The semester is starting to draw to a close. This is my final blog post for Far and Away, which is kind of funny because I do not actually leave Glasgow for good until December 20th. But it is starting to hit me that I am going to have to leave and return to the states eventually. Before I get into that though, I want to talk about my various adventures around Europe that I have been on the past few weeks.
My first big trip to outside the UK was to Amsterdam! I loved that city immensely, as much as I have come to adore Scotland and the UK, Amsterdam stole my heart a little. The streets are quaint with canals running through them and bikes chained to literally everything. It is the perfect place to wander around and absorb the scenery. Between the cars, bikes, and the tram, it can feel as though everyone is trying to run you over! There are several really nice street markets, such as the Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market, and the Albert Cryup markt, which is mostly food and clothes. Speaking of the food, I would move to Amsterdam just to be able to eat there every day; the local specialties are really that delicious. Between the stroopwaffles (two waffles with caramel between them, sometimes coated in chocolate), poffertjes (bite sized pancakes), and the cheese I was incredibly satisfied with the local cuisine.
While I was there I visited the Anne Frank huis, an emotional but necessary visit. It was incredible to walk through the rooms that her family stayed in for months and realize how difficult and terrifying it must have been for them. They also had some interesting information about Anne, such as a video of her father talking about her diary, and the pages of the original. It was definitely a unique experience.
After Amsterdam came Munich, Germany. I was very nervous about this visit since I do not speak any German whatsoever, but it actually went pretty well. Most people know at least a little English, so it is possible to get by only knowing how to say “please” and “do you speak English?”. What was really fascinating was walking around and listening to the people around you speak another language, since until then I had been to cities that mainly speak English.
Munich was also gorgeous, and walking around was a ton of fun as well. One of my favorite parts was the Asamkirche, a small church just off of a main road. From the outside it almost blends in with the street, but when you enter there are ornate decorations and statues everywhere! It was gorgeous, and impressed me a little more than the Frauenkirche, Munich’s most famous church.
Another important part of Munich was the food, of course. I am not a huge beer fan, but I did not mind it so much in Germany (German beer does not taste anything like Natty Lite). The currywurst (essentially a hot dog with curry poured on it, served with fries) is a local favorite and was excellent, as well as the doner kebap (a sort of sandwich with middle East influences) and the schnitzel (basically a chicken cutlet).
Finally this past weekend my roommate and I ventured down to Belgium. We were staying in Brussels, but also travelled to Brugges as well. This was an adventure and a half since the entire city was at maximum security because of terrorist threats. They had closed both the museums and the metro. However we were both thinking along the lines of “screw the terrorists, we want waffles” so we went anyways.
Brussels itself is a neat place. It is the head of the European Union, so it is more political than touristy. There are a bunch of cool comic-themed wall murals around, which were fun to spot. The main parts of town are the Grand Place, which was in the process of being decorated for Christmas, and the Galleries St. Hubert, which is where you can spend a lot of money. Then there is a trio of peeing statues: Mannekin Pis (a little boy), Jeannette Pis (a little girl), and Zinneke Pis (a dog). They were pretty hilarious to find and take pictures of.
Bruges was a gorgeous place as well, and a good contrast to Brussels. It is known as the “Venice of the North” since it has canals and small streets. (Not as many canals as Amsterdam though.) It is a medieval and very historic city, so there are a lot of churches around. We arrived just in time for the Christmas market, so it was great to walk around and eat a ton of waffles and fries from the street vendors.
And now we have come to the end of the majority of my adventures. Finals are starting up, so I will not be travelling much more until the very end of the semester. I would not want to anyways, there are too many people here that I want to spend time with before returning. Scotland has, in so many ways, impressed and welcomed me much more than I expected. The people here are of a friendly and hearty breed, and I would love to spend more time getting to know them, and the country as a whole, much more. This semester has provided me with so many opportunities that I would never have gotten at Vassar, including the chance to see more of Europe, but also to get to know and spend time with people that I would never have met otherwise. It is sad to think that after December I will not be able to see many of them again, as some of us are returning home to other countries, but since we are all travelers at heart, I know that eventually we will probably meet up on some adventure!
Prepare yourself Vassar, I will be among you once again in January!