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.