This weekend was one I will truly never forget: three cities, three countries, three days.
Mary Kate, Rachel, Ellen, Evan, Andrew, and I set out on Saturday morning (4:30 AM, to be exact) and headed to the Netherlands. As our flight was landing, the first thing I noticed was how beautiful the country was, even from above. The land is completely flat, you could see for miles. After taking a train to the city center, we finally arrived in Amsterdam. The city is gorgeous! We walked around the canals, went to Vondel Park, toured the Anne Frank house, and explored the city. The Frank’s house was an amazing experience.
There were more bikes than cars in Amsterdam. Seriously, there were cyclists literally everywhere. It was nice to be on the continent and hear so many different languages and see different people, and it’s interesting to compare to Britain. Everything was just…European. It sounds silly but that’s the best way to describe it: European, and not Britain. But in the Netherlands, everything was especially Dutch. We explored the city the entire day. We saw different parks, the “I Am Amsterdam” sign, ate very interesting food, and we walked through the Red Light District for a few minutes that night, and that was all we could handle. I’ve never seen so much evil in one place. It was a hard thing to see, but an experience.
That night in Amsterdam was one to remember; ask me for the full story in person. All I’ll say is: being homeless in Amsterdam is pretty fun.
On Sunday, we woke up and took a bus to Cologne, Germany. I’ve never had a real attraction to Germany, so it was really out of my comfort zone to be there for the day, but it was a great city. We were there for a very short time, only a few hours of exploring and a few hours of sleep. Cologne has a great mix of old and new; the first thing we saw when we got off the bus was an enormous cathedral, completely Gothic inside and out. So beautiful. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing these gorgeous pieces of architecture. It blows my mind that people even knew how to build these so long ago. And it would be absolutely incredible to walk past such beautiful architecture every day. We watched the sunset from a rooftop that overlooked the city…beautiful. No matter where I am, I can usually count on a sunset to bring some familiarity. We had a delicious German meal for dinner: schnitzel. I love schnitzel. Similar to the Dutch, everyone in Germany really did look German. There was barely anything in English; I’ve never been more thankful that Evan is fluent in German.
Monday morning (another 4 AM wake-up), we took a bus to Brussels, Belgium. Our only goal for the day: eat Belgian waffles. When we got off the bus, we had the choice of going left or right. We went left, and it was our biggest mistake of the day. We started walking around and were all a little confused by Brussels; everyone surrounding us was ethnic, there was trash everywhere, and no waffles to be found. After 4 hours of aimlessly walking around, everyone was pretty frustrated. Why’s it so dirty? Why is Brussels popular? Where are the waffles? After much map reading, we finally figured out…we weren’t in Brussels. We had walked north of Brussels, to a city called Laeken. To sum up Laeken: I saw a dead cat on the sidewalk and way too many drug deals. At least we figured it out in time to explore Brussels before our bus that night. There’s no way to describe our joy when we saw a sign for Belgaufra, which meant finally, Belgian waffles. Absolutely delicious. Eating a chocolate coated waffle with vanilla ice cream on top in the middle of Brussels…amazing. There was lots of shouting coming from us and lots of stares coming from strangers. That’s not new for us though. We walked through the city, found more waffles and fell in love with Brussels. Thank goodness that Laeken was not Brussels.
At midnight, we hopped on a Megabus back to London; little did we know how insane this bus ride would be. We knew it would be long (13ish hours) and we knew the bus would ride a ferry to get to Britain, but we didn’t know how drowsy Dramamine makes me, how rude the French immigration employees are, and how cold the bus would be. It was crowded when we got on, so I ended up sitting next to a stranger. Couldn’t tell you anything about him, because I fell asleep before the bus started moving (major theme of the weekend: sleep deprivation). When I woke up 3 hours later, we were parked at the France-UK border…the only bad part of our entire trip. . At 4 am, no one is in high-spirits and especially not the French immigration officers. In my grumpy, sleepy haze, I was very frustrated that they kept making us get off the bus then on the bus, over and over to go through immigration. Finally, they loaded us onto the ferry and once again…I was out like a light. When we arrived in London, I was ecstatic to be back in the GB. In Tennessee, after a trip away from home I always love driving down the interstate and passing all the familiar places: the mall, my high school, Wal-Mart. It feels crazy to be saying that here, my familiar places are Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the eye. After another bus ride from London to Bristol and a train ride from Bristol to Bath…we were home.
It was a long, tiring weekend but it was one I will never forget. It was the kind of trip I’ve always imagined myself taking, bouncing from country to country, spending nights on buses and carrying a backpack around. Three. Three cities, three countries, three days.