We decided to go a long weekend when we had a day off from class here in Spain. We ended up missing one day of classes, but which is something totally do-able here. Sara and I ended up finding some pretty cheap tickets--especially for flying to The Netherlands from Spain--and snatched them up. We booked a hostel for the four nights. We ended up staying at the Christian Youth Hostel that Northwestern's Spring Service Project students visit each spring. It was fun to see where so many of our friends and fellow Northwestern students have been! It was also a wonderful hostel where people were so welcoming and friendly! We ended up attending one of the Bible studies they have each night because a worker invited us. It was enjoyable and fun to converse with people from all over the world. It even fell on Sara and I to translate parts of it to a Spanish-speaking fellow there!! Crazy the opportunities that are placed in front of you daily when you know a second language...
We flew to Eindhoven, because the airplane tickets were much cheaper, which is only about an hour and a half by bus to Amsterdam. We arrived at the airport--which was filled with souvenirs of wooden shoes & all things Dutch and even had a tulip stand! I loved Holland already! As soon as we arrived and saw everything, I just felt like I had arrived at home! It was a crazy weird feeling. When we rode on the bus to Amsterdam, we rode past farm fields and terrain that seemed more "Iowa" than I have seen in a long time! It was a welcoming sight!
As soon as we got to Amsterdam, I was in awe of all of the Dutch fronts on the houses and the things that just so reminded me of my home in little Orange City, IA. It is truly crazy how similar Orange City is to Dutch-land when you are actually there seeing it all! I constantly would see things and be like "Ooh! That's why they have that in Orange City! Or.. that's why that looks like that in Orange City!" etc. I felt almost so torn--because things felt so familiar--but yet I had to keep telling myself I was still in Europe!
As soon as we arrived at the train/bus station, we decided to buy train tickets and go immediately to Haarlem to see the Corrie Ten Boom house. We were very glad we decided to do that! The Corrie Ten Boom House/Museum was an amazing experience. We waited outside the door of the house (that is still standing in its original position) and were able to take a free tour throughout the house. We were able to see the place where Corrie and her family hid men during the Second World War and hear about Corrie's life and her experiences. It was a very cool experience & educational! Definitely a must-see if you go to Holland.
Haarlem was beautiful & small and felt like a small town like Orange City (granted it was still a lot bigger I believe). We also visited a windmill right along the water and were able to take a tour through it and see how it works & go up to the top and look over Haarlem. We ended up being the only ones in the English tour, so we sort of had a private tour to ourselves with a very sweet, old Dutch man. We had fun walking around a little bit and just enjoying being in Holland! Then we took the train back to Amsterdam and found our way to our Hostel.
Over the next few days, we did so much in Amsterdam and had a beautiful, fun time together! Some of the things we did in summary:
- ate poffertjes at a small "fair" that was set up right in front of the Royal Palace (seriously RIGHT in front!) with rides and everything!
- visited the famous Rijksmuseum where we were able to see lots of famous art from Dutch history & from around the world. I have been to a few art museums since being in Europe, but I think this was definitely my favorite!
- ate traditional Dutch pancakes at Sara's Pancake House-- they tasted and looked more like crepes! We also figured out quickly that Dutch syrup is definitely not the same as American syrup.
- went on a boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam. A fun, relaxing way to take in the city during our last day in Amsterdam! The canals were one of my favorite parts of Amsterdam--they added a lot of character to the city, and I of course love being in the city, but also right on the water! They showed us lots of famous houses & sites along the tour.
- walked through the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) where there are lots of souvenirs..and of course TULIPS! (Unfortunately we didn't get to visit Holland during Tulip season) :( I loved all the little gift shops & tulips, wooden shoes, etc. (all things DUTCH!) throughout the city!
- toured the Royal Palace. This was a lot of fun. They shared lots of Dutch history through the audio guides & there was lots of cool art, VERY decorated rooms, etc.
- walked by the Heineken factory & museum. We decided not to take a tour inside, but it was fun to see.
- ate at the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam!
- walked through the small Amsterdam Cheese Museum & tried out free samples of cheese!
- took a small tour through the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and learned a lot about the history of tulips!
- visited the Anne Frank House...WOW. This was a cool experience. It made learning about the event in school and reading her book that much more real. It was a cool experience and well worth the wait in line. Very different experience from the Corrie Ten Boom House, but equally interested & very neat & special to see.
- visited Westerkerk (church)
- found the "smallest house in Amsterdam"-- it literally is only as wide as my armspan! And it wasn't nearly as tall as the other houses/buildings on the block! Crazy!
We had so much fun!! It was a packed four days, and like I said before, a trip of a lifetime!! I still can't believe that I have been to Holland! I have to pinch myself sometimes!! I felt like I was living a dream the entire time! However, it did me quite homesick for my little Dutch town on the other side of the world! I seriously felt heartbroken when I had to leave such a quaint, cute place that reminded my soul so much of my real home in Iowa!! It was crazy how much I fell in love with a place in just four days..but I guess that love for it had been growing for many, many years back in Orange City. :)
Soon soon SOON I will be blogging about my week-long break & trip to four more wonderful places: Barcelona, Rome, Paris, and London!
Adios y vaya con Dios,
|From on top of the windmill... our cute tour guide took our picture :)|
|In front of one of the canals|