Friday, February 7, 2020
Shannon's First Night in Berlin
[Shannon] Honestly, my Friday was fairly uneventful. I rode my bike to the train station after work and hopped on the Intercity Direct train to Schiphol. 20 minutes later, I was at the airport. Duane was taking a later train and the longer one. So, I had about an hour to kill. I decided to sit down at a cafe inside of the train station and drink a sparkling elderflower lemonade (they really like fancy sparkling lemonade here, and I can't say I disapprove). After a while, I met up with Duane at the "meeting point" inside the station. We then waited for Rob and his brother. They were picking up the keys from Duane to his apartment. After they left, we grabbed a quick snack from Burger King to eat as we walked and headed to our gates. Security was super quick, so we had quite a bit of time to sit and relax/figure out how to get to my hostel from the airport.
I boarded my plane around 9 pm, and soon enough we were off. It was only about an hour-long flight, but they were efficient. Typically, I feel like it takes such a long time for the drink cart to make its way through first-class, but the flight attendants were really on top of it. After drinks they passed around the snacks, a rosemary herby cracker and water, and shortly after were collecting trash. Honestly, I was very impressed. I was on a fairly large plane and they got everything done in about half an hour, great service. Before I knew it, I was in Germany again. The flight itself was very pretty. Since we weren't flying at a super high elevation, for most of the flight I could see the city lights below. Since everything in Europe is so close together it was almost like looking at a mixture of fireworks and constellations.
I was off the plan around 11 pm, and the next step was to find the buses. I took the bus from Berlin Tegel Airport to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin Central Station). Then I hopped on the subway for a quick stint. Then after a five-minute walk, I was at my hostel. By the time I had checked in and stowed all of my belongings it was almost midnight. I decided that I would check out the bar/restaurant that is connected to my hostel. It was pretty busy, supposedly Berlin has a pretty busy nightlife. I didn't stay for very long before I headed back to my room and got ready for bed.
Duane's First Night in Vienna
After work, I headed home to start packing for my journey. Lately, I’ve been busy staring at my wall after work. It’s fascinating how I can continue to be intrigued by my empty white wall (see below pictures for my wall). But anywho, I packed light like how I did for Berlin and left my apartment to catch the 9pm flight to Vienna. I also met up with Rob and gave him my apartment keys so he and his brother can stay at my place over the weekend while I was gone.
During flights, I usually sleep; however, during my flight to Vienna, I was accompanied by a lively toddler boy with his mother. The boy was very energetic and had a whale-like squeal. It was pretty incredible how his mom slept despite all the squealing. Although I wasn’t able to get my peaceful sleep, I enjoyed having an enthusiastic company.
When I landed in Vienna it was about 11pm. I googled a place to eat schnitzel and found a place that was open until 2am. I took the train there; the Vienna airport is quite far from the city center, so it took about an hour to get to the restaurant. It turned out that place closed its kitchen at midnight but stayed open for guests to stay until 2am, so I couldn’t get my schnitzel there. I legit wandered around for an hour trying to find schnitzel or any Austrian food; I think I tried going to at least 10 places, but they were closed. I was pretty distraught. After giving up searching for food, I walked to my hostel and slept.
Linda's Late Late Late Night
Friday evening, I met up with a friend in Delft. He had recently moved to Delft, so we spent the evening exploring the city center and visiting bars. It was so fun, we lost track of time and I didn't make it back to Rotterdam until 7:30! I quickly ran back to my apartment, packed my backpack for the weekend, caught my bus, and slept the whole way to Belgium.
Saturday, February 8, 2020
Linda's Day in GhentI arrived in Ghent Saturday morning. Immediately upon arriving, I grabbed a waffle and headed to the historic city center. Once there, I ate a tasty brunch at Norma. I then walked around the center and visited Korenmarkt, Ghent's historic town square, Het Belfort van Gent, a 14th-century belfry and watchtower, Saint Bavo's Cathedral, a 10th-century Romanesque cathedral, Sint-Michielskerk, and Gravensteen, a 10th-century castle (with a moat!). Ghent had a lively shopping district, so I spent the rest of the day shopping and eating waffles. I grabbed dinner at a restaurant on one of the canals and enjoyed some delicious Gentse Stoverij, a traditional Ghent beef stew.
Shannon's Day in Berlin
[Shannon] Saturday was my only full day in Berlin, so I wanted to make the most of it. It was a beautiful day, quite warm and very sunny, so I decided not to go to any museums but to stay outside for most of my day. The plan was to hit all of the far destinations first through public transportation and spiral into the city center where everything was within walking distance. As such, after a complimentary breakfast at my hostel, I jumped on the subway and headed to my first destination, the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial).
After going to the Berlin Wall Memorial, I hopped on the subway and made my way to the East Side Gallery. While here, I walked along the gallery and then walked back along the water.
At the end of the gallery, I walked across the Oberbaumbrücke (Oberbaum Bridge).
On this side of the bridge, I took the tram to Checkpoint Charlie, one of the original checkpoints between East and West Berlin. This one is on the edge of the American sector. It was also around here, that I briefly stopped for food.
A couple blocks away from Checkpoint Charlie is the Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror). The museum goes through all of the history of the Gestapo and the Secret Police, as well as Hitler's political progression before, during, and after the war.
Next to and across the street from the Topography of Terror were two very beautiful buildings, which I briefly stopped to admire. They were the Gropius-Bau and the Abgeordnetenhaus.
It was these two buildings that I passed as I walked to the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). The memorial is quite astounding to look at, and quite peaceful when walking through. Although, I was also very busy.
The next very big landmark I visited was the Reichstagsgebäude (Reichstag Building). I did not go inside the building but walked around the perimeter.
Along the side is the Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus ermordenten Sinti und Roma Europas (Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Scocialism). This memorial was so peaceful and beautiful.
Shortly afterward, I walked to the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate). It was very busy, with some sort of protest outside. On the other side, however, there was some sort of rally that blocked off the Pariser Platz.
From the Pariser Platz I walked down the Unter den Linden. While walking, I passed the Botschaft der Russischen Föderation (Embassy of Russia in Berlin) as well sa the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (Humboldt University of Berlin) buildings.
I then passed the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) on the way to the Museumsinsel (Museum Island).
On the island, I walked to the middle sculpture, the Springbrunnen im Lustgarten. From here you can see the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) as well as the Altes Museum.
Behind the Altes Museum, was a collection of some other museums, the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Neues Museum.
From this side of the island, I took the bridge that would lead me to the Alexanderplatz. On the way, I passed the St. Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church), Neptunbrunnen, and Rotes Rathaus. Then,of course, I walked a little farther into the square to find the Berliner Fernsehturm.
My last stop before heading back to my hostel was to stop off at the Hofbräu Wirtshaus Berlin.
Duane's Day in Vienna
I got up hungry at around 8am. I headed out to the Schönbrunn Palace; on my way there I got couple of breakfast pastries. The palace was pretty grandiose yet pleasant. Because it was cold, the garden wasn’t blooming, but it still had a very pleasant vibe. I also walked around the town next to the palace; the town exerted its unique Austrian vibe; it was very nice.
After walking around the palace and the town, I took the subway into the city center area to eat schnitzel. I googled and found Figlmüller Bäckerstraße. I got there when the restaurant opened at 11:30am; I soon realized if I had come 15 minutes later, I would have had to wait in line. I had their wiener schnitzel and potato salad. I was going to get the veal schnitzel since that’s the authentic kind, but apparently this place specialized in pork (since 1905) so I went for that. This meal was the best meal I had so far in Europe; I will cherish my memory with that schnitzel until I die. I also had an apple strudel for dessert.
After my meal, I walked around the city center area. Vienna was a very lovely place; I understood why the whole city town is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vienna had a unique elegance and historical relevance that made the city feel so special. Some of the places I walked around were: Mozart’s Apartment, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Augarten Park, Sigmund Freud’s House, Beethoven’s House, Votivkirche (church), Rathaus (city hall), Hundertwasserhaus (colorful apartment building).
I found an Austrian restaurant to eat dinner before attending the concert. I had beets soup and braised Ox-cheeks; both suggested by the Austrian waiter. This meal was very very lovely; Austria has really nice food.
After the meal I went to Musikverein for an orchestra concert. I booked my ticket the day before I left for Vienna, and I was pretty surprised by my own decision to commit to go listen to classical music. I'm not a big classical music enthusiast, but I guess I wanted to go see why Musikverein was considered one of the best music halls in the world.
After the concert, I went back to my hostel and passed out.
Sunday, February 9, 2020
Duane's Morning Flight[Duane]
I got up pretty early and checked out of my hostel. My flight was at noon, so I spent my last couple of hours visiting places that I haven’t seen yet. I saw the Hofburg and other fancy museum buildings nearby and then walked around the Belvedere Palace. The Belvedere Palace had a different vibe than the Schönbrunn Palace: the Belvedere Palace was a bit smaller but a bit more cute. I tried to find another schnitzel place before leaving, but I had to unfortunately get to the airport to catch my flight. I ate goulash at the airport; it was pretty good, but must be better at a legit restaurant.
After I landed in Amsterdam, I met up with Shannon to go down to Rotterdam together. Because of the Storm Ciara, many trains to Rotterdam were not running. Please see Shannon’s Sunday blurb for details. All in all, it was an exciting journey; I enjoyed it.
The journey to Rotterdam worked out nicely because Rob decided to go to Antwerp with his brother with my apartment keys and were not going to return until like 9:30pm, even though I told him I was arriving in Amsterdam at 2pm twice. It still would have been nice to get into my apartment when I finally got to Rotterdam after my 5-hour train hopping journey, but it’s ok, Rob generously offered to purchase a very nice meal. I look forward to having that very nice meal. Because I couldn't get to my home when I got to Rotterdam, I had dinner with Shannon; we decided to have good food in celebration of our successful journey.
Linda's Day in Bruges
On Sunday, I grabbed a sandwich from a bakery close to my Airbnb and then hopped on the train to Bruges, Belgium's famous fairy-tale-esque city. Also known as "Venice of the North" and "the New York City of medieval Europe," Bruges' history of wealth and trade have left it with picturesque canals, streets, churches, and buildings. Once I arrived, I wandered around the streets, passing Rozenhoedkaai and the Groeningemuseum on my way to the Markt, the main central square. There, I ate a traditional Flemish rabbit dish for lunch.
Afterward, I went to Choco-story, a chocolate museum close by. It was fantastic!! They had a chocolate-making demonstration, life-sized chocolate sculptures of famous people (you have competition, Madame Tussaud), a chocolate match-making service (my perfect match is chocolate made from cocoa beans of the Dominican Republic), *unlimited samples*, and even a temporary exhibit on Amazonian shrunken heads (with a tutorial video!). All for only 7 euros! After stuffing my face with chocolate and refreshing my shrunken head fun facts, I visited Historium Brugge, an extremely interesting museum that teaches the history of Bruges through a moving love story and virtual reality.
On the other side of the square, I tried to visit the Belfort Brugges, but it was unfortunately closed due to the weather (it was Belgium's first named storm, Ciara, and people were panicking). I then grabbed another waffle and visited the Stadsbestuur Brugge, Bruges' City Hall, which is now a museum. From there, I visited the Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed (Basilica of the Holy Blood) and saw the vial believed to contain the blood of Christ. After, I visited Sint-Salvatorskathedraal, Bruges' 1300s cathedral known for its Flemish art. I then slowly made my way back to the train station to hop on my train back to Ghent and then Rotterdam.
Shannon's Day of Trains
[Shannon] So today, was a fun day. Initially, I was a little sad that my flight was so early in the day and I wouldn't be able to see more of Berlin, but thanks to Storm Ciara if my flight was later it would have been canceled. So that was lucky. Though, I am getting ahead of myself. My day started by sleeping in a little later than anticipated. However, after a yummy complimentary breakfast at my hostel, I left for the train station around 9:30 am. I took the subway to Berlin Central Station then hopped on a bus to the airport. I definitely did the whole be there two hours ahead of time because security takes forever. Well, Germany has this system down, it took a total of three minutes. The way Berlin Tegel Airport is set up is that there is a singular security scanner thing for like three gates, so unless you get there at the time that you should be leaving there is basically no line. I will admit there was a line for baggage drop, so it's a good thing I only had my carry on. I then had two hours of waiting before boarding started and a very lovely sparkling rhubarb limeade (I guess rhubarb is very European).
The flight itself was only about an hour long. It was a little turbulent getting off the ground and fairly turbulent getting back into the Netherlands, but it was a pretty nice flight. Also, they gave me cake! The little snack that they offered was a tradition Dutch cake according to the packaging. It was sort of like a sponge cake, but super moist and with almond flavoring.
After landing, I got to the train station portion of the airport and saw that all intercity trains to Amsterdam and Rotterdam Central were canceled. So, I decided to wait an hour or so for Duane to land. Once we were back together, our journey began. In my downtime, I had looked up the different potential routes we could take back to Rotterdam. First, we tried the FlixBus. We successfully made it to the bus with tickets on the app before the bus was scheduled to leave, but the bus driver was very rude. My phone was taking a long time to load and pull up the tickets, and he shut the door in our faces and got ready to leave. Of course, once he shut the door it pulled up, but he just looked us and shook his head then sat down and had to wait a few more minutes for the buses in front of him to leave. So that was fun.
Our next attempt was to take the train to Utrecht Central and catch a direct train there. We made it to Utrecht fine and had 15 minutes of downtime so we got 1€ sundaes at Burger King, but then that train to Rotterdam was canceled. Upon further inspection of the train schedule, all of the lines to Rotterdam went through Gouda Central which had a little warning icon that said some lines are not going through or at least that's what Google Translate said. So our next step was to find the information center. At the desk, we were told that no trains were running to Rotterdam Central until after 6 pm due to the storm. All of the trains from Utrecht to Rotterdam run through Gouda Central, whether or not they stop there or keep going is different. So, we decided along with probably over 100 other people decided, let's at least get to Gouda. So that train was completely packed, and we could not squeeze in.
So the next attempt, take another train to Woerden and then connect to Gouda. So we made the first train and got to Woerden, but hilariously so the train we took had fewer stops and was much faster so our connecting train was the one we just saw. The same one that was too packed, which was still the case. I think maybe only one or two people were able to make it in, and there were at least fifty people who had the same idea as us. The next big debate was to try to go back to Utrecht and beat the pack or to wait for the same train and try to be the few that can squeeze in. We went back to Utrecht. This time we made sure to be one of the firsts on the platform and we got in. It was on this train that Duane and I split ways. I was going to get off at Gouda and take the sprinter to Rotterdam because at this point I would arrive after 6 pm and the app had not canceled it yet. Duane did not have faith in the app as it had already failed us several times today (but it tried it's best) so he was going to try going all the way past Gouda to Den Haag and take the subway back to Rotterdam.
Luckily for me, the app was right this time. The transfer at Gouda was almost comically. Another train coming from the other direct arrived a few seconds after ours, and there was a massive swarm of people coming from our train and the other train going to platform 5. Luckily, I am a fast walker, and I made it soon enough that I even found a seat. The train was packed regardless, and as such, the train was also delayed due to having to wait for so many people to squeeze in. I finally made it back to Rotterdam at 6:40 pm.
It was sort of spooky getting off the train. Other than the people on my train, the entire station was pretty much empty. I was pretty entertaining walking across the station and seeing all of the displays for arriving trains blank. Well, there were exactly two screens that were not blank, one to Brussels and another to Paris Nord via Brussels. These were Thalys trains though, which were also running to Rotterdam before 6 pm, but it's a private company that you have to book ahead of time.
I biked back from the station and lost my hat due to the wind, but I was finally back home. Duane arrived at my apartment about an hour later. He had made it to Den Haag, and by that time the train from Den Haag directly to Rotterdam was back up so he took that one. For dinner, we had decided to try out Granny's which is just up the street from my apartment. Which was a good thing, as it was very windy and rainy. It was such a delicious meal. I got to try escargot for the first time, it was really good. Such a great way to relax after a hectic day.
After dinner, Duane and I went back to my apartment to pick up his stuff and to pick up Linda. We were going to meet Rob and his brother, Peter, at a bar. Peter was here for the week, and he and Rob were staying at Duane's apartment for the weekend. We had a couple drinks before we called it a night and went our separate ways.
Monday, February 10, 2020
Monday night was pretty laid back and very nice. Linda and I went to Marko's apartment went Julius for pancakes (Duane had to do laundry). He lives on the other side of the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) so we got to walk across the bridge for the first time. It was extremely windy, and although we were with pleasant company, the walk across the bridge was not pleasant. Beautiful, but not pleasant. On the other side of the bridge, we passed some domes out on the water that were lit up in different colors. I think it was some sort of super fancy restaurant. After that, we stopped briefly at a grocery store and then arrived at the apartment building. While Marko was making us Croatian pancakes, Linda flipped on Rick and Morty on Netflix. We watched an episode and a half before dinner was ready. Without us knowing, he had heated up some leftovers he had made. It was a Croatian dish that he knew how to make, stuffed paprika (peppers). The filling was beef, rice, and some spices surrounded by yellow peppers. The stuffed peppers were cooked in this nice sauce/soup and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. It was delicious.
Then we moved on to pancakes! We tried Marko's patented combination: Nutella, vanilla pudding, and bananas. Needless to say, we were pretty stuffed, and there was one pancake left. That one we split and tried a different combo of lemon juice and sugar. Everything was delicious, and I will say that I think I like European pancakes better (I like how you can roll them up with any filling you want).
After a delicious meal, Linda and I hopped in an Uber. I dropped off Linda at the apartments and made my way to KINO Rotterdam, a movie theater. I had previously purchased a ticket to Weathering With You created by Makoto Shinkai. If you are a Webbie I am sure you are well aware of the Western Culture II painting assignment. Well last year, I painted half of the movie post for his previous movie, Your Name, which is the highest-grossing anime film and Japanese film of all time. I missed that one in theaters, and I wasn't going to miss this one. I highly recommend this movie, it was beautifully written, animated, scored, everything. I don't care if you don't like anime, it is a beautiful movie. While I walked back to my apartment from the movie, I was so in love with this movie as the clock struck midnight, and I couldn't think of a better way to ring in my birthday.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
On Tuesday, Rob came into town to celebrate my birthday. We met up with him at Restaurant Pho, a Vietnamese noodle bar, for dinner. It was Rob's and Linda's first time getting pho, and I think it went well. Then, we stopped at the Asian grocery store across the street right as they were closing. We grabbed a few items and headed towards Duane's apartment. On the way there we stopped at another grocery store, before finally making it to his apartment. Once there, we had a nice night in enjoying cookies, cake, and a couple other desserts we picked up at the store.
February 12-13, 2020Wednesday and Thursday were very typical workdays for us. They were also "fend for yourself" days in terms of dinner, as we were all split up for our last meals of the day. Linda visited a friend in Leiden, a city about 30 minutes north of Rotterdam, Thursday evening. However, we were all getting prepped for Friday when Webbies invade Rotterdam.
Links to the places we visited:
St. Stephen's Cathedral
Sigmund Freud's House
BerlinGedenkstätte Berliner Mauer
East Side Gallery
Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror)
Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)
Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus ermordenten Sinti und Roma Europas (Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Scocialism)
Reichstagsgebäude (Reichstag Building)
Unter den Linden
Botschaft der Russischen Föderation (Embassy of Russia in Berlin)
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum)
Museumsinsel (Museum Island)
Springbrunnen im Lustgarten
Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
St. Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church)
Het Belfort van Gent
Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed