The Netherlands: Amsterdam

Tuesday

Our morning started with a continental breakfast including bacon and eggs! Very exciting since most hotels and hostels have the traditional bread and cold cuts. Then we gathered for a tour of the Anne Frank House. That was the most heart wrenching experience of my life. But I learned a lot. And it was certainly a worthwhile experience.

Anyway, after being properly depressed by European history, we walked through a brownfield park. It was not quite as exciting as Landschaftspark but it was still quite lovely. There was more attention to the ecological restoration component which I appreciated.

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Afterward, we were free to walk around Amsterdam. I didn’t realize until the trip that prostitution is also legal here and so we took a stroll through the Red Light District. It was weird and smelled of weed. A few women were on ‘display’ in the windows but since it was the middle of the day, I think most of them were on break. The clientele for this sort of thing probably comes by in the later hours.

Dinner was at this restaurant called Pesca that Ben’s mom told us about. They have fish out on display and you pick your fish and they cook it for you however they want. Unfortunately, our group was too large to do that so we just told them our budget and the prepared a whole meal for us based on that. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! We had olive bread, Calamari (which I’m not a fan of) and prawns to start. Then they brought out mussels in butter lime sauce. The main course was sea bass with a side of salad and baked cauliflower. SO DELICIOUS! And not too expensive.

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Wednesday

We got an early morning start, meeting Da Daktores (the roof doctors) to learn more about green roofs. The roof we shivered on had an ingenious system that captured rain water to water plants from beneath and reduced peak flow for runoff during large rain events.

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We warmed up in a coffee shop for a bit, then visited a park that was actually a series of islands.

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For lunch, our coordinator took us to a traditional Dutch herring stand. The sandwich I ordered had raw herring, pickles, and onions. Basically halitosis on a bun. Honestly, it tasted alright, but I couldn’t get past the slimy, raw herring texture. Logan ended up finishing my sandwich. Unsatisfied with the aftertaste, I bought some macaroons.

Our afternoon was spent on a very long tour of canal and water infrastructure in Amsterdam. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t remember much from the tour.

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By the end of the tour, we were all hungry, tired, and sore from walking. Luckily, dinner was soon. It was a group dinner at a pancake place. They had savory and sweet pancakes. They weren’t fluffy like I expected but were more like a thicker crepe. Quite delicious.

Thursday

Before leaving for Bonn, we went to the Vincent Van Gogh museum. And it was pretty much the best museum experience of my life! I wore my starry night socks. We couldn’t take pictures, unfortunately. But we got to see an evolution of his art and I learned so much about him (including the fact that he was born in the Netherlands, which I didn’t know). He didn’t actually start painting until I think 27 and he only sold one painting the whole time he was alive. I got to see a number of his famous paintings, including the sunflowers, the cherry blossoms, the yellow house, a few of his self portraits, and crows over wheat field (which was allegedly his final painting before his death. BUT the museum also had an unfinished painting that is speculated to be the actual last painting he was working on). The only bummer was that Starry Night did not make an appearance. It’s currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Here are some pics

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Check out this insane bike parking garage. Biking here is intense.DSC_0536

 

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The Netherlands: Rotterdam

[November 10-12]

The whole of last week was spent in the Netherlands. Their country has implemented innovative water management infrastructure due to a decent portion of the country being below sea level and thus quite prone to flooding. The tour was mostly so we could learn about this storm water management but also because it’s a trip to the Netherlands.

SATURDAY

Our bus drove off in the wee hours of the morning with a bunch of sleeping students. We woke up at our first stop. Kinderdijk. A UNESCO world heritage site (just for you mom) of historic windmills that pumped water from canals back into the sea. We walked around the site and even went inside one of the windmills.

DSC_0054DSC_0105DSC_0011The next stop on the way to Rotterdam was the Maeslantkering mechanical storm surge barrier. The giant appendages were built to protect the city of Rotterdam, and is part of an extensive system of flood barriers and dyke that has been developed to prevent disastrous flooding. It was drizzling when we arrived. We watched an informational video about the gates and then went outside to take a look. Each of the arms is taller than the Eiffel tower!DSC_0115DSC_0118

Here’s an informational sign with a drawing of the barrier.

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Once the tour was over, we scurried back into the van and traveled the rest of the way to Rotterdam.

We arrived in Rotterdam and checked in to our hotel. Yes! A hotel. With towels and comfy beds. It’s called ‘The Student Hotel’, with amenities catering to the youngsters of the world. It was very hip and had witty signs on the walls like “Here comes the son” and phrases on the shampoo bottles like, “Shower is knowledge.” A group of us went out in to the city in search of dinner. We walked around aimlessly for a few blocks and came across this crazy plaza with funky buildings.

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None of the buildings look expensive and futuristic. This funky n-shaped building seemed interesting so we decided to investigate.

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Inside the building was a market with stalls selling fancy cheese and spices and food. The underside was a giant mural of fruit which I quite enjoyed.

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SUNDAY

In the morning, a few of us walked around by ourselves since planned activities didn’t start until 1:00 PM.

Here are some floating trees.

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And a funky bridge.DSC_0127

An this thing.

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In the afternoon, we had a tour of stormwater infrastructure and stuff around the city. Pretty neat. The city is much smaller than I expected.

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This machine is pretty cool. It sucks up smog from the air and condenses it into a black powder that is made into (kind of ugly) jewelry.

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For dinner, we went to an Indonesian restaurant. They brought us a bunch of sampler plates with all different sauces and curries and rice and what not. Very yummy! In the evening, we played ping pong and fusball in the confusing maze of a lobby.

MONDAY

Before heading to Amsterdam, we made a stop at these recycled, floating wetlands. The plastic pieces are made from recycled plastic collected from the river.

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And then we made a quick stop to look at a parking garage. Don’t worry it was actually cool. It was part of a effort to restore the beach front. Honestly thought, I forgot to look at the parking garage part because I was looking at the shells and rocks along the beach. The sun came out for a little which was nice to see.

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Our final stop before Amsterdam was the little town if Leiden. It’s a cute college town with canals and brick everywhere. Very picturesque. We walked around for a bit and got lunch in a little diner. Logan got a black berry, cheddar, jalapeno, and bacon grilled cheese. Interesting and tasty flavor combo.

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It was getting dark when we arrived at our funky hotel, The Vokshotel, in Amsterdam. Our room was weird. The toilet and shower were in separate rooms. But instead of a door to the shower area, there was just a metal chain curtain that hid very little.

After getting settled in, everyone went off to do, um, legal things. The weed things.  (Don’t worry, cannabis is legal in the Netherlands and they were responsible and safe about it) Logan and I decided to just walk around. The city is quite unique with it’s many canals and hoards of bikes.

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