Days where you sit in airplanes and airports, get flights canceled, and narrowly avoid getting stuck for the night really put a damper on the whole idea of traveling. They make you want the day to be over just so you can sit down, have a cup of tea and sleep for the foreseeable future. But then there are those times when you get to the train station, the train is on time, and in a few short hours you find yourself in a different city in some adjacent country.
Well that’s the difference between traveling in Europe and then back to America again. With that in mind, why would I even want to come back? But that’s another discussion all together. The point is: planes suck and trains are lovely modes of transportation.
A German Christmas
Over Christmas break I flew to Germany, visited family, walked around cities many times older than the country that I live in, and generally had a pleasant time. The Christmas Markets were in full swing when I got to Cologne, filled to the brim with tourists from everywhere and a few locals in between. The weather was cold, a wet cold that chills you to the bone. But the warmth flows back into your fingers from the fresh delicious Reibekuchen (fried potato pancakes) and steaming Glühwein.
Christmas was a blast and whats become the traditional yearly Raclette was once again amazing. Right now as I’m writing this it seems that most of what I’ve talked about is food. Well I like food and the food here is good. It’s all a hell of a lot better than anything I can get back in the U.S., especially at college. Christmas passed with so much food that frankly I’m amazed that I didn’t succumb to some sort of food coma or gain some few hundred pounds.
The weather on New Years left a bit to be desired, read: fog and a general unpleasant atmosphere that was warmed by the company of friends and family and the lighting off fireworks. Along the river hoards of people were setting of fireworks, us included. It was such a lovely display that even through the thickening fog, the bright lights and explosions could still be seen. The drive back home, however, was a bit of a snafu. What would normally have been a 10 minute drive became a 3 hour fiasco when the fog turned so thick, with the help of the smoke from the fireworks, that you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. What a great start to the new year. If that’s a sign of how this year is going to turn out, I say “Bring it on 2015!”.
Amsterdam in the New Year
Traveling became fun again when my sister and I went for a few days to Amsterdam. Train rides put me to sleep, and this was no exception. After a short nap I woke up in this famed city ready to take on the museums. The one thing I wasn’t ready for was the extraordinary amount of bicyclists zooming around the street as if being chased by their worst nightmares. The Netherlands are flat, I mean really flat; the tallest point is a tiny hill. So I should have seen it coming. Streets were divided between bikes and cars. The bicyclists even had their own stop lights. And just to complicate it even more, trams and buses were added into the mix. After walking around the city for nearly three days and almost getting run over multiple times, I still don’t understand their system of traffic regulation. I just had to accept that it was a system of organized chaos. And you never really think that they’re that dangerous but the mopeds were the worst part.
Apart from the deadly streets the city is quite lovely. Hugging the walls in order to not get run over really adds a new perspective to looking at a city and, as it turns out, is a great way to see the minute details in the architecture. The buildings are absolutely stunning. From the Central Station and the massive Rijksmuseum to the small details in the city’s many restaurants that add a personal flair to each and every one, the entire city is incredible.
The van Gogh Museum was filled with amazing works of art and the Anne Frank house brought tears to my eyes. But it also filled me with a sense of awe that this girl, constantly in fear of getting caught, worked so hard to document her time in hiding to give the rest of the world insight into the daily horrors of a massive genocide. That dedication and the talent for writing is absolutely inspiring. The Heineken Experience was a lovely look into the meager beginnings of an international corporation and the process of brewing a beer.
As in Germany, and this whole trip, the food was astounding! I had no bad meal the entire time I was there. From a quick breakfast at some small bakery to lunch at one cafe or the other to dinner at some local restaurant, it was all amazing. And the few days I spent there were as well. Apart from a torrential downpour the morning of Day 2, the weather was great (at least not below freezing), and the people were friendly.
With that whirlwind of a break behind me I think I’m mostly ready for the new semester. It’s been great not having to study or think of anything school related but, alas, life must go on. Here’s to a wonderful semester and a happy new year!