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Nethergium: Two Countries, Four Cities, One Good Trip

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Although it may seem like we didn't do a lot in terms of touristy stuff, this trip was still quite an adventure. Even with our lack of willingness to pay for museums or wait in lines, museums being closed, and early nights, we still managed to do a lot. And if you don't wanna read this whole post, a quick summary could be "lots of walking, canals, shopping, coffee shops, beer, one castle, one tower, cats, flutes, biking, Jesus' blood, live music, and great people." 
But for those avid readers, have at it!
Amsterdam 
    This wonderful city was the first stop on our journey. We got there Thursday night and stayed with Simon, a couchsurfing host. We were welcomed with homemade beer, exchanging favorite tunes, and stopping in a club, Canvas, super close to his house. Our first observations were the more colorful, hippie, dreaded (hair) people. They were quite interesting dancers too. Maria and I loved all the color people wore in these countries. This was the first of many early nights. 
    For our first full day in Amsterdam, we went off with a couple of touristy destinations in mind, like the botanical garden, the Anne Frank house, and a surprise destination I had for Maria. On the way to the Anne Frank House that wound up not being the Anne Frank House, we stumbled on a big vintage market in the street that entertained us for a while. When we finally found the botanical garden, we weren't feeling the high entrance price, and eventually found the real Anne Frank House but the line was too long. 
To Anne Frank's we went 
But history's been tainted
By lines, fees, and crowds
    Her surprise destination was closed too so we just wound up walking forever, shopping a lot, and getting what we thought was Indonesian food for dinner. I think it was Surinam though. But it worked. Then we went to The Last Waterhole, which Sune recommended for live music. We saw two bands, The Big Five, with an awkward girl singer and guys that Maria described as ones you'd be embarrassed by if they were your dad, and Vespa, four dudes that were slightly too cool with their 60s clothes, Bieber hair, sunglasses (inside... at night), and serious faces. We turned in early this night too when the crowd got annoying. Was a fun night though. 
    The next day, we went back to Maria's surprise, which was Poezenboot... Europe's only floating cat sanctuary! Whaat?! That's what most people do in Amsterdam right? So we of course played with the kitties on this houseboat chillin in a canal in Amsterdam.
               My favorite things about this city were the flowers and canals. Unlike many places, all the apartments  had their blinds open, so we just walked around admiring all the flowers in the windows and the cutely decorated apartments. Flowers were everywhere though. As were the beautiful canals and bikes! LOVED the canals. They were just so dreamy. I thought Copenhagen was unreal with their biking culture but Amsterdam blew it out if the water. Their central station had such an insanely huge and totally packed bike parking area I was amazed. I wish my camera captured a better shot of that. It was like racks on racks on racks. 


    After the cathouse, we walked around to find Begijnhof, a little garden area with houses, churches, and women living there that are kinda like nuns but not. Conveniently, there was a flute concert going on in like fifteen minutes! So we walked around for a bit, enjoyed the cute Elvisesque busker boy nearby, then headed back to see the flutists. They seemed super talented (from what an inexperienced flutist could tell), and one was only 14! 
                Next, we got "the best soup and sandwich in town" which I'd say was an accurate claim. Then we were off to see a contemporary art museum (after some cake and a muffin of course). There were definitely some weird pieces in there... Wasn't super impressed, but it was an experience I suppose. We went to a cafe next to try to find our next plan but a wave of laziness took over and we wound up just chilling on some big sofas, having a bit of the giggles in our favorite cafe, Stock, that had very entertaining cartoons of birds dressed up as ridiculous things. Then we experiencing a very comical train ride home. 
Our frequented coffee shop.
The owl s my favorite
     This night I'm pretty sure I was asleep by 8 (after consuming a whole bag of Doritos with Maria) while Maria attempted to watch some Robin Williams stand up. Felt soo old and lazy... But didn't care too much.
Amsterdam's Red Light
Was nothing as expected
See it for yourself. 
    On our last day in Amsterdam, we went off to find a beach to get our fill of the sea, but my GPS led us to Bloomingdales Business School instead of Bloomingdales Beach. Woops. (Always check the final destination after routing) It was soo windy this day, as were all the days in Amsterdam, so we decided to just take the train to Utrecht earlier than expected. It was only a 20 minute train ride and we were in the next city! Couldn't get over that. 
    This is where we got the brilliant idea of writing these haikus about the trip. We began making them about everything... Including dropped chips (fries) in the station... And dun dun dun duun! Here they are!
                          Maria's:
Nothing makes me sad
Like the sound of a lost chip 
I'm in the station. 
Mine:
I'm all out of chips. 
What will I ever do now 
I still got my sip. 
 (The important last sip of coke)
Leslie's shot glass... #FirstClassSeating. 
Utrecht 
    When we made it to Utrecht, our next couchsurfing host, Gerben, met us at the station.
He described himself
By his clothes and facial hair 
So much more to learn. 
    We went back to his place and we just chilled for a couple hours (writing more haikus), and he brought us more Surinam food. We got to know some about this very interesting guy. He's studying artificial intelligence, psychology, and philosophy, and was just so unique. I think quirky is a good word to describe him. We said one of the best parts was the very excited, welcoming face we got from him whenever he greeted us at the door. 
    So off we went, two people on one bike (mission accomplished for both of us!), rapping the whole way. This was definitely one of the best parts of the trip. We never found the place we were looking for, but decided to follow some loud music which led us to Tweetakt, a little fair thing with tents with live music and theater. We caught the last show with Alexander Mckenzie & the Underpaid who were very good. This was a really nice, relaxing night... One of my favorites. We didn't think there'd be much to do in Utrecht, especially on a Monday and Tuesday but we found a lot of cool things going on. We felt more at home and relaxed here too, and felt it was easier to find stuff to do... and stuff that wasn't so touristy. 
    Stranger than the Red Light District (which was way better than Vegas), was hookers on houseboats that we passed from Gerben's to the city. Just riding along the street, there were like 20 houseboats with women in all the windows. Was nuts. And super sad.
Women on the boats
I wonder if they're happy
Wish we could be friends. 
  To try to shorten this post as much as possible, this was my journal entry from the next day...

"Walked around forever trying to find pizza. Never did. Got KFC instead. 
Saw cathedral for four minutes. Dom was too long of a tour.
Had more coffee and pie (best pie) and played cards in (another!) coffee shop. 
Headed home for Dutch stew made by Gerben. 
Back out for an open mic at T' Oude Pothuys. Super good father son duo. So cute. 
Home by 12. 
Most like CPH."

Who lives on these streets
I'll likely  never know them 
I wish them all well. 

Ghent
To Belgium we went 
For chocolate, beer, and waffles
Oh and Ruben too. 
Bus to Belgium

    While waiting for Ruben, a friend I met back in CPH mentioned here, to meet us, we fulfilled some of our tourist duties and actually paid to go in the Gravensteen Kasteel, a cool castle with an interesting room with torture devices.  We got to enjoy the sun for a change in a big, open area where everyone else was doing the same. Then we went for waffles! I was really excited with an image of a big, tasty waffle with butter and syrup, soo when I got a slightly smaller waffle and a "we don't do that kinda thing here," look when I asked for syrup, I was slightly disappointed.
                       We just chilled by this canal for a couple hours while waiting for Ruben. 
Enjoying the awesome weather by this canal  

    There wasn't a whole lot to do in Ghent in the awkward time (museums and everywhere closed but not yet party time) so we just had some beers (strawberry for me!) and headed to Bruges early where we got to stay with Ruben's wonderful family. We just stayed in this night and watched a movie. 

For our tourist bit
We saw Gravensteen Kasteel
In the city, Ghent. 
Brugge
    On our last full day of the trip, we got a tour from Ruben and his sister, Elisabeth, with lots of not so accurate facts about their town, almost saw Jesus' blood in some church...

We went to a church
That claimed to have Jesus blood
But you'd have to pay 

              walked up the Belfort tower...      
       
Up the tower steps
Three hundred and sixty six
Chaotic bells rang 
chilled in a park with phallic shaped benches, had some more Belgian beer, and enjoyed some coffee by a canal. That was so nice. So beautiful and relaxing, and the warmer, windless weather was wonderful. Ruben had work to do back in Ghent so we hung out with his sister and her friend for a bit before going home for some frozen pizza and homemade pumpkin soup that was delish. We didn't end up going out at all this night either. Just stayed in, unsuccessfully searching for things to watch online. 
    We got a great send off with a traditional Belgian meal made by Ruben's dad. It was called wiit loof, and was some kind of vegetable wrapped in ham, covered in cheese, and served with mashed potatoes. Was so good. We then headed off for a last stroll through Bruges to the train station. 




Bruges
What a nice family
We got to stay with in Bruges
I felt so at home.


Bruges was really calm
But beautiful nonetheless 
Sleepy little town. 

It's so hard to say 
The best part of this journey
Surely not the wind

So we may have been
A little less than wild 
But it was still great. 

It's so hard to find
Whatever you're looking for
When that's all you want

Always missing turns
Is never too much trouble
When you look around. 

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