For students at the U of M there is no such thing as an Easter break, not even a day off for Good Friday or the following Monday. In France, students get an astounding 2-week vaycay and France isn’t even a religious country by any means. Granted this is kind of a mix of spring break and Easter break it is still awesome, especially for us American students who are only here for a short time and want to travel around more extensively. Many people in my program took this opportunity to travel to the remaining countries and cities on their lists, often meaning a grand tour of Europe! My itinerary was laid back and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I traveled to Amsterdam and Dublin with John my first week and then went back to Freiburg with him for the second week. He only got one week of break, but I was really happy to go back to Freiburg one last time. It is such a great city that I needed to see it in the springtime…and I had to study for my exams. We did a lot of walking in Amsterdam and Dublin, more or less taking in the sites of the city rather than trying to hit up every tourist attraction or museum in site, though you better believe I did extensive window-shopping in each city!
We were in Amsterdam from Saturday to Wednesday. One of John’s friends from his program, who actually has friends in my program, was there with us from Sunday to Tuesday. I was just getting over my evil virus, so walking as much as we did was tiring. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed its labyrinth-like system of beautiful canals lined with skinny 4 or 5 story buildings. Take note these building are not fun if you are on say the top floor. Our hostel had a great location, just near a Vondel park, but the climb up those narrow steep stairs killed us every time! And with the heat- oh la! I’m thankful for the nice weather we had, but we never guessed it would be like 80 degrees in the Netherlands at this time of the year. Some other things I did not expect was how crowed it was there. I know it is the biggest city in the Netherlands and touristy, but it was overwhelming at times, but good too because nothing was closed on Easter. I was very much looking forward to going to cities that speak English, but for some reason I thought everything in Amsterdam would be written in English. Nope it’s mostly Dutch, which we found to be a strange version of German with random English words thrown. Ok photo time.
We found a little grassy area our first night that was filled with these guys. They are bronze or iron sculptures of Komodo dragons, water monitors, etc. I love them sooo much because they look alive and they remind me of my childhood obsession with Steve Irwin's television show. They are just genius and make me want to take another foundry class, so I can make my own!
John reading the map surrounded by the lizards. Love it.
Our first meal was probably the most Dutch. Savory Pannenkoek.
John and a canal.
The tram. I did not really like them. They had a good deal for an unlimited 3-day pass, but they were just weird. You had to validate your ticket when you got on and off and you had to get on and off very quickly. We missed a few because of this and John's friend almost didn't make it off with us one time. They were also extremely hot on the inside, during the day.
The one museum we went to was the "Katten Kabinet". Read about it here http://www.amsterdam.info/museums/cat-cabinet/ It just seemed like such a bizarre museum that we had to check it out. Sure Amsterdam is home to the Rijksmuseum and a Van Gogh musuem, but this was cheaper and had no lines! I also got some great cat postcards from here.
The famous I AMsterdam sculpture with the Rijksmuseum in the background.
Climbing the letters and taking pictures is a must. John and I in the "d".
Our hostel was literally across from Vondelpark. A long skinny park with a large bike path in the center, ponds, grassy fields, and a statue of Joost van der Vondel himself. We found it to be a great place to rest when we were too tired to go on anymore or for a late night stroll after dinner.
We walked by the Anne Frank Huis.
A gorgeous canal we ate lunch ate one day.
John, of course,
dragged brought us to the harbor part of the city to look at house boats. This one was cool because it had a floating garden too.
The boat museum. John was very sad that it was closed for renovations.
Another thing I learned is that the Dutch are OBSESSED with biking. My host dad mentioned they biked a lot, but I had no idea to what extent. They have special bike lanes that look kind of like the side walk to you have to watch out, especially since scooters and other small motorized vehicles can drive there too. Most people ride around on old-school bikes painted black, others are really fancy like the one with the cart above. The Dutch have really mastered riding a non-tandem bike with more than one person on them. We saw people riding easily with their friends sitting on the back, on handle bars, or in the middle of the bike all the time. Hardly anyone wears helmets though, even the little children, and we definitely saw some whip-outs.
Those are just some of the highlights from exploring the citycenter at random and just taking it all in. My next post, before moving onto Dublin, will be about our day visit to Lisse to see Keukenhof. Google it and be amazed.