What a wild month and a bit since I last checked in! I finished up all that pesky schoolwork I came over here to do and have barely stopped moving since. I have so many stories I want to tell properly, but that requires having the time to sit down and type them out and I haven’t been alone since May 28. I promise to get to them eventually, but in the meantime, please enjoy a brief photo recap of the last two days of May.
Months ago when Kristina, my beautiful belligerent Swede, came to visit, we talked hypothetically about meeting up in Ireland when I finished studying. After many emails back and forth about dates, possible routes, and the addition of her lovely beau Scotty, it fell into place and on May 28 we all hopped planes to Dublin, a train to Killarney, and a car through the windy roads of Western Ireland. It pleases me to no end that after meeting in Canada and moving to Sweden and Amsterdam, we were all able to reconvene in an entirely new place. I like this world.
So much green. So much beauty. So many more stories to tell. Soon.
Next time: channeling Frodo through the Wicklow Mountains.
On Monday, after spending the morning staring at a computer screen in my room, I decided I needed to get out of the house and find some nature. This is somewhat difficult in a country made almost entirely of land reclaimed from the sea, but I figured as long as I wasn’t surrounded by brick, I’d be happy. With this song firmly embedded in my head and a map on my phone, I rallied my fellow Canadian, Beth, and we headed for the ferry terminal.
The website Awesome Amsterdam is an excellent resource for places to go and things to see over here, including easy day trips on your bike, like this one to Waterland! The ferries in Amsterdam are free and most of the routes take less than 5 minutes crossing. Cars aren’t allowed, with the exception of these tiny lawnmower engine ones.
Within about 20 minutes of biking away from the terminal, we were in farmland. It was warm, breezy, quiet and green, green, green.
City girls that we are, we stopped for a while to squeal over a field full of lambs. Did you know that they won’t come when they’re called? It’s almost like they don’t care that I want to touch them. While I was busy taking photos, Beth noticed that the farmer was yelling something at us in Dutch, which I assumed meant “stop bothering my animals”, but we quickly found out was actually “there are smaller ones in here!” Going against everything our parents ever taught us about talking to strangers, we raced inside and met two tiny newborn lambs 😍
Floating on a baby animal endorphin rush, we said goodbye and continued on our way.
We had planned to take a different route home, rather than retracing our steps, but the tiny ferry google maps directed us to in Holysloot (😂) only runs in the peak of summer. By this time it was nearing dusk and the clouds of bugs were wearing on our thin city-mouse nerves. We gritted our teeth and headed back the way we came, only allowing ourselves another ten stops for animals and picturesque landscapes. So disciplined.
It was such a beautiful, refreshing way to spend the day, especially since May 4 is Dodenherdenking or Dutch Remembrance Day, which “commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II.” I won the lottery in life as far as peace and freedom are concerned, and it felt appropriate to celebrate that by getting out into the world.
The city holds a huge ceremony in Dam Square every year right outside the Royal Palace. The entire square is packed with people, the Royal Family comes, haunting songs are sung, speeches are made, wreaths are laid; it’s really quite something. At 8:00 sharp, right as the church bells ring, there are two minutes of silence. The experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people in Dam Square, which is usually teeming with noisy tourists, and being able to hear the wings of a single pigeon sent chills through my body.
The day after Remembrance Day in the Netherlands is Liberation Day, which celebrates the end of the Nazi occupation and is basically one big party. Such a great contrast!
Alright. Time for me to get to work and do some reading. Less than a month of classes left!!
Several weeks ago, while my parents were visiting, we trekked our way to the airport and then onto a bus that took us to the world renowned Keukenhof Gardens. Granted, it was a cold, windy day and it was a bit too early in the season to see the fields in all their glory, but the three of us left a bit disappointed.
The flowers in the garden itself were beautiful, and the varieties of tulips were very impressive, but it just felt very sterile and touristy. I wanted a redo. I wanted to be blinded by colour. I wanted to see with my own two eyes what I’d seen on a million postcards. But I had no idea where to go, since the fields are not in the city. Luckily I’m an excellent google-er, and within mere minutes of this bee entering my bonnet, I found a website dedicated to Holland Cycling! Go figure.
On April 23, I rounded up a gaggle of some of my favourite international ladies and we hopped a train to Voorhout, via Haarlem. According to the route plotted out above, the 38km loop can be done in 2.5 hours. I have no idea if this is true. We got lost a few times, took pictures at nearly every field we saw (each one was a different colour combo, how could we not??) and stopped for a 5-star picnic lunch along the way. It was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my trip so far.
A word of warning for anyone planning to try this for themselves, the numbered path markers on the Bloemen Route don’t go in numerical order and the signs are not always easy to spot. In the end, we were on the road for 4+ hours and only covered about 1/3 of the route. Thank you again, Beth, for taking over navigation… I regret nothing.
As an end to a perfect day, we stopped for dinner in Haarlem on the way home, where we found what I assume is the world’s scariest ferris wheel. The cages spun! I loved it.
I was thinking this morning that I hadn’t done anything particularly Amsterdam-y in a while, so I decided to put my Museumkaart to good use and and check out the Museum Van Loon. It is in an old canal house on Keizergracht that was built in 1672 and then bought as a wedding present (hint hint, parents! one day 😉) for the Van Loon’s, co-founders of the Dutch East India Company, in 1884. It’s rather spectacular. Turns out colonizing the world helps pay for some really beautiful upholstery.
As someone with a serious impulse to snoop and touch things that don’t belong to me, I loved it. There weren’t many other people around, so I had the chance to be in each of the 10 rooms by myself for a bit. I didn’t sit on any of the chairs or beds (because they had strings blocking my way. Rude.) but I couldn’t resist opening a cupboard or two when the hinges cooperated. It was just all so neat and beautifully maintained; it felt like the owners could stride in any second and make me feel horribly lower class. What more could I ask?
to report that it was so sunny and beautiful out today that I overheated biking in a cardigan and a thin jacket. After days upon days of rain, gloom and wind that blows you sideways, this is an extremely welcome change. Also, I almost crashed my bike earlier because I got distracted by a hotdog stand. Not quite firing on all cylinders today.
I have been planning out so many posts in my head and on scraps of paper to put up on here, but it seems like every time I tell myself that tonight is the night I’ll finally sit down and write, someone asks if I’d like to go grab a beer. Guess which scenario wins?? My time here is going by too quickly. I’ve already passed the half way mark at school, which means a little less beer and a little more library time for the next few weeks. It’s easy to forget that’s why I’m here…
This has been a bit of a boring update. In lieu of a longer ramble, here are a bunch of my favourite photos from the past few weeks (in reverse order):