I’ve completely fallen in love with Amsterdam and all the quirky things I always stumbled across in this city. I can 100% say I have never been bored here.
I’ve done so much over the past few weeks I wanted to blog about some of the highlights.
Despite coming abroad alone, I knew long before hand that I would have friends studying and working in other cities as well. This was both comforting and exciting because gives us chance to visit each other! About a month ago, my friends, Devon, Elysia, and Dan visited me from Paris and Barcelona. The weekend they came was great but it rained a lot. I’m proud and thankful that they continued to bike around the city with me in the rain because I was able to show them so much in the few days they were here. I ended up giving them a brewery tour of the city to keep us dry and warm. Like I said, Amsterdam is quirky and they are really focused on sustainability which can be seen in their repurposing of buildings. One of the breweries we went to called “Troost” which is in an old monastery. The vibes in the brewery were the perfect example of “gezelligheid“ which is a Dutch word that doesn’t exactly translate but means something along the lines of cozy. The next day we had lunch at Pllek which is in repurposed shipping containers and went back to Brouwerij’t IJ which is in a repurposed windmill. The Dutch are definitely on to something, they are saving money and the environment, plus creating really cool places that are truly “gezelligheid.”
This year was my first time ever not being home on Thanksgiving. Luckily two of my best friends, Shannon and Meghan, who I’ve known since I was in preschool came to visit. They arrived the day before Thanksgiving so we decided to go to the Albert Cuyp Market to grab some vegetables to have for dinner the next night. On Thanksgiving, we started the day with mimosa’s and avocado toast before heading over to the Anne Frank house. It was really special to go back there on Thanksgiving because it made me all the more thankful to have my friends with me and know that I have a family who misses me back home. After the Anne Frank house we took a canal cruise around the city while sipping on some Heinekens and then headed over to the liquor store so that Shannon could buy her first bottle of wine for our dinner. Back at my apartment I cooked my very own Thanksgiving dinner consisting of sweet potatoes, green beans, quinoa, salad, and bread. I truly was very proud of myself and very much into the holiday spirit. We had such a great Thanksgiving dinner together followed by some Dutch apple pie and I was so thankful to have them by my side on my first Thanksgiving away from home.
Also when Shannon and Meghan were here we got a chance to go to the flea market in Amsterdam Noord which is the biggest flea market in Europe. It only happens once a month and just happened to be while they were here. It was also my first time making it there and I was in awe. They sell just about everything you could image for your home and so many clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry. The vendors there sell most things super cheap and are always down to haggle with you. I was able to find some super cool stuff here and love the concept of the flea market which is a sustainable way to shop.
Even though Shannon and Meghan were here for such a time, we decided to make a day trip to another city in the Netherlands called Utrecht. Utrecht is said to be a smaller, less touristy Amsterdam and I was looking forward to seeing what people meant by that. Utrecht is also a very old city and they have their very own canals but they are much lower than the ones in Amsterdam. When we arrived everywhere we saw Black Friday shopping signs. We spent the whole day shopping in the city and were able to get some really good deals on really nice stuff. It definitely was very crowded in the city that day but never overwhelming and mostly just locals.
I actually ended up going back to Utrecht the next weekend as well with some friends I hadn’t hung out with in awhile. I met Chris and Blaise the first weekend I was here but all of us traveled like crazy so we hadn’t gone out much since but still saw each other frequently in passing. When we realized we were all going to be in the city for the weekend we decided to go out for drinks. Them and Gia got to talking about how they hadn’t visited Utrecht yet and made plans to go the next day. Last minute I tagged along because I had really enjoyed Utrecht and wanted to see more of it beyond the shopping. We decided to visit the Dom Tower which is the huge bell tower in the city. It’s 465 steps to the top and they only get steeper the higher up you get. The tour guide was really informative and told us about the purpose of each of the rooms in the tower, what really amazed me is that to build the tower, they would pull the materials up the middle of it through trap doors. They even pulled all the 14 bells up that way and weighing 32,000 kg in total. From the top of the tower we could look across to St. Martin’s cathedral, at one point the bell tower and the cathedral were actually connected. Today the cathedral is massive itself but the middle half of it which connected it was actually destroyed by tornados in 1674. Below is a picture of me standing where one of the pillars once stood, I can’t believe the size of just the one pillar.
Following the trend of repurposing, nearby my apartment is a techno club called “De School” which is in a former elementary school. Quite an interesting concept to go clubbing in a former school but it was a really cool place to experience techno. Europe is really big on techno music and before coming I personally didn’t know too much about it but was excited to check it out. The only problem was that a lot of the techno clubs are pretty exclusive since the whole idea of them is that it is about the music. Last weekend Gia had a friend visiting so we decided to try it out. I was very pleasantly surprised by the experience. It truly was all about the music, we went in and it was completely dark with only exit lights illuminating the room with the occasional flash of light from the DJ stand. The music itself was also much more enjoyable than I would have thought it would be. No pictures because they cover up your phone camera with a sticker!
Also last weekend, my favorite duo came to play at Paradiso. I had been trying to get tickets since September when I heard they were playing but they instantly sold out. Then on day I got a notification that 50 more tickets were released and immediately bought one before even thinking about asking someone to join me because I wanted to buy it so quickly. Luckily the day before the concert, on a ticket resell website, Gia, Chris, and some of his friends were also able to get tickets and join me. Paradiso is an awesome venue, (repurposed former church) and it was the best concert I have ever been to. Oh Wonder is so talented and they really put on a good show, the acoustics were marvelous, I could feel the beats in my body. I’m so grateful that I was able to see my favorite band at my favorite venue here.
As Gia and I got to discussing our dwindling time left here in Amsterdam, we decided we would spend the day doing weird things that only this city has to offer. That day started off with lunch at Bagels and Beans, the little chain of cafes here in Amsterdam. I’ve been several times as their bagels are decent but always stayed away from ordering their “Bug Bagel” which is made with dried crickets, mealworms & a grasshopper. Despite my disgust, I had always been intrigued as to why this otherwise ordinary cafe had it on its menu. So Gia and I took the leap to try it. We figured it was best to split that and then order another bagel with a completely opposite taste to clear our palates with in case. Surprisingly it was not horrible, the cream cheese and avocado pretty much masked the taste but I could definitely tell that there was something in that bagel that wasn’t quite supposed to be there from the crunchiness. I’m glad I tried it, I can now say I ate bugs, but I’m glad we also ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel to have as well.
After the bug bagel, we went to check out Museum Vrolik which is a collection of preserved bodies of people who died due to their deformities. Mostly babies who were miscarried or died shortly after birth. The collection is mostly for medical students to visit to learn about different deformities but also open and free to the public. It was really cool to go to but also gross to see so up close. The collection is huge and also includes skeletons of different animals and dinosaurs. Luckily, many of the deformities that can be seen there don’t happen anymore because of modern medicine but it was crazy to see all the things that can go wrong in human development.
Day of Churches
Yesterday I had an awesome day where I explored a few churches in the city. I started my day with a hot chocolate in the attic of the Old Church while I journaled about my time here. I like to journal before I blog so that’s why a lot of my posts have been quite delayed. The hot chocolate was the absolute most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had and really warmed me up as the sun outside was quickly replaced with rain. The weather here the past week has gotten increasingly uncertain. In New England we joke that the weather is crazy because one day it’s warm and sunny, then the next it hails. Well here in Amsterdam we can get those both multiple times in one day. Yesterday it was sunny so I decided to bike then it poured for hours then hailed just as I needed to bike again and then was sunny for the sunset, and then snowed all night. Enough about the weather though because yesterday was super cool despite it. After my hot chocolate, I went into the Old Church. The church is built on a graveyard so the entire floor is made up of tomb stones for families. The church is also massive but since it is from medieval times, it does not have heating. I was cold in there yesterday and it was about about 3 degrees celsius but they said that one winter it got to 20 below celsius. After visiting the Old Church I walked down the street to the Church Our Lord in the Attic which was a Catholic Church built inside one of the canal houses at a time when Protestants controlled the city. Catholics were still able to practice freely but they were to keep their churches private. This resulted in a whole three level church being built inside the house. The Dutch still today have the mentality that religion is sort of a “don’t see, don’t tell” concept which works out very nicely for them. In the New Church they have an exhibit on Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King lives and their activism. I enjoyed spending the afternoon strolling through and having the time to reflect on their lives and the current world we live in. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Martin Luther King received an honorary doctorate from Vrije Universiteit which is the university I attend here in Amsterdam.
I love it here, I wish I had more time to explore the many streets and canals. They say that you come across three loves in your lifetime, the first is fairytale love, for me that was France. The second is a hard one that teaches you the most about yourself, which would be Amsterdam. And the third is the one you don’t see coming…