And FINALLY I have a bit of time to write about my favorite city to date. There’s something about Amsterdam that totally stole my heart. It’s actually the first city I’ve visited outside of the United States that I could see myself living in for a period of time. I met one of my good friends from high school, Donovan, in Amsterdam on Thursday night. Donovan’s cousins, Kirk and Bre, live in Amsterdam. They are in their early 30’s and have a 14 month old named Teia. They both grew up in Seattle and met in college at the University of Washington! Krik and Bre graciously opened up their home to Donovan and I for the weekend and it was SO much fun staying with a family. They were wonderful hosts and a ton of fun to be around.. they actually reminded me a lot of my own sister and brother-in-law. And of course having some baby time was very special seeing how much I miss my niece! I’m sure that my experienced in Amsterdam was very positively influenced by having the opportunity to live with my friend’s family.
On Friday morning Donovan and I visited the Anne Frank house. I am fascinated by WWII and Nazi Germany, so visiting the house where she and her family hid from the Nazis was so interesting. I never had to read her diary for school, so I did not know much about her, but I learned more about her and her life while touring the house. Her father actually worked out of the same home where they ended up hiding. Her father’s boss and the boss’ secretary agreed to do everything they could to hide them from the Nazis. The Franks and another family lived together in the back of the house. They shared a living room and a kitchen, and they had a few rooms to split between the families. Anne wrote about how during most of the day their blinds had to be completely shut so no one could see inside of the house. For a little bit of time during the day she could peer outside and she wrote about how she longed to be free and to run and play and breathe in the fresh air outside. She felt like an animal trapped in a cage, and she felt like the Nazis robbed her of an authentic childhood. Anne eventually died in an extermination camp, but her face and her story became a symbol of the Holocaust, and especially became a voice for all of the Jewish children who experienced life under the Nazi regime.
After the Anne Frank house, Donovan and I (based off Bre’s recommendation) went to get some Dutch pancakes for breakfast! The pancakes were SO delicious and I also tried a mint tea. Afterwards, we walked downtown and walked along many of the outdoor Christmas markets. In the Netherlands, the Dutch celebrate Christmas like we do in the States, but in November they also have a special celebration for Santa Claus, called Sinterklaas in the Netherlands. It was a lot of fun getting in the Christmas spirit in mid-November! We sampled some delicious cheeses and played in a park for awhile. We eventually made it to the famous “iamsterdam” sign and snapped a few photos. That night Kirk and Bre treated us to Thai food!
The next day, Donovan and I took Krik and Bre’s bikes and rode around the city. It was a BLAST! We rode a couple of circles around Vondel Park and through the streets. At times it was very peaceful, but riding in the middle of traffic was pretty scary haha. I survived though so all is well! Most everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes over driving a car, and I really like that aspect about the city. Also, it was apparent that many people value exercising. We saw tons of people biking, running and walking, so I really enjoyed seeing that. I felt like a little kid riding a bike again 🙂 Donovan and I ended up finding a small food market in a residential area and we stopped for lunch. We had thai chicken pot pie and carrot cake! It was delicious and fun to be with locals. That night, Krik and Bre took us on a boat party. Bre’s friend is moving to London so it was her going away party. The boat party was a ton of fun and we cruised around the canal’s of Amsterdam and drank Heineken.
My weekend in Amsterdam was so special and one of the best weekends yet. I would love to live there someday 🙂
What an experience Budapest was! It is definitely the most unique country I have visited in Europe so far due to its checkered history. Budapest was an incredible experience and a beautiful city. Buda and Pest are split between the River Danube, and our hotel was on the Pest side overlooking the Danube and the Buda side. The hotel we stayed in was beautiful and probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in! Our tour guide told us that Hungarians to this day care very much about knowing on which side their fellow peers live. The Buda side has many beautiful, expensive neighborhoods, so most people who live there are very wealthy. The Pest side is home to all major businesses, so most everyone who lives on the Buda side commutes to the Pest side daily to work.
On the first day we toured around the Pest side. Our tour guide explained the history of Budapest, which I found most fascinating. In her words, “Budapest has always been on the wrong side of history.” In WWI, Budapest aligned themselves on the side of the Austrian-Hungarians. Of course we all know that the Allies won the war, leaving the Hungarian economy in devastation, as well as their empire ceasing to exist. In WWII, Hungary took the side of Nazi Germany, believing that Hitler would bring economic and social prosperity to their country. Again, the Allies won this war and when countries were being liberated from Nazi Germany’s possession, the Soviet Union “liberated” Hungary, turning them Communist. Events led to the Cold War, and Hungary was not truly liberated from Communist regime until 1990! I could not believe this considering I was born a mere 3 years later! On this tour we also got to see the Jewish Quarter, where the Nazis forced Jews to live in the confines of the ghetto. We got to tour the Dohany Street Synagogue, which was built in 1854. Despite so much destruction in the area, the synagogue was never bombed or burnt down. It is the second largest synagogue in the world, next to the synagogue in New York City.
That night, my friends and I decided to treat ourselves and get massages at the hotel’s spa! It was so nice and relaxing. After our treatments, we had dinner at a traditional Hungarian restaurant. The food was SO delicious! I had red wine, beef puff turnovers and goulash soup! I also tried paprika chicken. It was so yummy.
The next day, we had an early wakeup call at 6:30 am to catch the 7:00 am metro to go to the famous Hungarian thermal baths! There are multiple indoor and outdoor baths, and it was so relaxing. If I lived in Budapest I would start everyday at the baths! Later in the day, we explored more of the Buda side and got to see the Buda Castle, as well as explore Budapest’s most famous and least expensive indoor market. We had some free time later on so a group of us decided to hike up to one of two remaining Communist statutes in the city. The view at the top was absolutely breathtaking and looked over the entire city. We were there at sunset and it’s a memory that I will never forget. That night everyone got together for a Hungarian cooking class! We made 8 different kinds of dishes, and needless to say everyone was stuffed afterwards!
My experience in Budapest was so special and I loved every minute again. I’m already looking forward to when I can return 🙂
Buonanotte mi amici! Mi dispiace that it has taken this long to update my blog. In the past three weekends I traveled to Rome, Budapest and Amsterdam. Life has been a whirlwind this month! I’m currently relaxing in Florence over my Thanksgiving break, so I figured this was the perfect time to finally update you all with what’s going on in my life. We will start with Rome……
First off, my best friend from home, Cammie, visited me in Florence for a couple of days. She is studying abroad for the semester in Madrid, Spain. Our time spent together in Florence was wonderful! On Friday morning Cammie, Zach, Jenna and I took the train from Florence to Rome. We even had our own apartment 15 minutes away from the Colosseum! I loved Rome.. we toured the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, the Vatican Museum, the Spanish Steps and the Borghese Gardens. We were definitely were busy during our three days! My favorite sites were the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Borghese Gardens.
The Colosseum is one of the greatest architectural pieces I’ve ever seen. I had a much greater appreciation seeing it in person than I ever have before merely seeing it in textbooks. It was built during the reign of the Roman Empire and was used as a spectacle for games. Essentially, African slaves and lower-class citizens were used as gladiators who fought to the death against animals which included tigers, lions, elephants and giraffes. The games were ones of blood baths and drew enormous crowds. The Colosseum was a representation of how great the Roman Empire was during its height.
The Vatican was absolutely incredible. We went into St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the Vatican Museum. I loved seeing The School of Athens by Rafael, as well as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Exploring the Vatican is more of an experience than something I can describe, I’d say. It was probably the true highlight of my weekend. I also have invested more time in learning about Papa Francesco than any other Pope before, so seeing the change that he is having on the Catholic Church is exciting.
We visited the Borghese Gardens on our last day and ended up staying there for about 5 hours, exploring and hanging out with each other. We wanted to go into the Borghese Museum, but tickets were sold out. It was a little bit rainy, which I loved, and a lot of the trees still had beautiful orange, red and yellow fall leaves. I loved walking around, relaxing and exploring the grounds.
Zach has friends from high school studying abroad in Rome and we met up with them one of the nights for dinner. They made us reservations at “the best pizza place in Rome,” and indeed, the pizza was out of this world. The restaurant was so busy, but luckily we had a reservation. I had a mozzarella, pesto and potato pizza. I still dream about it! 🙂
My first time in Rome was a ton of fun and will always hold a special place in my heart.