De Hague

February 26

Highlights from today:

Dutch Art History field trip to the Hague.
After one month of travel you’d imagine we could all catch trains and find our way around a small town to travel together (all 20 some-odd art history students), not so much. We did a lot of sitting and waiting, but most of this waiting involved coffee, so I was happy.

Mauritshuis Museum:
Vermeer! Girl with a Pearl Earring, a few Rembrandts, View of Delft, very very Dutch. The building itself was B-e-a-utiful! Old house transformed into a museum, best integration ever.

Cute sandwich shop, coffee shops everywhere! The streets of The Hague are adorable narrow cobblestone, buildings are old and quaint, half the store are “interiors;” interior decorating stores.

2nd Museum: Panoram by Hendrik Willem Mesdag
The panorama itself was bizarre but amazing.  Up a small spiral staircase we entered a large circular room with natural skylight in a sort of observation tower.  In this giant cylinder Mesdag, his wife, and some assistants painted a seascape with dunes and a small fishing village as it was then in 1880.  The painting measures 395 feet in circumference, it’s 46 feet high and covers a surface of over 18,000 square feet.  13 meters?  between the viewing area and the painting on all sides is filled in with sand, furthering the impression that we were actually transported to the beach more than a century ago.  I couldn’t take pictures, but this site shows the panorama very very slowly….
First time I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed, not just appreciated, impressionism. Partially because I’m a little bit sick and it was relaxing, not mentally demanding.

Coffee (red tea) at Douwe Egberts+chocolate pecan pie=heaven for a sore throat.

Used bookstore. Happy Place. Ran into my Art History professor here, he scared the living daylights out of me. Realized that my obsession with old books is only as novice, I can find OLD books in Europe! Eeeeee!

Logan cooked us dinner 🙂 Yay s’getti.

I’m eating an avacado!!!!!!!!!
oh how I miss them.
And “authentic Mexican” tortilla chips from Belgium aren’t that terribly bad.

Going to Haarlem tomorrow!

Praha

This is a strange assortment of photos from my trip to Prague. This week is carnival in Maastricht (bizarre, fantastic, another whole story) so I stayed for a couple days then took the rest of the week to travel!

No time to go into detail, but I somehow forgot my camera charger and had to resort to the wonderful quality pictures from my iPhone (ha! It works) and pictures from samantha. Fortunately she takes great pictures and has an awesome camera, ad I can upload a few of these right away!

The food in Prague was excellent! We ate at a little higher end places because they were still so inexpensive and we saw quite a few views over the city. Running out of wifi time so more to come!

John Lennon Wall

I found Yuri Gagarin (Ю́рий Гага́рин) on the John Lennon wall! Still not really sure what the correlation is though…

View of Prague from Prague Castle

Strange stairs/mirror combination in the Kafka museum.

Food! Czech food is very hearty and most things come with extremely solid bread or potato dumplings. I also got spinach with every meal. (yay!)

Hmmm we saw about 5 different churches in Prague….I need to go look this up.

Palace

Inside St. Vitus’ Cathedral

wicked…?

Another sky view of Prague! This one was taken from a funicular!

Carnaval

February 12-15

Maastricht is famous for it’s huge celebration of Carnaval just before Lent.  It’s celebrated in many different parts of Europe, in many different forms and fashions, but Maastricht takes this holiday festival to a new level of bizarre jollity.  Carnaval actually isn’t celebrated in the Northern parts of the Netherlands and people from all over the Netherlands and some parts of Belgium and Germany flock to Maastricht in full regalia, packing the trains with costumed singing drunken revelers of all ages.

Carnival is more than a giant party though, and this website gives a good history of the event.  The city celebrates the entire week off work and school with parades, costume contests, and the most ridiculous costumes I’ve ever seen on anyone older than 8.  Scratch that, the most ridiculous costumes I’ve seen ever.

Some people prepare for Carnaval months in advance with elaborate matching costumes. Sensible adults, mhmm.

With a whole week to travel, many Baylor students took off right after classes, but I stayed with my friends to rest up, have a few “family dinners” with my Baylor friends and neighbors, catch up on schoolwork (cramming an entire semester into 7 weeks means there’s always something to catch up on), and get a small taste of the mayhem our city is so famous for.

Carnaval officially started Sunday afternoon by the arrival of the “Prince of Carnaval” in the Vrijtof, the main city square near where we have clases.  We improvised some strange costumes to observe the chaos before taking a night train to Prague on Monday.  Oh dressing up is a necessary measure–not dressing up=getting doused in beer. Ew.)  Apparently face paint is a “must” but i went with a mask and painted my friends’ faces.

My Baylor friends/neighbors in our hallway before experiencing Carnaval:

Brussels, Belgium

This weekend was fantastic!  But felt like it was a month long…

Since I only have class Monday through Wednesday I took off to Brussels, Belgium Thursday and Friday, came back to Maastricht Friday night, went to Luxembourg City (Luxembourg) Saturday and to Trier, Germany Saturday night/Sunday!  Each city was an adventure in itself, and despite our many strange mishaps, I learned a lot about travel and had a wonderful time exploring city streets and soaking in all the art.

Starting with Maastricht…
Word on the street (i.e. from previous Maastricht-goers) was to pack light and buy clothes and boots here, which sounded like a good plan considering the 100 lb. luggage limit.  Eh, it’s been a little more challenging than expected, and when shopping for boots Thursday I encountered my first not-so-kind Dutch person who helped him/herself to my wallet out of my purse.  First major lesson: don’t carry a wallet.  I had dispersed all my money and traveled very safely…until I got to Maastricht and my concept of “home” clouded over into a rosy picture of innate human goodness. Lesson learned, not too much damage done, and I’m definitely opting for the hideous fanny pack (err “money belt”).  As my wallet contained my debit card and all cash I had out, this added a challenge to our weekend fun, but my new friends here are amazingly gracious and helpful, and I made it through!

A nice street in Brussels

First stop: Brussels

Travel Lesson #2:  Print a map, not just directions, to our first destination (where we can pick up a real map).  Street signs aren’t as readily available as I’d expect and strange 3-5 way intersections make “follow such-and-such street straight for 4 blocks” a lot more interesting.
Travel Lesson #3:  It’s totally worth the extra few euro to get a hostel or hotel near the touristy stuff.  While a farther hotel provides an opportunity to experience local life, it’s not always worth the walk.

I got to experience lots of local life in Brussels!  Our hotel was only a “fifteen minute walk” from the south station, but that walk at night, through a particularly sketch part of town, took us 2 hours of practically running on the most indirect route possible!  We weren’t exactly slowing down to make friends with the creeper guys on street corners or sketchy characters hanging out outside of sex shops.  Eeek!  It was definitely scary at the time, but with Logan and Derek in formation around me and Samantha and her trusty compass, we made it to our hotel alive!  but exhausted.   Oh, and definitely ordered “hamburgers” (maybe beef?) in English->Spanish->French at a street side trailer/vendor.  Tasty..

For our actual day in Brussels, we saw..

  • The Manneken Pis: one of the big tourist attractions of Brussels is literally a fountain of a little boy peeing.  It’s absurd!  The statue is only about a foot tall mounted on a rather large fountain.  Interesting that such a scandalous, preposterous statement can be made by such a little guy.Manneken Pis
  • Grand Place: beautiful square in the middle of the city.  I love the over abundance of windows!  Hmm…I could live here.Grand Place - Katy
  • Musical Instruments Museum: fantastic!  Not only is it housed in a spectacular building, the museum displays All imaginable instruments, from tribal…horns? to bagpipes, to harpsichords and antique electronic-music-makers.  Sadly, I have no clue what most of the names were because there was no English to be found in the museum, but music is a universal language!  The cheesy tour-guide headphones were actually brilliant because they play a clip of actual music produced by the particular instruments you’re viewing as you approach them.

    The building really was the coolest part!

  • Park de Brussels: dead.  This could be beautiful in spring, but once again, traveling in the dead of winter has it’s slushy icy days along with the days of magical snow.  We found a sweet gazebo though!  And from here we could view the…

    On our way to the park we found the waffle man!

  • Palace: hmm. we snapped a picture of what I’m pretty sure was the palace.  eh.  Maybe it was the foreground of the dead slushy park that made it a little less glorious.
  • Waffles! mmm mmm good.  Warm sugary glorious toasted goodness with speculoos (biscuit/cookiesh) ice cream and strawberries.  After stocking up on Belgian chocolate at a supermarket (Excellent guidebook tip) my sweet tooth couldn’t endure this, had to share with Logan.
  • Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate: just for kicks.  Not as impressive as I imagined, but hey, it’s chocolate.  We met some other American students there (also studying in the Netherlands) and the lady gave us a special presentation in English!  This was pretty astounding–probably the first and only friendly English beyond “hello, can I have your money?” on our whole trip!  The museum itself was strange, but worth a good laugh.

    Poechenellekelder

  • Poechenellekelder:  with a name like this, how could we resist?  At this point, we’d had enough local adventures not to feel guilty about relying our Let’s Go Europe guidebooks.  Right across from the manneken pis, this 3 story bar filled with mannequins and marionettes is oh so very unique.  There were a couple mannequins seated at a table with a real person on my way through the maze of stairways and junk to the restroom…definitely freaked me out.  They were all perfectly still and he lifted his beer mug to his face while staring at me! EEK! jumped out of my skin.  Since Belgium is known for it’s beer and this place was known for it’s hundreds of varieties or something or other, I tried one.  Not half as nasty as i expected, but still beer. meh.  It still makes me giggle that we went to the manneken pis to find beer.

    Poechenellekelder

  • We found our way out of Brussels easily!  (followed a guy with a suitcase=a fail-proof method of finding a train station).

Since Brussels is only a hop and a skip away from Maastricht, we decided to come back for the second night for a free sleep in our cozy dorm rooms.  I tried to cook dinner…ya see all the meat at the grocery store is labeled in Dutch, so even though I figured out what “beef” is, it all looks different and very very red.  So I guessed randomly, cooked what looked like some sort of steak-ish substance, and none of us could figure out why our electric-stove cooked meat was so…chewy.  Online translator: “stewing beef” aha!  So we also cooked pasta and ordered our favorite never-fail Nora’s pizza!  Ooh, Dutch delivery is excellent.  This one little website (www.justeat.nl) allows you to order food online from any open restaurant in your area with free delivery over a certain euro limit!  Also, we can use google translator for the menus=very helpful.  It’s funny how just a couple trips make Maastricht feel like our home!

Classes.

So, I’ve been intending to go back and post about my wonderful time in London, but I’ve been far too busy with classes!

Today concluded my first week of Dutch classes- – only three class days in one week!  I’m taking International Relations, Dutch Art History, and Intercultural Philosophy and Communication so the subjects are right up my alley and I think I’ll really enjoy this semester.  My professors are all genuinely nice people and surprisingly informal.  Apparently it’s part of Dutch culture to express social equality in a lot of day to day life; students are even expected to call professors by their first names.  Also, syllabi are replaced by much more detailed “block books” which are 10-15 pages long, colorful, and give very thorough details of the professor’s background and what to expect out of the class.  Similarly, in the first classes we cover introductions and far more of my professors’ “personal” lives than seems comfortable to my American mindset.  For instance, my International Relations professor, Cees (pronounced Case), spent the entire 2 hours during the first class talking about his life (including his full birthday, hometown, and previous jobs) and going over class information.  For this class, I have to write an “essay” about why I’m taking the class and what I expect, but there’s a catch!  In Europe, a “Curriculum Vitae” usually replaces a tradition resume and includes far more information than is even legally allowed in the U.S. such as nationality, gender, age, and even a picture.  So my first essay is supposed to include my C.V. information too.  Totally normal, right?  Academic paper: Hi, I’m 20 years old and I like music!

Anywho, Dutch Art History is going to be amazing!  When I changed majors this past semester I kinda pushed my graduated date back a semester and lost all time for my intended Art History and/or Philosophy minors.  Still, I love art history and wish I could study it more so taking it as a Poli-sci elective is sweet!  I haven’t studied most of the Dutch art we’ll cover in an actual class before, so it will still be interesting, but I think we’re graded mostly by our analysis of art, which is something that’s been delightfully drilled into me through countless Baylor art classes, hooray!

Philosophy=quite similar.  Love the subject, interesting class, somehow counts as polisci!  yeeeah!  Oh, except I was kind of expecting European philosophy…turns out it’s an Asian philosophy class.  Or at least comparing Eastern/Western philosophy, but mostly focusing on Eastern.  Eh, new and exciting.  It will probably require the most thinking, surprise?

Wednesdays are long though…Dutch Art History only meets once a week so it’s a four hour class with an extra 30 min. lunch break in the middle, and Immediately (like no walking time…err, problem) after I have philosophy for 2 hours, then dinner!  egads.  Then tons of homework before the weekend so I can travel, oh! And I’m taking independent study Russian which I’ll spend all Thursday finishing up.  So…tomorrow I have no official class, but I’m going Carnaval shopping for lunch and going to Brussels tomorrow evening!  We’re just going to be in Brussels Thursday night and Friday, come back to the dorm Friday night (free place to sleep and eat) and take a 3 hr. train to Luxembourg Saturday, stay in Trier, Germany and come back Sunday!  It’ll be a whirlwind of a weekend, but if we managed to see ALL (hah) of London in a day, we can do this.  Mmm, can’t wait for Belgian waffles and chocolate!  Ok, so if you can’t tell by my rambling, it’s 2 am here and well past time to sleep!  Goodnight!