The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of weekends in Amsterdam, Interlaken, and Vienna, and life in Prague. It was tiring and a little chaotic at times, but it was also more fun than I can imagine. Plus, the whole point of studying abroad is to travel as much as possible, right?
I’ll start with Amsterdam, where I went with friends over our long weekend (thanks to a Czech National for the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy). We flew out Thursday night and because we got in late, we just got dinner and went to the hostel. We stayed at the Flying Pig Uptown, which is apparently one of the most famous hostels in all of Europe. Friday and Saturday I was incredibly sick with a stomach bug, but I still managed to make it to the Anne Frank House and the Vincent Van Gogh Museum (mainly because we pre-booked our tickets, not because I felt physically up to it). The Anne Frank House was incredible. It’s right on a canal, and the line to get in stretches all the way down the street and around the corner. It’s set up so that you go through each room of the house and quotes from her diary are on the walls to describe the room and what happened there during their time in hiding. It was really interesting to see and experience first hand the set up of the house. Saturday morning we saw the Van Gogh Museum, which I loved. It was arranged so that his work is in chronological order so that you can see how his work evolves. There is also work from some of Van Gogh’s close friends and inspirations which was cool because you could see how it impacted his paintings. As an art major, I loved walking through the three floors that made up the museum. Sunday was the first day I felt well and of course it rained all day. Even so, we went to a parade for Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) which I absolutely loved (mainly because my family is part Dutch and I’ve celebrated Saint Nicholas Day my whole life). There were floats, music and Zwarte Pieten (similar to Santa’s elves) gave out chocolates and small gingerbread cookies to everyone. Sinterklaas arrived on his white horse and all the kids screamed and cheered for him as he waved to the crowd. Overall, it was one of the coolest cultural things I have seen this semester. Sunday afternoon we went to the Tulip museum and I learned the most fascinating things about the history of tulips in the Netherlands (Disclosure: I worked in a garden store and greenhouse for 4 years, hence why I thought this was all so interesting). For example, in the 17th century, the average cost of a house on a canal was the same as the price for three tulip bulbs!! Three! It’s crazy!! And luckily for us, the sun decided to come out on Monday so we were able to rent bikes and explore some of the parks throughout the city before heading to the airport to come home.
I was back in Prague for 2.5 days before hopping on an overnight bus to Switzerland with Bus2Alps. Let me start describing my weekend by saying this: if you ever have the opportunity to go to Switzerland, do it. It was the best weekend of the semester (I know I say that a lot but this was actually my favorite place I visited). We stayed at the oldest hostel in Switzerland, Balmer’s Herberge, in the small town of Interaken. My time there was spent walking to the lakes on either side of the town, hiking Harder Klum, hang gliding, taking selfless with cows, and eating as much Swiss Chocolate as my stomach would let me. It was so nice to be back in the mountains after three months of city living. Everywhere I looked my breath was taken away by the views. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was, you’ll just have to look at the pictures below.
Finally, I went on the school trip to Vienna this past weekend. It was with Eva (the same woman we went to Krakow with) and in the trip description it said that it was perfect for students interested in politics, art, and architecture, so it was perfect for me. We left Friday morning since it’s only 4.5 hours away by bus and when we got there we went on a walking tour to introduce ourselves to the city. Saturday morning we went to the Hundertwasser Haus which reminded me of Gaudí’s Casa Milà in Barcelona, then we went to the Belvedere, which as an amazing Gustav Klimt exhibition. I think I stood in front of “The Kiss” for at least ten minutes before finally moving on to another room. That night my friends and I went to the main Christmas market where we got dinner and walked around the different vendors looking for ornaments to buy. Sunday we visited the Schönbrunn Palace, where the Habsburgs used to live. I know this sounds nerdy, but it was really interesting to see because we learned so much about the Habsburgs and Maria Theresia in our Czech History class so it was cool to see the Palace in person. Afterwards we went to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is similar to the MET in New York, but a little smaller and not as wide of a range of artwork. Even so, I loved it because I am the type of person who could wander through an art museum for hours without feeling bored. Vienna was a great trip to end the semester with and an even better way to get me into the Christmas spirit now that it’s December.
This semester is going by way to fast and I never want it to end. I know I’ll be excited to see my friends and family again, and it sleep in my own bed, but these past three months have been more amazing than I can describe and I know I’ll miss Prague very much when it comes time to leave.
Walking through the gardens at the Belvedere
St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
Lake Brienzersee in Interlaken
Made it to the top of Harder Klum after a three hour hike up
Hangin’ out on the I Amsterdam sign
Down the canal from the Anne Frank House