauces (I got mine with a curry-ketchup, very good choice!). Then we proceeded to spend the next two hours walking all over Brussels trying to find a waffle place. Some of the girls in our group found a little place, but the waffles ended up costing at least 6 euro- just for a simple waffle! But it was the only one we had seen thus far, so some people ordered one. I decided to go down just one more street because I saw people walking with waffles and I thought that I might find another spot that sold them a little cheaper. Lucky I did, because not only did i find cheaper waffles (only a euro at all the spots on that street for a simple waffle) but they were higher quality too! And we found the original Godiva location (oooo chocolate!) statue that Brussels is famous for: "Manneken Pis" (basically a little boy peeing). The statue basically summed up our experience in Brussels- way overhyped and sort of disappointing. Even the famous Belgian waffles were only pretty good! Waffle Luv in Provo makes them way better!


It was at that point that we decided to head back to the hotel. It was getting dark and not going to lie, Brussels was way sketchier than anywhere else we went! We saw a guy peeing in an alley, I'm pretty sure these two guys we passed (multiple times) were staking a car to break into, and businesses all over the city were closed down. This city reminded me more of American cities than any other we went to (besides maybe Berlin after my trip, but thats for later). In the end, everyone agreed that we were glad to only have to spend one night in Brussels, accidental capitol of the EU.

Posted by cedevault 17:19 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Day 11: Bosnia and Split, Croatia

Not a super exciting day like yesterday was, so this will probably end up being fairly short. We left Dubrovnik in the morning, after many complaints and calls to stay, and drove into Bosnia.


The atmosphere in Bosnia was so much different than it was in Croatia. You could more easily believe that this country had been war torn in the last 25 years. After spending about an hour at the border waiting to cross, we arrived at the city we were meant to visit, Mostar. Apparently the city is very touristy so it made it safer and more English friendly for us. The little shops along the streets were so cute! It felt like we were out of Aladdin (Bosnia has a very strong Muslim influence- which was why we were going). It also houses a very famous bridge that was built in 1666! However, the bridge that's there now is a reconstruction because the original was collapsed during the Yugoslav Wars.


The mosque was cool to see as well because I have never been in one before! I've visited churches on churches on churches, synagogues, and even a Hindu temple, but never a mosque! The inside was very simple, with a domed roof that was inspired by classical antiquity, and the floor was covered in rugs.


We are lunch there as well and one of the guys in our group who served his mission in the Balkans told us we needed to try this dish "civapcici" I think it was spelled (pronounced chee-vahp-chee-chee). So the group I was with all ordered it. It's basically half a pita thats stuffed with sausages and it comes with this red pepper sauce. I actually ate the entire thing and didn't even feel bad about it- I actually felt accomplished! But it was sooo good!


Then we drove back to Croatia and got to our hotel in Split. A four star one might I add! We were able to walk the city, which is cool because it's within Diocletian's palace (an old dude haha) and they just have all the shops in the structure, and get dinner.



McCall and I both got this Greek salad (me because I downed the civapcici and was feeling it haha) but it was SO good! It was exactly what we were wanting. Dinner was fun because at my table was Tashia, Madison, and Susan and we talked about girl talk (which means boys haha). Since we were exhausted we just went back to our hotel around 10! However, as we were leaving there was a band playing in the park so we stopped to dance for a little bit :). Then we got lost for a few minutes, but with all our brains together we were able to figure out where our hotel was in regards to where we came out of the old downtown part of Split.

Tomorrow we fly to Amsterdam!!

Posted by cedevault 14:27 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (1)

Day 10: Dubrovnik- Beach Day!

What an adventurous day I had today!! We started by walking the walls of the Old City and having a lesson on Dubrovnik in the Renaissance time period. The city actually has a very interesting history. They were the main competitor of Venice, so the walls facing the sea was to keep them, and the corsairs (basically pirates affiliated with a country/city-state), from attacking. However, the thickest walls faced inland toward the mountains. These were extra fortified to keep out the ottomans. Turns out they didn't need to worry about them because they never tried to attack. The Ottomans simply became trading partners with them.

The views from on top of the walls were unreal! Looking out to the sea, or in at the Old City they seemed straight out of movie!


After doing the 2 km circuit around the city, we climbed back down and went to this exhibition that housed pictures from the recent Ukraine conflict and the war in Croatia in the 90s. I've heard about the war of the breaking up of Yugoslavia before, but we'd never spent very much time on it in class. It was interesting to learn about the cause of the war and the resilience of the people. You can still see cracks and holes on the main street in the Old City from where they were hit by the Serbs.

We had the rest of the day set aside for the beach and whatever else people wanted to do. The water was soooo nice!! It seemed extra salty, but you could see all the way down to the bottom! There was this pontoon parked out by a buoy that no one was on... So I'll admit I was a little rebel again and climbed on, proclaimed I now commandeered it, and then jumped off it back into the water.

We then swam to this little cove near the beach that had a ton of sea glass on the shore! You bet I gathered a bunch! It's always been my dream to find sea glass on a beach. In North Carolina, which is my usual beach location, it is rare to find. I got my fill of sea glass, so we headed back to the beach and laid out.






Everyone split up at around 4. Some of my friends went up this cable car to a museum about the Yugoslavia War at the top of the mountain looking over the city. As cool as going to another museum would be, there was a group going kayaking- so heck yea I'm going to do that!

Kayaking was... Interesting. I'm definitely glad I did it and I would do it again every time, but it was an experience! We started out fine, the other girl in my kayak, Lauren, and I kept up with the guide and the kayak that two boys were in. Then the wind started picking up. At one point we were rowing as hard as we could and we weren't moving!! These boats had to pull people into the cove we were supposed to row to. Our boat, and one other, were the last ones to be pulled in. When we were in the cave the wind got even stronger, so the guides decided to just head back. Everyone started rowing back to where we started, but the wind started tipping kayaks! Luckily, Lauren and my kayak didn't tip! It got so bad that we only got to the beach we were at earlier in the day and had to turn into shore. It was sooo cold too! We were all really wet from the sea spray and the wind was not helping! But we were all safe and sound! What an adventure.

When I got back to the apartment because my entire body was coated in salt. Like I would rub my arms and I could see the salt sprinkling down. I could've seasoned something! Another girl from the kayak trip (after spending about an hour trying to warm up) went out to get dinner at like 10 PM. I finally got my seafood risotto! It was everything I dreamed it would be! Super creamy rice with a tomato base, and it had squid, shrimp, muscles, and even asparagus! The restaurant we went to was so cute. There was even a live pianist playing music!


In the end, it was a very fulfilling day. I got to do stuff that I probably won't get to do again (like be involved in a kaya-pocalypse).


Posted by cedevault 14:18 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Day 9: Rome, Vatican City, and Dubrovnik!

So technically I was in three different countries in the span of a day- Vatican City (smallest country ever but still counts!), Italy, and Croatia! We started off the morning visiting the Sistine chapel, which is as spectacular as people say it is. It was smaller than I would have expected, but so ornately decorated and painted that it made up for the size. There were guards in the chapel itself telling people "No photo!" as they came in, or yelling at tourists who had their cameras or phones out because they didn't want people taking pictures of the inside. Am I a terrible person if I snuck a picture in? The creation painting by Michelangelo was one of the major paintings I wanted to see, and I couldn't leave Italy without a picture of it!


After that we packed our stuff up, got on buses and drove to the airport! It wasn't too hard to check everyone in and get them through security, surprisingly enough for 30 odd people. Our plane was a little delayed and we didn't know what gate it was in until about 5 min before we got out onto the Tarmac to board the plane. The flight itself was uneventful, except for the end when we were flying into Croatia. The sight of the coast, and the islands shooting out of the water took my breath away. After we landed everyone was oooing and ahhing over the beauty of it all, and we agreed as a group that we would have rather spent a day less in Rome and one more day here.

The drive to Dubrovnik itself was one of the more spectacular drives of my life. Words cannot describe how stunning this land is. The mountains are reminiscent of Colorado, yet the water is a clear, yet deep, sapphire blue. I can't get enough of it!! The city itself has a medieval beauty about it without having the dark pallor that is prominent in other cities. It all casts such a magical glow about the place and makes me feel like I'm in a fairytale! On top of that- game of thrones is filmed here! Nerd level: reached maximum capacity.



Our apartment was so nice too! The coolest part was that it was above a mosque! How freaking legit is that?! It was another apartment style place like the one in Rome, which was nice because it meant room to spread out a little, plus it had a washer/drier combo machine. It was Madeline, Zoe (each in their own "rooms"- Zoe was in the bed that was in the living area, and Madeline was in the little loft), Tashia, Maddie (who shared a room), McCall, and I (we shared a room too). We had a group dinner tonight at this restaurant outside the old city walls, and let me just say- I've never been served more food. There was bread, an appetizer plate with cheese, meat, tempora-like zucchini, then a soup, then a plate with three types of meat, veggies, and fries, then this cake thing for dessert! It was fun though, my table was the definition of loud Americans, but we didn't care because we were laughing our heads off and having fun! It was extra great because I was able to bond with some of the girls that I hadn't talked to really yet in the trip and one of them, Tashia, is a neuro major too! Twins!




After dinner we walked out of the old city walls and down to a beach where they had places to lay out on the "sand", but just sitting there listening to the waves and looking out over the sea with the half moon hanging lazily in the sky made me feel so peaceful and happy. It was the most idyllic, but real, spot in the world.



There was also this cute little tower thing and stone stairs so of course we had to stop and take pictures ;)

We walked back into the city and some of the girls went back to our apt, but my friend McCall and I decided to walk around more. We ran into some of the guys, JJ, Hugh, and Zach, in our group and stayed out a little while longer just chatting with them. We were in for a big surprise when we got back to our apartment building to find that the door into the building itself was locked! We tried a bunch of different stuff to solve the problem at hand, including obviously calling the program director, but nothing was working! We even tried to go around to the back of the building to see if we could yell up to our roommates or throw something to get their attention, but instead of just a regular little alleyway, there was a restaurant. There was this group of people at one of the tables who asked what was wrong and me (being friendly but incredibly stupid) answered that we were locked out of the building. It was right then that I realized my mistake, so McCall and I wrapped up the convo pretty quick and left, saying to each other "Well, in good news we might get kidnapped tonight". After about 30 minutes from when we realized we were locked out, one of us finally had the idea to find a cafe that wasn't too busy and beg them to use their wifi for free to go on Facebook and try to message people in our group. Funny thing was I think they were using someone else's wifi at the cafe because they had us stand in this random spot by one of the walls to connect. I'm not complaining though because it worked! We were able to get a hold of our roommates and not ten minutes later we were safe and sound up in the apartment!

So it was definitely an eventful day, but in a good way (minus the locked out part!) can't wait to go to the beach tomorrow!!! Ciao!

Posted by cedevault 15:24 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Days 7 and 8: Rome!

Day 7:
This day went by fast, in a sense. I got sick during the night and when I woke up I was feeling worse. Not really the ideal way to spend your first morning in Rome. I was in and out of sleep from about 7 in the morning until 6:30 or 7 at night. When I finally was well enough to actually stay awake, I turned on the TV and what should one of the only three channels be playing but New Girl in Italian! I watched two episodes of that, and when it was over I read my book.

By that point I was getting well enough to feel hungry, but not enough to be able to get out of the apartment to find something to eat. Luckily, there was a knock on the door and it was the program directors wife! Seriously heaven sent. She offered to get me things that I could actually eat and drink besides just water, and so about 20 minutes later she was back with saltines, this Italian Gatorade, sprite, and these bouillon cubes that she used to make a vegetable broth. I found out later that night that my roommates had brought me some breakfast and bought me a small sprite, and had even told me but I don't remember any of that because I was so out of it!

Day 8:
Woke up feeling much better. And it was a free day so I could take my time in the morning to get ready because after spending an entire day in bed I was looking ratchet!

We started the morning by visiting the colosseum. It was such a beautiful structure! I'm sure Ross and jack would have been geeking out with me over it if they were there with me, and they might have understood my Gladiator references I kept making (no one I was there with had seen the movie).


After, the girls I was with and I went to a pizzeria for lunch. I didn't eat much, but what I did eat was delish! Then we saw the usual tourist sites of Rome in succession, not spending a whole lot of time at each. We first "saw" the Trevi Fountain. I put it in quotations because it was being restored and the fountain was drained and there was scaffolding around all the statues that decorate it.


Then we saw the pantheon, which was smaller than I expected, and which also houses Raphael's tomb. He tomb has a really cool inscription on it in Italian that I invite you to look up. I can't remember it off the top of my head and I don't want to butcher it!


We left the pantheon and walked to the Spanish steps (and I'm going to sound super ignorant saying this but I'll say it anyways!) none of us were sure why they are so famous. It was super crowded, so after taking a couple pictures, we left.

One of the girls had to find a police station to try and get her visa papers done for her mission, but unfortunately when we got there the police officer said that she had to go do that at an embassy. We hopped onto the metro and got back to the apartment we were staying in. Everyone took a nap, except me because I slept like 25 hours in the last 36, and when they woke up we made dinner! We went and got gelato (of course!) from a place down the street and then watched the DaVinci Code to prepare ourselves for France later in the trip!

Croatia tomorrow! Ciao!

Posted by cedevault 14:50 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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