Day 33 – Gent briefly, Parliamentarium

So the hostel nicely had maps for all the smaller towns around the area. I had grabbed one for Gent and one for Brugge (I’m sticking with those spellings, too many options, have to pick one). They’re of the Use-It variety, which I’ve found a couple other places and really enjoyed some of their suggestions. They say they are the maps/guides for the young traveler. Anyways, the one for Gent told me that the castle and cathedral are both open on Mondays. Score. That’s what I wanted to see there.

The joy of being able to take as many trains as I want with that Eurail pass. Just hopped on and suddenly you’re there.

Gent hosts a large festival around the Belgium National Holiday (21 July, tomorrow) called Gentse Feesten. Lots of concerts, carnival type things set up, etc. I’d equate it to the state fair at home.

Anyways, that was all set up, but at 10am, not much was going on. That was fine, large crowds of people speaking a foreign language when you’re by yourself is not a particularly fun activity.

I got to the castle, which not surprisingly, looks like a castle. What’s weird is that it is is pretty much in the middle of town now.

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As noted by this view from somewhere up top of the castle, where you can see all the festival tents set up right below.

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I enjoyed the castle tour. After that I wandered over to the cathedral.

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It gave me a pretty good laugh when I got there and saw this. It’s a nice historical place. One of the top listed things to see in Gent. But currently, it’s also home to the biggest stage area. The door is right behind the stage actually. The cathedral is giant, but there really wasn’t much you haven’t seen before. A lot of really old artifacts from the church of the area. It was nice that you could go down into the crypt area. And they had a nice explanation of the time line of evolution of the crypt. And there are a lot of large side areas where if you’re really rich, or famous, or something, you can have your grave there, all separate from where everyone walks. The name for that is escaping me.

After this I headed out to find some fries. I’ve been looking to find “the best” fries. So far nothing had totally wow-ed me. So I followed my trusty map off to a couple different fry places. One was closed on Mondays. One was closed from 2-4 (I got there at 2:15). No fries for me. But amusing that in this walking I ended up in this wide open plaza with nothing in it, while the rest of the town is packed. It’s really not far away.

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Caught the train back to Brussels and headed up to the Parliamentarium. Part of the head of the EU Government is in Brussels, and being there, I figured I should check it out. It also has a visitor center that explains about the evolution of the EU. I found this very interesting. I was sad that I hadn’t left myself more time to spend there (I got there around 4, they close at 6, free entry!).

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Since wandering around and checking out parks appears to be something I enjoy, it wont surprise anyone that I decided to check out the large park in the uppertown area near the parliament buildings. (Side note, unlike Minneapolis, the upper and lower town areas here make sense, upper town is on top of the hill, lower town isn’t)

There’s this awesome building in the park. What I could gather from signs is that it was built for the centennial celebration. That could be wrong, don’t go quoting me. What I do know is it had museums in it now, and that it is an energy neutral building. Funny what the signs in the park tell you and what they don’t.

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Hopped the metro back home from there. That was enough for one day.

Day 31 and 32 – Around Brussels

So before I jump into my full days in Brussels, I need to include a bit from the first night I got to town.

I was chilling around the hostel, doing some much needed laundry, when I met my roommate. Another woman traveling alone. She was looking to head down to the Grand Place, but wasn’t sure about heading there alone and was looking around for other single travelers when I showed up. Lucky for me!

I had heeded the suggestion that I should really check out the Grand Place at night, preferably before seeing it in the day (Thanks Uncle Alan). So off we went. I think we were finally ready and collected to head out around 11. So not a normal thing for me.

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Belgium is one of the countries where you can drink where ever and whenever you want. So once we got to the square and realized that everyone was just sitting around drinking and smoking (seems like everyone here smokes), we headed over to a night shop (what I’ve now learned it’s called, at the time, it was an open store). We picked up something to drink and planted ourselves in the square with everyone else.

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We hung around for a bit, it started to rain and everyone ran for cover around the buildings by the square. Then we finished the cider we had, and decided to head some where to grab a drink. Which some how turned into picking up food and a bottle of wine and heading home. The upside is with only the two of us, this was something that sounded awesome to us and that’s how it happened. We were the only two in our room and so it was easy to head back and chow down there.

Day 31

Lucky for me, Aurea (pronounced the same as Aria) had a lot of the same things on the want to do list as I did. So we wandered around together for the two days she was still in Brussels.

We started off with a walking tour. Always good for hitting up the main things. Like Mannekinpis.

Apparently he has hundreds of costumes
Apparently he has hundreds of costumes

And the cathedral. I never did make it back here to go inside. But perhaps there’s no need. Looks just like another one I’ll be visiting later.

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The other awesome thing about these tours continues to be the good suggestions for places to go or eat. Particularly when you ask about something specific. So a bunch of us were looking for fries (2pm, what else are you going to eat). We all headed over to the place recommended, sadly, closed for about a month.

Instead Aurea and I headed off to find some chocolate. Our hostel reception had pointed out a good area to go for stores. There’s no pictures of this. But perhaps I will manage to gain weight on my trip because, yum. A couple places in the area also had macarons. Also tasty. Still no pictures.

We then wandered around to find fries. Because try as we might, chocolate does not make a meal to fill you up. I think I’m converted to the mayonnaise with fries thing. But they also have a ton of other sauce options, all the ones I’ve had have been good. Way more interesting than ketchup, and I love ketchup.

Back to the hostel for dinner and resting. Because staying out late isn’t easy when you’re old.

Day 32

There was a flea market that Aurea had found out about. And I’m always curious about local markets. So off we went. Took the metro, got off at the correct stop, but that didn’t make it any easier to find the right little square we were looking for. And then some more rain.

Pretty much a flea market is the same every where I guess. All sorts of junk that the owner doesn’t need that they hope someone else thinks they need and will pay money for. There were some super cute boots that would have been hard to resist had then been in my size. The one time small feet are not a good thing is when you’re looking second hand.

But really, this is what one place had for their offerings:

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Piles and piles of random metal bits. I guess this could be interesting to dig through if you’re trying to restore a house or something. There was also a lot of clothes. Which just seems weird to buy at an outdoor market. Aurea left after the market, so back to being on my own.

I headed down to the Grand Place to catch a tour of the Town Hall. Turns out you can only go on the hour, as part of a tour group. The next tour in English wasn’t for another 4 hours. Bought my ticket. Then had to decide what else I wanted to do.

Having gotten a day pass for the metro, I decided to head out to the Atomium. It was built for the world fair. I ended up deciding not to wait in line to go inside. The line was long, it was cold and raining, and I hadn’t brought my rain coat for the day. And had opted for shorts. Always fun trying to figure out if the forecast is actually going to be correct. Not this day.

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You can go inside the balls. But most of what you get is a view over the city. And I was a bit over the whole idea of a view over the city when it’s all gloomy. Been there, done that. And this one was some amount of money way more than was worth it.

So I hopped the metro back into the city center. Stopped and grabbed some food for a picnic, because by this point it decided to be sunny again (and there are actual picnic tables in the street). Found some gluten free pasta and bread at the store, which I wasn’t looking for, but couldn’t pass up. It’s very annoying to carry food around from place to place, but it’s also getting old having no bread to go with breakfast when that’s so how European breakfasts are focused. So purchased all the deliciousness and off I went. Even expensive gluten free pasta is a a cheap meal.

Headed back to the town hall for the tour. An interesting building, a great story about the building, probably the worst tour I’ve been on. Earlier trying to buy my ticket was a confusing mess, and then the entire tour just didn’t have a ton of substance. Oh well. It is another one of those places that is still an actively used place of government, so it’s a lot of offices that aren’t interesting and not included on the tour. So the tour seems short for such a giant building.

Back to the hostel for dinner (pasta!) and to plan what to do for the next day. Turns out pretty much everything in Brussels is closed on Mondays (tourist things at least, similar to other big cities).

 

Day 28, 29 and 30 – The farther afield areas of Holland

Day 28

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I decided I would boogie out of Amsterdam and go spend the day in Haarlem on the way to Rotterdam, where I was staying for the next couple nights.

I will say, walking around in the drizzle, which is pretty much because the air is at 100% humidity, with all your stuff, is not fun. Made even less enjoyable by the fact that I totally ate it going down the stairs leaving my hostel. Luckily, my bag broke my fall, but broke nothing else inside. Just some bumps and bruises. I’m sure the one on my elbow will be pretty.

Off to Haarlem. Luckily trains here are super easy. From Amsterdam to Haarlem is roughly 30 minutes, and trains run all the time. It makes it easy when you don’t have to worry about showing up at the right time to catch a train.

I got to Haarlem around 10, and the place was deserted. Like, I thought I was in the wrong area. Which would be totally possible being that I had no map other than my phone. However, I found the giant church in the square, so I realized I must be in the right area. I took a wander around the church, which is a nice classical Gothic church.

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The food stand in the square totally makes the picture here. There are restaurants all around the sides of the square, with all this outdoor seating. Amusing to me on a day when no one possibly wants to sit outside.

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When you let people walk all over your tombstone, pretty soon it gets worn enough you can’t see the letters. It seems that the entire floor of the church was tombstones. Interestingly, the brochure here described that you had to be rich in order to be buried in the church. When you bury people, they decompose. Decomposing things smell. This could be where the term “stinking rich” comes from. Or that was the brochure theory anyways. I thought it was logical.

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The organ in the church was giant. And they have all these chairs lined up, but the place was empty for my visit.

I then grabbed a coffee at one of the previously mentioned cafes around the square. I needed some place to warm up. By the time I was finished, it was mostly not raining. Therefore, I wandered around town some more.

I finally got to see a bridge in action.
I finally got to see a bridge in action.
They were saving the front of the house... but nothing else. So odd.
They were saving the front of the house… but nothing else. So odd.
A windmill, which was rather in the middle of town.
A windmill, which was rather in the middle of town.
The least square windows I've ever seen.
The least square windows I’ve ever seen. I wonder how they open them.

And the picture from the top, which is an old gate to the city. After all the wandering around, I grabbed a sofa/bench seat at a bar and read my book with some wine. Then off to the train to head to Rotterdam. This train ride takes you through the tulip fields, and would have been extremely gorgeous if it were spring.

My hostel in Rotterdam was in an extremely weird building complex. It was built as part of an architecture challenge. Rotterdam actually had a lot of interesting architecture things.

Those yellow things are the houses.
Those yellow things are the houses.

Each little cube was designed to be a separate house. You access them by a stair, and then there are three levels inside, with 100 square meters inside (~1000 sq ft). They have one that is open for viewing to demonstrate how you would live. Not sure I really liked it. A lot of wasted space inside, and tiny stair cases to get up and down.

The hostel was in a bunch of connected cubes. It had apparently been a school in a previous life. In the picture, it’s the taller cubes on the right. Once in your room, it didn’t seem as completely odd.

Day 29

I chose Rotterdam because it was close to Delft and Den Haag, which I wanted to visit. Off on the trains I went. Luckily the Hostel is like 500m from the train station. Very convenient. (The picture of the cubes was taken standing outside the train station)

 

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It decided to be a very nice day for my Delft visit. I started off with a climb up the tower of the New Church. Mind you, new means it was built in the 1200’s, or started then. They just name things as they make sense, so this was the new church because there was already a church in town, now called the old church. Super inventive.

The stair case up was tiny, thankfully there were not many people climbing up or down when I went. Early is key here. If you go through the pictures, you can see the space you get to walk around at the top of the tower. So thankful there weren’t a lot of people up here. It was already a tad terrifying. And I can’t imagine doing the stairs if I was any taller, even I had to duck at some spots.

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After I got out of the tower, I wandered around the market. This is a bit like the farmers market, and I just happened to be heading to Delft on their market day. If I could buy things for eating at any point beyond immediately, I would have ended up with so much fruit.

A bit of wandering around town, a stop in the Old Church (because my ticket was good for both), a stop in tourist info, and then off to the Royal Delft Factory. It was a nice day, so I chose to walk.

The tour was by audio guide, which can be nice. It started with two short movies… for which I was the only one in the room. As you go around you can see the many different types of things they make. Royal Delft is mainly the blue painting on white, but they’ve made many other designs over time and they have them all on display. There used to be a ton of factories that made delftware, but this is the only one remaining. You get to see them hand painting the pottery in the tour. These people really are artists, I can’t imagine recreating the painting so it’s the same on all of the pieces. Check out the pictures where you can see the giant replica of The Night Watch in tile. There was also a giant cow hanging out in the factory. You pretty much get to walk right through their active production area, they just have signs saying please don’t touch.

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Off to Den Haag next. I was really going to see Madurodam and The Netherlands’ Parliament. Madurodam was sadly disappointing to me, mainly due to lack of information about the recreated buildings. I could recognize some of them, but others I had no clue. Some had signs, some didn’t.

One of the big things to see in Den Haag is the Peace Palace, so I decided to check it out. Which would have worked better if it hadn’t been 6pm already. Closed.

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Next off to check out the Parliament. I will say that the USA probably doesn’t win the “prettiest government buildings” award.

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Out through the archway pictured above, and you run into a giant plaza. And it was PACKED. You could hear the dull sound of chatter all the way across the plaza. I figured this wasn’t exactly a hot tourist spot, so if all the tables are full, the food can’t be bad. Stopped for a meal. Thankfully, the salmon I had totally made up for the last place I ordered salmon. It was delicious.

Just look at all the people.
Just look at all the people.

 

Day 30

I was going to wander around Rotterdam, because I was planning to stay until the mail came. I had dropped my pump in Amsterdam, and emailed Medtronic’s Benelux office in the hope of getting a new clip. 40 days without a pump clip was going to be a pain. It hadn’t shown up on Thursday (Day 29), so I figured I had enough time that I could hang out in Rotterdam for the day on Friday.

Shout out to Medtronic for awesome customer service all around the world. I ended up getting TWO pump clips, all gratis and mailed to my hostel! They’re clear, which is pretty cool to me as all my old ones have been dark grey. Not that anyone but me sees it anyways.

I was planning to just wander around and check out some of the architecture things mentioned on my map. In the process, I ran into a nice man on the river front walk. He and his young daughter were heading on a boat cruise that takes you out to see some windmills. Realizing I really didn’t have any better plans, I decided to tag along.

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It was a slow boat trip, but fun none the less. Quite a pretty area. The boat drops you off and it’s a 20 minute walk out to the windmills (Molen, which is mill in Dutch). Back on the boat and back to Rotterdam where I then went back to my hostel, collected my mail and my things, and off to another train. I’m learning that train rides make great meal times, and there is almost always a grocery store very near the station.

Got to Brussels safe and sound, except I totally forgot to download any maps or where exactly I was heading. I did however know where the tourist info places were, so I figured I’d pop in a grab a map. Too bad they all closed at six and I got in around seven. Luckily I haven’t been using much if any of the data my mom set up for my phone, so I went ahead and pulled up the map and off I went. After getting to the hostel, I realized I probably should have gone with the metro option. 3km is farther than I really want to walk with my things. Oh well. Still alive.

 

Day 26 and 27 – All things Amsterdam

Day 26

I refused to take a picture of the I amsterdam sign with six billion other people crawling all over it. I had tried to swing by last night on my way to dinner, but there was still a lot of people there. Being that it’s summer and all, it gets light nice and early, so I decided to get up way too early and head over. I didn’t even make it to my alarm clock however, as many people in my room were getting up to go places before then (16 people in a room is a lot of alarm clocks). So off I went.

Lucky for me, I think it was around 7 when I got there, and was pretty much deserted. I did run into a couple guys who were stopping to take their picture with the sign on their way home from the bar…. luckily, they were totally sober enough that I could ask then to take my picture too!

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After this adventure, I headed back to my hostel to grab some breakfast. Nothing would be open for a couple hours anyways.

In the morning I went over to the Rembrandthuis, which is Rembrandt’s house set up as it was when he lived there. In his life he earned a lot of money, but he spent most of it before he actually earned it. Not a good route to go, and he ended up broke. The bank therefore foreclosed on his house. When they did that though, they made a meticulous list of all the things that he had in the house. That is why it has been able to be recreated as well as it has.

A bit interesting just to see a period house, but the most interesting part was definitely the paint making demonstration. I had never really thought about how you would make paint. Well, it’s a pain, and had to be made every day. Rembrandt would make a couple colors per day, and use those colors on multiple paintings at the same time. Pretty smart. Interestingly, the white paint was made from lead (at the time), and totally toxic. Powders were mixed with oil on a stone until the right consistency was reached, the different powders would create different colors. Some came from rocks, some from coal, etc. and that’s how you have the different colors. This demonstration made it so that I could finally figure out how some artists have what looks like “chunky” paint, and other don’t. It would have been a preference in how they mixed the paint.

After this I decided to bike around and find the smallest house front in Amsterdam. It was no wider than the door. Walking around back it’s hard to tell which house is which, but all the backs were much larger, which is pretty much what they tell you about the house.

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Other things I found while biking around: A pretty canal view, and a house that was so crooked I don’t know how it’s standing. Pictures don’t do either justice, but here they are anyways.

Canal in the morning before everyone gets moving
Canal in the morning before everyone gets moving
I swear the house with yellow windows was going to just fall into the street
I swear the house with yellow windows was going to just fall into the street

Day 27

I decided, after reading reviews, it was worth it to go to the Van Gogh Museum early. I got there around 850, because when I plan to be somewhere in Amsterdam, I leave plenty of time for wrong turns, and was surprised to be early. The museum opened at 9. There was already a crazy crowd when I got there.

They're working on a new entrance, because this is a mess
They’re working on a new entrance, because this is a mess

While I really enjoy Van Gogh’s work, I was not a huge fan of this museum. They have the largest collection of Van Gogh in the world, but I really didn’t feel like they had much of it on display. A lot of what was on display was the people who inspired him, and bits about his family and letters he wrote. While this is how he came to be, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and simply wasn’t that interesting. Perhaps I would have had a different view if the Munch Museum in Oslo hadn’t had the display comparing Munch and Van Gogh, which also explained both of their life stories and histories and influences. We shall never know.

I wandered around shopping for a bit, coming up empty handed. It’s amazing how hard you have to work to justify purchasing anything when you know it has to fit in the one bag you have packed!

In the evening I met up with Jeannette for drinks and dinner. I previously met her on the walking tour in Copenhagen, but she’s living in Amsterdam. I figured it’s fun when you can meet up with someone, way more fun than eating and drinking alone!

 

Day 25 – Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Dutch Dinner

I started my day off heading to the Rijksmuseum (which is pronounced rykes museum, not sure what the ij combo into a y thing is). This is a large museum that has what seems like a little bit of everything. One of the main attractions is that it has Rembrandt’s Night Watch. I decided to head up there right away, in the hope of there being less people.

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This painting was pretty well guarded. Not surprising. This main gallery had a lot of the more famous Dutch artists and therefore ended up being rather full, rather quickly. If you know me, crowds aren’t my favorite thing, so I was happy to be there fast and then move on to the other areas which were much less crowded.  Over all I really enjoyed this museum.

Your cannon isn't very intimidating with this on the end.
Your cannon isn’t very intimidating with this on the end.

It turned out that I enjoyed it enough, that it took me way more hours to wander around than I ever thought possible. When I got out, I had intended to head over to the Van Gogh Museum, but there was simply no hope of spending any more time in a crowded museum.

So instead, I headed over to the Anne Frank House. Less of a museum right? But really, it was less crowded. The Anne Frank House is one place where you can’t buy tickets from any of the ticket locations in the city. Your two options are to buy them online, WAY ahead of time, or to stand in line and buy them at the museum. I was going with the line option. Luckily, it was a shorter line than a lot of days, and only took an hour and a half I believe. Met some nice girls in line that were doing a Europe tour at a super fast pace!

The museum was great to see, but super horrible at the same time. If you get to Amsterdam, it’s a must see.

After this day, I decided I should have some real food for dinner, and went to a place that was suggested by my hostel front desk man as a place for good traditional dutch food. Surprisingly, they’re not so easy to come by now that the city is such a mixing pot. A lot of the better food and more popular places are actually the immigrant food styles.

Dinner

Started off with cider and some herring. Yes, I know, strongbow is not dutch.

They serve herring with onions and salt. It is served raw and I was super apprehensive about it (not the raw bit, just the fish in general). Turns out that I actually really enjoyed it! I followed this up with Stamppotten, which is a meatball on top of mashed potatoes with some sort of veggie mixed in. The traditional version is with carrots, so that’s what I went with. I guess I could be Dutch because this was pretty much right up my food alley. Nothing to complain about. This was also the first place I’ve been that had a gluten free menu, but more exciting, gluten free bread. This area is so big on bread that I’ve actually been missing it.

Days 23 and 24 – Travel and Amsterdam

Day 23

I spent my morning on trains getting to Amsterdam. Hamburg station was interesting as all announcements were in German only. Luckily, signs telling you a time and a direction/city read the same in all languages. I was waiting on my correct platform ready to go when some announcement comes on. Everyone else is now hurrying to somewhere else. I figure they can’t all be wrong and so I follow them. Our train had moved platforms. All good.

I was happy that I paid the ~$5 to make a reservation for my second train. There were people sitting in all sorts of odd places, like the floor. A reservation gets you a seat spot :).

Off the train, to my hostel. Amazingly, didn’t have any difficulty finding this one!

Checked in, showered (I always just feel dirty after traveling), and then wandered around the city for a bit. The hostel is located right on a canal in one of the older row houses in the city center.

I took a walk around Amsterdam then grabbed a seat by the canal for some people watching and book reading. Relaxing is always an important part of any vacation!

Day 24

I decided to start off my visit with a walking tour. I’ve been enjoying them so far and they often have useful information! Additionally, the tour guides are usually great at suggesting things you should do in the city.

After the walking tour, I went to rent a bike. It seemed to be the only real way to get around the city, unless I wanted to walk every where. Not the most organized place, but I rented my bike just fine. The place I went has navy blue bikes, so perhaps I wouldn’t stick out like a total tourist. Most rental places have obnoxious colored bikes, while all the locals seem to have black.

My Bike
My Bike

My guide in the morning had mentioned that there was a brewery that was located in a windmill in the city area. So I decided I would bike out there. Of course, not for the beer, just for the experience and the windmill!

Well lets just say that my direction sense on a bike in Amsterdam isn’t so great. After a few wrong turns, or missed turns, I did end up finding where I was going.

Pretty cool, not sure if this is an original windmill or anything though.
Pretty cool, not sure if this is an original windmill or anything though.

I then decided I should check out a bit more of Amsterdam, especially since it was a very nice day out. So I biked around to the park (vondelpark) and past the museums which I was intending to go to the next day. My hope was that by biking there now, I wouldn’t get lost the next day.

The park was nice, but for the only major park in Amsterdam, none too large. And everyone was there. The place was packed. Perhaps it is just because I am used to the Cities where there are a million parks and you can pick many of them and be almost alone. That doesn’t work so well when there is only one large park I guess.

On an unrelated note, check out the dock for this boat:

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Day 22 – Hamburg

I’m sadly way behind in writing my updates. That means that days I didn’t find particularly thrilling you probably won’t get that much about. This was one of those days.

I started off with a walk through the Elbe Tunnel. It’s a tunnel that goes under the Elbe river, which is the major waterway in Hamburg. Pretty cool actually. There were some other people walking through for fun like me, then there were the bikers and cars which were clearly using the tunnel for actual transportation.

There are elevators that go up and down at both ends, but I opted for the exercise and stairs.
There are elevators that go up and down at both ends, but I opted for the exercise and stairs. The tunnel is below that green tarp thing.
The tunnel. It's pretty much all white tile. I was surprised by the lack of graffiti which covers the rest of the town.
The tunnel. It’s pretty much all white tile. I was surprised by the lack of graffiti which covers the rest of the town.
This is the picture from one end to the other. I started where that arrow points. When I got back, it was pouring rain, so no picture facing the other way!
This is the picture from one end to the other. I started where that arrow points. When I got back, it was pouring rain, so no picture facing the other way!

I spent a while wandering around the Sternschanze Neighborhood, which is supposed to be the hip area, but having no real clue what to look for, didn’t really seem like much. The weather continued to alternate between sunshine and pouring rain for the majority of the morning. Luckily, wait five minutes and the rain would stop, making for pleasant walking.

I decided to head over to St. Micheal’s Church which has an observation platform at the top of the tower. The inside is also quite beautiful, but I’m saving my church awe for later in this trip. From here I was planning to go see the St. Nikolai Memorial. But see the below picture.

Scaffolding all the way up.
Scaffolding all the way up.

Of course, I later learned that the memorial was still open even though it was under construction. But I was mostly excited to go see the building because it is supposed to be very pretty!

On the way home I ran into this guy:

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All I could figure out is that it is the Bismarck Monument. There was a small plaque in German, but that didn’t help me much. Turns out it is for Otto von Bismarck who united the German states back in the 1800’s and formed the German Empire under Prussia.

And that was my day. Followed by the time spent updating the lovely blog right here.

The view from my hostel. Also similar to the postcard I picked up.

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Steps: 17,419

Floors: 88

Days 20 and 21: Museums and Travel

Day 20

I headed off to the National Museum bright and early (ah hem, opened at 10:00, early, who knows where). I was really excited to see this museum. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint.

I started off checking out the “dawn of time” until now bits. Essentially it explained how the Danish area came to be settled. It was rather early actually. And the Vikings were also here (turns out everywhere wants to claim to be the “viking area”. This was told to me by some nice Norwegian guys I met at the harbor when I mentioned I’d been to the Viking Ship Museum). However, this museum encompassed a lot more information. Some of it awesome, some of it feeling like stealing from the dead (as is normal now-a-days I guess). Either way, my most favorite things:

Really old instruments. Old susaphones? Once again, sideways.
Really old instruments. Old susaphones? Once again, sideways.
Viking Helmet! (sideways, yes, thank-you iPhone)
Viking Helmet! (sideways, yes, thank-you iPhone)

I wandered on from there to check out the more recent history, and what was called the Princes Castle, which turned out to be the history of the building, which I didn’t visit. It was a billion degrees inside, as it’s been a heat wave and air conditioning is apparently not a thing. I can only read so much history in the heat. I did read the bits in the “stories” section, which was 1600 to present, presented as stories of what was going on. Interesting, not thrilling.

Following being super hot at the National Museum, I was worried about what I would find at the Christiansborg Palace tour. Well, it was really cool! (in things, not temperature, but not as hot as the museum). It was a trip through the royal reception rooms at Christiansborg. This one (the 4th) has never been home to the royalty (see Amelienborg). Maybe they will stop letting things be burned down soon. However, the current version houses all branches of Danish government, as well has rooms in which the queen hosts guests and parties. All in all, it’s a gorgeous place.

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After my room tour, I decided to hop on a canal tour, as it was super gorgeous out, and I needed a walking break. No pictures, because I’m cool like that. Actually I just didn’t see a point in taking pictures of things I didn’t visit. The boat barely fit through some of the bridges, which was entertaining. Less entertaining was that it went from blazing sunshine to raining in the middle of the tour. Enough that I got up and stood in between the aisle in the front of the boat.

With the rain, I decided it was still worth taking a trip up the tower at Christiansborg (free!) which was said to have a good view of the city. That’s true, but it’s a bit gloomy in my pictures, which is hard to fix with photo edit software when it’s true.

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After this, I bailed on my plans to return to Tivoli. Not worth it in the rain. So I headed home to pack, then headed out for some dinner quickly.

Day 21

This day was pretty much taken up by travel. Nothing toooooo exciting thankfully.

Normally, you can take a train all the way from Copenhagen to Hamburg, but there’s construction right now. So I grabbed a bus at 9:10 (with a ton of other people) and drove to the south of Zealand (the island Copenhagen is on) to Rødby. Where I got on a ferry (30 minute ride). After which we all got on a train (after waiting waayyy too long).

Normally this is a pretty cool trip because the train drives to Rødby, and then drives onto the ferry (like the cars do) and then you ferry over, and then the train continues on to Hamburg. That would be awesome. This was just a way to get where you’re going.

Thankfully, I wasn’t connecting as everything was late after the bus (which was very on time).

Got to Hamburg fine though, and caught a local train/metro (U3) for a couple stops over to my hostel. Took a bit to figure out my hostel was on top of the hill, which explained the weird streets on my map. Lots of steps! Got there, dropped things off, went for a walk, got dinner, did laundry (they even had a dryer!), and went to bed. Exciting day right?


Day 20

Steps: 14,688

Floors: 68

Day 21

Steps: 15,066

Floors: 42

Day 19 – Castles and Trains

So I mentioned before that I was using this Copenhagen Card, which covers entry to things and transport. While amazingly, it also covers transport out to areas that I would not consider to be part of Copenhagen. I guess they are considered part of “Greater Copenhagen”, but to me it would be like saying that Hudson, WI is part of Minneapolis.

Anyways, I hop on the S-tog (never did figure out what the S means, Tog is train). It essentially runs like a local train would. I headed up to Hillerød, where Frederiksborg is. (It’s a good thing I picked up a tourist map, because I definitely thought that Frederiksborg Palace was in Frederikberg Park. Which is a completely different direction and area.)

My first stop in Hillerød was the mall, because I had found some place that sold fitbits! Got my new fitbit, was all set to just run with it, but it needed charging, so I guess I’d have to wait a few more hours. If only I had remembered to bring my portable charger with me!

Next off I walked to the Castle. It is quite cool because it is on a series of islands in a lake. I’m sure at some point they were connected by draw bridge or some other moveable structure, now they are connected with permanent bridges. Anyways, I was sad to discover this was yet another collection of paintings and memorabilia instead of a restored castle. Oh well. The building had clearly gone through some troubles and almost none of the original interior remained anyways. The gardens looked amazing, however I hadn’t planned as well as some past days, and was lacking enough layers. I swore that I’d be warm enough in shorts in 15 degrees, but I didn’t factor in the wind and clouds. No park dwelling for me.

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Back to the train station to take was actually described as a local train. Super nice though! Obviously none of the amenities that come with the regional trains, and not the billion seats all facing one way with tray tables, but very nice and clean. To me, nicer than our light rail at home. I had to read the schedule/train stops about 10 times to figure out what train to get on. There were two that went from Hillerød to Helsingør. Turns out the only difference was the route and how many stops and the time, so really, it didn’t matter which one I got on.

At Helsingør, finding the castle was extremely easy. Clearly it’s a big draw for the town as there were signs right from the train platform. On the way, I found the library, which happened to have computers set up for free use. Well, if you remember earlier, I had a fitbit that needed charging. They also had free wi-fi, so I was pretty content to hang-out at the computer for 30 minutes or so. If you follow me on instagram, I’m sure you saw that.

Kronborg Castle was the type of castle I had been waiting to see! Helsingør (written Elsingor some places) is the town that is at the point closest to what is now Sweden, and the town Helsingborg. At the time of this castle’s establishment, both sides of the water were Denmark (remember, for a large part of history the Danish ruled over all of what is now Sweden and Norway, or at least most of it). The castle was established so that the king could force all ships sailing through the area to pay dues, or taxes. It started as a small castle, but around the 16th century underwent some additions, partly because the cannons of the time were getting better and there was no way the walls could withstand the newer ones.

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In this castle, there was an area that was particularly dedicated for the women of the household (queen, staff, etc.) to walk inside. This was in order to save their shoes. Crazy to see. I can’t imagine living in the castle because it must have been brutal to keep it warm at all. But this was used as the Royal residence in the time of Frederik II, after which it was used as a summer castle for some time, and then later abandoned. However, it’s one of the few that weren’t built by Christian IV, who built what seems like every other castle in Denmark. (A little tough to keep straight who built what, because they liked naming things after themselves, but the line of kings have names that pretty much alternate between Christian and Frederik from the “modern” time of the middle ages).

Inside one room (can’t remember which one now, a smaller hall) they had tapestries depicting the kings. Originally there were 43, now 7 hang in this hall, and 7 more in the National Museum in Copenhagen. They were made by Frederik (the something) to in an effort to demonstrate that the Danish monarchy was older than the others around them. How amusing. But it was cool to see that they all had different thing to distinguish them, and the Danish Coat of Arms of the time they ruled (which changed a lot over time actually). The danish coat of arms has 3 lions on it, which makes more sense to the 3 silver lions guarding the thrones I saw the other day.

Also in this room is a canopy which was hung over the king’s table at all meals (see the previous slide show pictures). The canopy was awesome and giant. I can’t tell you about what’s on it any more, but for once there was an awesome display telling you about it. When Sweden captured the castle (~1640 if I remember correctly) they took a lot of things with them, including the canopy which must have been in a trunk. Anyways, it was kept in Sweden, and is normally on display in a museum in Stockholm, so I was excited it was in Kronborg.

I took a walk around the outer walls of the castle (again, see pictures above), and then headed back to the train station. I was planning on taking the S-tog back to Copenhagen. All the S-togs that run in Copenhagen (like the one I took in the morning) are a red train. All the trains in the station were silver (only 4 tracks, 2 trains). And they were all going to Sweden. Looked at my S-tog map to try to figure out what was going on, couldn’t. Asked the conductor standing outside the train (thank goodness everyone speaks beyond fluent English). He nicely told me this train was going to get me to Copenhagen central. About half the way home, I took my map back out and realized that the nice silver line which I just figured was another S-tog color, was in fact a regional train. Way too much time spent trying to figure that out. Got home safely and quickly!

I decided I really should check out Tivoli, as it was right by my hotel and central station. And because I could get one “free” entry (normally 99dkk ~ $15) per day with my Copenhagen card, I didn’t lose anything if I decided I really was too tired and left shortly. I got in, took a walk around, went to check out the one ride that looked awesome (each ride is 75dkk…. woof). After finally figuring out where the entrance was, turns out it was down for the day. The ride is essentially a giant kite eating tree (for those of you that remember the old Camp Snoopy rides), and you must get a good view from the top. Oh well, decided to come back tomorrow if I saw it up and running.

I walked around the rest of the park, but that night there was an Elton John concert, and so they were starting to close down lots of the walk ways. The concert would be awesome, and you could hear without a ticket I’m sure, but huge crowds for something I’m only sort of interested in, doesn’t work for me. I decided to just head home.

On my way out, I actually got yelled at. I had been drinking a cider I brought in with me (I hadn’t had it on the train like planned). Turns out you can’t bring in drinks. Denmark allows you to drink pretty much whenever and where-ever you want, so I hadn’t even considered that! Oops. Luckily it was just a telling me, and I kept heading out.

Wow sorry, that’s a novel. There just wasn’t anything I could leave out!

P.S. This is the first day which I’ve had clothing struggles. The biggest part of the struggles was my inability to keep my food in the container, and not on my clothes, both my coffee and my yogurt decided they were more fashion statements than food. The other was my lack of warmth, but that was poor planning not lack of resources.


Steps: 17,750 (12,750 logged after charging my fitbit! The rest are an underestimate)

Floors: 25

Day 18 – København: Museums and Castles

It seems that most things open at 10, at the earliest. And being that this was a Sunday, lots of things didn’t open until 11. It makes for a calm start to the morning though. To start, I wrote my starting time on my Copenhagen Card, hopped a bus and off to the museums I went!

Design Museum Denmark – This goes over design and how Danish designers are influenced and what influences them. Not my favorite because a lot of it was just displaying what they made, without any information about how they got to that object. The temporary exhibit right now is on Children and design for them, or about them. So I did learn that the company Baby Bjørn is called that because the man that made the “babysitter” chair and whatever the harness is that holds the baby to you in the front had the last name Bjørn.

This chair made of newspapers I did find amusing.
This chair made of newspapers I did find amusing.

Amalienborg Palaces – This is now the home to the Royal Family. It has been so since 17something (I want to say 1749, but don’t trust that), when one of the great fired burnt down Christiansborg (see, fires are a common theme here). The Palaces were originally built as a place for four families of high nobles to live, and the royal family moving in was thought to be temporary. However, the family liked the palaces so much (they started with living in two of them) that they booted the other nobles and took over all four. They are connected by underground spaces, and a public street and roundabout continue to be used in between the four separate buildings. Luckily not many cars come through because all us tourists stand in the middle of the road to take pictures like this.

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The one pictured above currently houses rooms used by not-first-in-line princes and princesses when they are in Denmark, as well as the museum, which contains rooms restored from pictures taken near the time of death of the different kings and queens. Let me tell you, the kings and queens did not start the “Danish Modern” type of style. SO MANY things in every room. The reigning monarch lives in one of the buildings, the crown prince/princess in another (alternating every generation) and the fourth is used to house guests and to conduct business. Pretty cool.

Rosenborg Slot – This was built as a summer palace, I believe. Now, by who, I don’t remember. It would make sense that it was built back before Christiansborg or Amalienborg were the main residence of the royals, as they are only a few blocks apart. I’d probably remember it better if there had been more historical information in the Castle. However, the castle mainly contains items and pictures. It was used as a storage location for a lot of years, and was turned into a museum as early as the 1850’s. Denmark has had a monarchy for a long time, so not surprisingly, there are a lot of paintings. The exciting part of this castle, is that it houses the crown jewels. I, however, will never understand why some people take pictures of every single little thing in every room, including all the pieces of ivory and silver and jewels.

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I could have one of these, that'd be okay.
I could have one of these, that’d be okay.

Round Tower – This tower is part of a church and is a great spot for a look out over the city. It contains a ramp that spirals around until you reach the top (with a few stairs at the end). Certainly not an easy climb.

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Ramp going up!
View out over the city
View out over the city

I then walked around the shopping street hoping to find a replacement fitbit since I determined mine was really dead. Sadly, everything closes early on Sundays (not that an hour or two later on the week days is really all that late), and I had spent the opening hours seeing the sites. Google found me some place, and I took note to go the next day.