Finally! Another update on my eurotravels, which by now feel ages away… so sad! And I apologize for my delays- but reflecting upon my travels this far after they’ve happened have helped me relive them, actually 🙂 So now for Munich, Brussels/Bruges, and Amsterdam! Katie from HC (and studying at York) joined us for Munich and Brussels which was AWESOME.
So Munich was the biggest surprise of the entire trip. I’m not sure why but I never had big expectations for Germany. It just always seemed low on my radar. In fact, while originally planning it with my friends, I voted no to Germany entirely. That would’ve been a HUGE mistake. Munich was absolutely incredible. It was practically utopian– only 3% unemployment, no graffiti, no homeless people on the streets, immaculate buildings and restorations, clean air, etc. It was stunning, to put it simply.
On our first night there we went to the Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s most famous (and yes, touristy) beer hall. Kelly, Kar, Ashely, Katie, and I all got liters of their house beer. Now let’s keep in mind- I hate beer. But I was determined to have the real German experience. Low and behold I finished my liter first. YES. It was so much fun. The atmosphere is great- very jolly people singing and hollering and chatting loudly amidst a orchestra/ band in lederhosen playing German traditional songs. I loved it.
The next day we went on a three hour Sandeman’s walking tour which is free (except for tipping our handsome tour guide, Peter,
of course). It was the best tour I went on in all of Europe- Peter was a “born and raised Bavarian” as he put it and happened to speak near-perfect English. It was so cool to get a real perspective on Munich and German history from a German guy my age. We saw pretty much everything Munich has to offer, including St. Mary’s in Marienplatz, the place where Hitler attempted to walk from Munich to Berlin in rebellion, St. Peter’s Church and Tower, and more. The inner history nerd in me was absolutely engrossed in all the details about post WWI Munich and Germany and how Hitler came into power. We also witnessed one of Munich’s 118 subtle memorials that honor Nazi resistance–the one featured in the picture to the right honors the path of resistance those took to avoid honoring a Nazi sign the street over; those people faced Gestapo but did it anyway. We ended our tour in a gorgeous outdoor market with a beer garden. The beer garden was totally packed (including men in legitimate lederhosen). A bunch of us got the most amazing bratwurst weiners and ate in the garden in the best weather we had yet and then we climbed the tower right after to see the best views of the whole city. Aka perfection.
That night we went to a rendition of Swan Lake at Munich’s National Theater/ Opera House. We were hoping to get student discounted tickets for 7 euros but they didn’t have enough for all of us. So for the sake of being together, we all purchased €3.50 standing room only tickets. To see a ballet in Munich for €3.50? Incredible. Standing for three hours only able to see about 1/4 of the stage? Not so great. But definitely worth it 🙂
Our last day in Munich was spent mostly at Dachau concentration camp, the first concentration camp in Germany under Hitler’s regime. About 200 people were killed there per day. We took a 2 1/2 hour tour with a German tour guide around the camp and had an incredibly emotional experience. You never know what to expect going into something as profound as Dachau- I will say that it is an experience that I will never forget. To hear the speech they gave those they’d taken against their will- calling them inhuman and worse than shit; to walk past the wall where they executed people; to go through the freezing, prison corridors where people were tortured; to see the watchtowers where Nazi’s stood with guns; to walk through the crematorium and imagine panicking amongst the masses. It was a heartbreaking experience and my words on the issue can’t do it justice. But it’s an experience I urge everyone to take advantage of if they can- it will give you perspective no textbook could ever offer.
Now for Bruges and Brussels! We spent my 21st birthday on March 19th in Bruges- the same place I was with my parents as a 9-month-old baby. Bruges is so quintessential and gorgeous. We went to a very famous Belgian chocolate store called The Chocolate Line, in addition to roaming around the town, stopping by a market, enjoying the architecture/ scenery/ canals, and eating Belgian waffles to end the day.
Katie, Sophia, me, Ashley, Kelly, and Kar in front of The Chocolate Line! Yum.
My mom- by the grace of God- got placed in a business trip to Brussels on the 19th and 20th of March so I got to see my mama for my birthday which was absolutely amazing and definitely the highlight 🙂 She and I shared an earlier meal and then I met back up with everyone for a later dinner. It was pretty low-key for a 21st birthday; we ate a delicious Italian restaurant called Abruzzo next to our rented apartment and drank wine in our apartment for the rest of the night. We attempted to play music and dance around and then proceeded to get yelled at by quite the furious French women who-in French- screeched “I AM GOING TO CALL THE POLICE.” Soooo- crazy and wild 21st birthday? Yeah that didn’t happen. But upstairs in one of the bedrooms, we all drank and wine, played games, and chatted. So I’d say it was pretty damn good 🙂
Brussels was a beautiful city and the fact that I got to see my mom made it that much better. But Brussels didn’t have too much to offer compared to some other European cities. The Grand Place- which is the main square- is absolutely stunning and possibly the best square I saw in Europe. But beyond that, there isn’t too much to be seen. We did go to chocolate museum to see how chocolate is made and we also saw Mannekin Piss- a famous status of a little boy peeing over a fountain (featured in the photo to the right). A highlight most definitely. And, of course, I got to see my mom again my last night in Brussels which included good food and better company.
La Grand Place at night- amazing!
Oh and funny story- I officially do not trust suitcase locks. The first one I purchased broke before I even attempted to put it on my suitcase. I bought one at the airport on the way to Budapest and it seemed like sturdy stuff. Yeah, well it was so sturdy it refused to come off. Even though I entered the right code (andthen tried a ton of variations of it) a million times, it refused to unlock. So what did we student travelers resort to? A kitchen knife. Major thanks to Kates for helping out with this one.
Amsterdam was such a pleasant surprise– the only thing I knew about Amsterdam was the Red Light District and all those weed coffee shops. So I didn’t expect it to be as stunning of a city as it is. It has a maze of canals and bridges, gorgeous buildings, and a ton of beautiful Dutch people biking around everywhere (literally. everywhere. got almost run over several times). Not to mention, heated Stroopwaffels are so amazing. Surprisingly, some of the best food I had in Europe was in Amsterdam. I didn’t try Dutch cuisine but Amsterdam has an eclectic array of restaurants–Thai, Indonesian, Italian, etc.–that all specialize in what they do. I had the most incredible Indonesian food my life. Twice. I still salivate when I think of the peanut sauce over skewered chicken and noodles… Okay I’m digressing. Oh and Chipsy King–the amazing fries place that put fries into a cone-shaped paper holder and dumped ketchup and mayo on them. A heart attack in a bag, but delicious.
We got to stay in Sophia’s dad’s apartment while we were there which was right near the Vondelpark and in a gorgeous area of town. He had patio doors right off the kitchen that opened up into a gorgeous garden and see the sun setting. We were so lucky we got such nice accommodation for free (thank you Soph’s dad!) and because of that, I got to stay in Amsterdam a little bit longer than the other places and RELAX. No day was too crammed with stuff which made it so wonderfully leisurely. We hit up the Van Gogh Museum (a ridiculously overpriced 14 euros but worth it), took a canal tour, saw the Anne Frank House (one of the most moving experiences of the entire trip), explored a bunch of flea markets, saw the Botannical Gardens (where my ISIC card provided by Holy Cross actually came in handy and saved me 4 euros. score), ventured into the Red Light District at night (wowza), took a tour at the House of Bols (basically a Dutch liquor museum. With two free shots and a cocktail at the end ayayay!), andddd, last but certainly not least, saw The Hunger Games (with Dutch subtitles). Strolling through the Vondelpark with gelato and cooking breakfast for dinner in the apartment were other highlights. 🙂
The smelling station in the House of Bols for their liqours- SO cool.