So this whole posting every week thing is proving to be a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. I don’t know why, but I have been extremely tired everyday and when I get back to my apartment all I want to do is sleep or watch Netflix (my show of choice right now is Suits and I can’t get enough of it). I think part of it is definitely that I try to go out and do things a lot more than I do when I’m back at USC since I’m abroad and there’s so many new things to explore and the days left keep ticking away.
I’ve decided that I’m going to devote these posts to the trips and big things I do because honestly my weekdays are pretty boring. They’re spent mostly either going to class, eating, or going into the nearby city to go shopping. The weekends though are a pretty amazing time. This past weekend we did a trip to Brussels, Belgium and Amsterdam, The Netherlands and I fell in love with both of the cities.
On Friday morning at 8:00 am we hopped on a train and were off to Brussels. It took us about 4 and a half hours from our town in Germany, but it went pretty quickly because we had 4 different trains we needed to take. We could have probably found 1 train that would take us directly there, but being college students we found the cheapest option and went with it. Once in Brussels it was apparent we were all getting quite hangry so we made it our first mission to go find food because a group of 8 hangry girls is a situation no one wants to be in. On the way though we of course had to take in the buildings and sights considering we were in Belgium for the first time in our lives. During our hunt for (inexpensive) food we happened upon the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert which is the gorgeous shopping arcade pictured below. One of my favorite parts about being in Europe so far has been seeing older buildings like this with all of their detail and focus on beauty instead of just function.
After admiring the beauty of the shopping strip we found a street that had a bunch of restaurants along it. On our way down the street a guy came up to us to tell us about the student special his restaurant had and since we were so hungry we decided to try it out. It turned out to be one of the worst meals I have had in a long time. Most of the food looked and tasted like it had been frozen and then just heated up to serve to us. It wasn’t even good frozen food though. The best part of it was the salad (which lets be real it’s pretty hard to really mess up a salad). Looking back we definitely should have seen the warning signs that it was a tourist trap and have eaten somewhere else, but we were so hungry that we let our stomachs decide. Something I have learned from this and other restaurants while traveling so far is that if they have an english menu it probably isn’t going to be very good food. Once we made it through the lunch and paid as quickly as possible we headed off to explore the city and hoped our day could only get better (turns out it did!). The Grand Place was close to the restaurant so we decided to check that out first. The whole square had beautiful architecture and I was in love with all of the gold detailing on the buildings. Nearby the square was one of the more random sites we saw, the Manneken Pis (aka the Pissing Boy). It is this famous Brussels sculpture/fountain that is literally just a little boy who is peeing.
Once we were done with the lovely fountain we wandered around the main part of the city for a bit longer. Then we took the subway over to the Atomium which is a huge building that is build out of aluminum and is an atom enlarge over 150 billion times. It was built for the World Fair that Brussels held in the 1950’s and I am obsessed with world fairs so I was super excited we decided to go. We were able to go up through the different spheres, and each one had a different exhibit. The view from the top sphere was pretty incredible too.
At this point our backpacks were feeling pretty heavy so we got on a train to head over to our hostel to drop our things off. Along the way we quickly got off at one of the train stops to check out the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Once we had checked into the hostel we took about an hours rest because everyone was pretty tired from our day walking around the city. During our rest we consulted yelp and Trip advisor because we were determined to have a good meal for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant called De Bruxelles It D’ailleurs and it ended up being the best meal I have had here so far, which made up quick well for our horrible lunch. It was a fairly small restaurant and the kitchen was apart of the area you dined you could watch the chefs make everything. I order a wok with shrimp and it was seasoned perfectly and the rice was the perfect amount of stickiness. It was basically heaven. We were all pretty full after dinner so we decided to just go get some souvenirs and then chill at the hostel for the rest of the night. I have decided to collect magnets as souvenirs from everywhere I go and I’m go to do a diy project with them when I get home.
The next day we got our free breakfast at the hostel (which turned out to be pretty good considering we were only paying 20 euros to stay there for the night) and then we took a leisurely stroll over to the station where we would be catching the bus to Amsterdam. I love having time to just walk around a city because you happen upon things randomly which makes for moments that you wouldn’t have if you spend all of your time following a schedule. The night before on our way to find souvenirs, for example, we happened upon this gorgeous monument that is called the Congress Column and at its base is their tomb of the unknown soldier.
After arriving in Amsterdam we had learned from our sore backs in Brussels and checked into our hostel first thing and were able to drop off the stuff we wouldn’t need throughout the day. Then some of the girls wanted to go to the Torture Museum so we headed over that way and along the way we all picked up snacks. I went into a fry shop where they make the fries fresh from potatoes and I had them with a spicy mayo and they were probably the best fries I have ever had. My friend and I decided we didn’t need to see the torture museum so while the others went to it, we explored the nearby area.
By the time they were done with the museum everyone was ready for dinner and we ended up an Argentinian grill. I wasn’t too hungry so I ordered a caribbean side salad that sounded pretty good, but alas we had ended up at another tourist trap restaurant and the salad was literally just shredded iceberg lettuce with canned mango and pieces of chicken awkwardly on top. Now that this has happened twice to us I think we’ve finally learned our lesson. The restaurant was close to the red light district so we figured we might as well take a peek while we were near it. It wasn’t anything like I expected it to be and it was very uncomfortable to walk through the two streets that we did. It just made you think about the girls and the whole situation and it just isn’t something I would need to see more than once. To finish off the night we went to the Amsterdam ice bar which is basically where you put on heavy coats that they lend you and go into this really cold freezer like room and you get to have drinks out of an ice cup. It was pretty fun, especially because we had people with us who live places where you don’t even get snow, and now I can say I’ve had a drink out of an ice cup.
The next morning we were up bright and early to go to the Anne Frank Museum. This was a must for our trip to Amsterdam and we knew the line could take hours during the middle of the day so we sacrificed some sleep to go. It is always really interesting to think about how this one girl has had such an impact on the lives of so many. She is our glimpse into what it was like to live during the holocaust and reminder of what humans are capable of. It was an incredibly sobering experience, but I enjoyed it a lot. The part that really made the biggest impact on me was how all of the rooms of the house were kept empty, instead of setting up a display in each room of how they would of looked while the Frank’s lived there. As we were leaving I took a picture of what I thought was the house that Anne Frank had lived in, but it turned out I just took a picture of the museum side (good job Jenni) so the only picture I have of the actual house is from later that night. Below the museum is on the left and Anne Frank’s house is on the right.
After touring the museum and taking pictures of the wrong thing we split up into a few different groups based on who wanted to do what. My group headed about an hour outside of Amsterdam to a town called Zaanse Schans, which is a town that brought old windmills from around the country to one area to preserve them and give people an opportunity to learn about them. Besides the windmills the town also had a bunch of little shops and exhibits, such as clog making and cheese making. I really enjoyed this part of our trip because it was nice to get out of the city and see what the rest of the country was like. Getting there though was quite the struggle. We needed to take bus 341, but we weren’t sure if we could pay on the bus or not. That day there also happened to be a huge marathon and bike race going on. So to start we walked through the entire train station to find the help desk for them to tell us that yes we could just pay on the bus for our ticket. Then we walked back to the other side of the station for our bus (because that’s where all of the other buses we have taken stop) to find out our bus stop was actually back on the side on the info desk. So we headed over there and wandered around a bit until we realized we needed to go upstairs to get to the bus station. Then we get up there, walk to our stop, and realize that the entire station is closed for the race. There is a small sign though by the time tables that say our bus is going to stop near the NDSM ferry so we head over there and wait for a bit and realize that our bus isn’t coming there. Then my friend asks a guy nearby who looks like he works for the bus company where the stop is and he tells us it’s across the river. So we get on the nearby ferry and go across the river to bus stops. After waiting about 10 minutes and not seeing our bus we ask another person who informs us that we took the wrong ferry. So then two hours later after getting back on the wrong ferry and then taking the right ferry we finally got on the right bus. It was so worth all of the struggle though, I mean look at how cool this windmill looks.
Our trip back to Amsterdam was a lot less of a struggle and we made it back in less time than it took us to find our bus there. For dinner we of course had to try the famous dutch pancakes and the ones at The Pancake Bakery did not disappoint. Mine had apples baked in the pancake and then on top was cinnamon ice cream, cinnamon liqueur, and whipped cream. It tasted as good as it sounds, although it was quite sweet and by the end a little bit too sweet to finish the whole thing. After that we met up with the rest of our group for an evening canal boat tour. They light up a lot of the bridges at night so it was quite a nice ride. I wish all cities had canals running through them.
The next day we had a train to catch at 1:00 pm to head home, so a few of us woke up early to check out the Van Gogh Museum. While I enjoyed it, it had a rather expensive admission fee so I’m not sure if I would have done it looking back. I enjoyed learning about Van Gogh’s life, but I though it was odd that I didn’t see any mention of Starry Night considering it’s his most famous work. Maybe I accidentally skipped over that part, but even so it was odd. Then we visited the I AMSTERDAM sign and got some really good burgers and it was the off to the station to head back to Germany.
All in all it was an amazing weekend and I loved both cities. Each had their own unique charm to them, but I personally think Amsterdam was my favorite of the weekend. I just fell in love with the canals. This weekend it’s off to Oktoberfest so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories for you from that (hopefully we have an easier time finding our bus)