Daytrips from Amsterdam

CIMG0447We visited Deflt, which is like a smaller, cleaner, safer version of Amsterdam. The canals were filled with boaters, swans and lilies. It was really hot and muggy. There was a neat section of the old city wall still standing, which is now an art gallery and private residence. The trains going to and from Delft had no opening windows and no air conditioning. The ride was miserable, but the town was a nice little stop.

We also visited Texel, one of the Walden/Friesian Islands. First we had to take a train to Den Helden, which is a harbor town. We then rode a ferry to the island. We were expecting to get off and see a town, but the ferry dock is 6 kilometers to the nearest town. Lucky for us there was bike rental next to the docks. We biked 26 kilometers around the southern half of the island, stopping at two small towns. The first was Den Burg, which is in the middle of the island and the biggest town on the island, which isn’t saying too much. CIMG0449We didn’t stay long and continued on to the coast. The whole ride we were passing by cows, sheep and some of the best looking horses we have seen.  We stopped at the beach town of Den Koog and had dinner. We also went for a walk on the beach. The water was pretty cold but people were still swimming. There was a neat campground behind the first sand dune. Luckily there was no bike break downs. We experienced excellent soft serve and fries (it was a nutrious day).

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Bruges

CIMG0442We wished we had spent two days in Bruges rather than in Brussels. Bruges is a well kept, friendly town lined with canals. We stayed at Andre’s Bed and Breakfast 3 kilometers out from the center and rented bikes. Andre introduced us to a cookie spread. Previously many people would soak the cookies in their coffee and then spread it on their bread. So some smart woman created a spread from the cookies and it has become huge in Belgian. We visted a church which holds some of the blood of Christ, if you believe that. There was a line of people to touch the relic and make a prayer. CIMG0435The church was unique and colorful inside, every inch painted in patterns. Another church held either the only or one of the few Micheangelo statues to make it out of Italy. We had the best Belgian waffle in a restaurant suggested to us by Andre. The waffle was crispy on the outside, but the inside melted in your mouth. And of course it was topped with a healthy amount of butter and whipped cream. Adam also had one of the best spare ribs he has ever had. CIMG0444We stopped in a bar that served over 300 types of beer. The glasses they serve the beer in are like glass goblets. We wanted to see windmills on the north side of town but Adam’s bike got a flat and we had to walk our bikes about 5 kilometers home. On the way home we ran across a street magician from New York. He was more of a comedian than a magician, as we only saw him do one magic trick in 45 minutes. But he did manage to escape from a straight jacket tied in chains. He made the claim that he had beat the world record made by Harry Houdini which may have been true but he also claimed to have set the new world record, this was a huge lie but people still gave him money anyways.

Brussels

CIMG0420Brussels apparently is the capital of Europe, since it is where the European Union meets. At first impression the city seemed to be dirty and a little rundown. But we went on a grand walking tour around the city anyways. The sites are numerous. One thing we determined was that they seem to like statues of people peeing. One of their main attractions is a statue of a young boy peeing and they also have a young girl in a different part of town as well as a dog. A large church in the town also had urinals along the wall outside that were free for use, apparently a lot of people want to pee on the church.CIMG0423 Unlike much of Europe the churches in Brussels are not being repair but very much in need of repairs. A lot of the paint was peeling, the churches were very dirty and most of the paintings inside had holes in them. In terms of food they seem to love 5 things over all. Fries, mayonnaise, chocolate, waffels and beer. We ordered kebaps, which are similiar to Gyros and all over Europe, and it was smothered in Mayonnaise. It was disgusting, and despite being really hungry, between the two of us we couldn’t even finish one. The outskirts of town are run down and dirty, but the inner, touristed part of the city is maintained. There was one incredibly beautful square where most of the building had gold detailed paintings on the facades.CIMG0419 Brussels “Eifel Tower” is a huge creation of metal balls connected by bars into the shape of a square. It can be seen from any high point in the city. Our hostel was right connected to the Godiva factory which gave off great smelling whiffs. We walked about 18 km around the city and in the end we thought it better then when we arrived.

Freiburg

Freiburg is a town on the edge of the Black Forest. Originally we only intended to stay in Freiburg, but after some difficulty booking hostels in Liechtenstein, we extended our stay to do some hiking. Luckily the prices have been incredibly (tonight we had 4 drinks, 2 meals and an appetizer for 20 Euros). CIMG0408The inner city is pretty touristy, filled with plenty of fast food, and not too spectacular, but the town still has a charm. Within the old town, nearly every street has little ditches with water flowing down. We think the ditches are remnants of the old waste system of the Middle Ages. The church in town was under construction and even the inside was filled with scaffolding. We got sucked into a gummy bear shop next to the church and bought 500 grams of a mysterious flavor of the month gummy bear. They sucked, so we had to resort to amusing ourselves with them.CIMG0406 Adam found he could fit 82 in his mouth at once. At this point in time we still have over half the bag left. We took a day trip out to Titisee (yes that’s spelled right). We were hoping to find a secluded lake with hiking, but it turns out that it’s a tourist town on the lake with minimal hiking at best. We tasted Schwarzwalder cake, which is a chocolate, cream, and cherry cake that is sold everywhere, but not really that tasty. We took another day trip to the “tallest waterfall in Germany” but they are really stretching the meaning of tall. It was more like a long serious of small waterfalls that were right on top of each other. But it was beautiful none the less. This waterfall was located in the town Triberg which is also famous for its Black Forest Cuckoo Clock’s which many of the shops carried and many were nothing but cuckoo clocks. There were a couple of very large clocks but we never got to see them go.CIMG0409

Bern

CIMG0403Bern is the capital of Switzerland. The old town is on a hillside cutting into a river, on which our dorm was located. The bear is the symbol of the city since it was legendarily the first game caught on the site of the town before its founding. There are statues of bears all over the city and a bear cage, which has had live bears in it for hundreds of years with a few notable exceptions. In the late 1700s France defeated the Swiss and stole their bears. The only war monuments in the city are dedicated to the Swiss who fell in that war. And right now there are no bears since the last was put down in April and the other two were moved to the zoo while the cage was being remodeled. CIMG0401The cathedral was unique because of its numerous hanging boss stones, as well as the carving on the front depicting the horrors of hell. The area surrounding the Cathedral seemed to be popular with the local drug dealers. One day we watched a dealer do business in front of the church. The next day we were asked by a different dealer if we wanted any drugs. We visited the Museum of Natural History, where a special exhibit called the Art of the Celts (or something like that..) was on display. The tickets to get in cost a whopping 24 Swiss Francs, but it was definitely worth it. It featured primarily Celtic artwork from continental Europe and showed its evolution as the Celts eventually joined the Roman Empire. The works where mostly in gold, bronze, silver and stones, there was some glass work too but it was rare. The exhibit also featured the contents of the largest Celtic grave and showed some very interesting customs of the time. For example all the contents of the grave where broken on purpose or put in a way that they could not be used. This showed a fear of people coming back from the dead. We spent a lot of time in a rose garden that was about 10 minutes away from our hostel. It was easy to pass the time in the shade of large oak trees surrounded by over 1000 blooming roses. Although we thoroughly enjoyed Bern we were happy to leave behind the insanely high prices of Switzerland.CIMG0398

Zermatt

CIMG0390While getting to Zermatt was a pain in the butt, the town was definitely worth it. The last stretch of rail road can only be reached by private rail lines, which we were unaware of and ended up spending 100 Swiss francs on tickets. The beauty of the train ride quickly alleviated our anger. We passed through the Alps and tiny towns of about 10-15 dark, brown and white huts. At 8 we finally arrived in Zermatt, a larger town fairly similar to Whistler-Blackcomb in feel but not in size.CIMG0394 Zermatt is pricey but absolutely beautiful. It sits in the shadow of the Matterhorn, of which we had a clear view the first days which is lucky we are told. We hiked 7 hours up trails leading past small villages, and alpine cows with little horns and wearing their cowbells, as well as up close to the base of the Matterhorn. We had great views of the various glaciers high up on the hills. Zermatt is definitely one of our favorites. The only bad thing was that we forgot the sunscreen.CIMG0388

Montepellier/Sete/Canet en Roussillon/Lyon

France was a whirlwind. It was the last days with Andrea’s family and heavy on the driving. We didn’t do a lot of sightseeing in any of the cities, but more got a feel for the atmosphere. Everywhere it was incredibly hot and sunny. Montepelier was characterized by an enormous square in the middle of the city. All the restaurants had outdoor seating, and in many cases the chairs were pointed out to the center of the square to facilitate people watching. The French love their cheeses and their clothes. CIMG0357The square was filled at night with break dancers and with another set of dancers twirling sticks and hula hoops that were on fire. Sete is an island and was pretty packed. The beaches were great a little outside of town where the water was clean and beautiful. The drive to Canet en Roussillon turned out to be a nightmare for us. Andrea’s grandpa, brother and us were about 30 kilometers out of our next stop when we stopped to fill up with gas. The car was diesel and so we filled it with diesel.. or so we thought. About 5 kilometers down the road, the car lost power and would not start again. Luckily we were able to coast to a rest stop where we waited for rescue. An hour later, we were in Narbonne in a car dealership. Unfortunately almost no one spoke English. We were told a taxi was coming, but 3 hours later still none had come despite reassurance from the one English speaker. By that point Andrea’s dad was on his way to pick us up. Still we ended up spending the entire afternoon in a baking hot dealership with nothing to do. We finally arrived in Canet en Roussillon to discover a beach town with lots of stands along the beach road and CIMG0380mediocre restaurants. Because of our delay, we didn’t do much in the town. The next day we split off from Andrea’s parents, who were continuing down to Barcelona, and headed north to Lyon. We arrived around 6 and had to leave the next morning early to make it to Zermatt before our Hostel reception closed. All we had time to do was walk the shopping boulevard in front of hotel, once again showing the French love of fashion and clothing. The greatest things in France were definitely their beaches and their pastries, which are some of the best in the world.