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The Lil Guy and the Lady on the Horse May 22, 2013

Posted by Katie Pokrant in Travel Log.
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We officially survived our first weekend! As I sit here typing this post in my tiny room with speckled walls, I am proud to say my group and I have successfully navigated the cities of Brussels and Amsterdam.

The greater part of Friday night was spent taking the train to Brussels and getting to our hostel safely (which was actually harder said than done with pick-pocketers running rampant and the apparently sketchy part of the city we stayed in.) However, on Saturday morning, a day of adventure in the city awaited us. We woke up early and were treated to a free delicious breakfast of toast and orange juice- the perfect way to energize us for the busy day that awaited us.

In Brussels, there is a famous statue of a little boy peeing (no, I’m not kidding!) that is world famous known as the “Mannequin Piss”. No matter where you look in the city, there were references to it everywhere- souvenir shops sold wine bottle openers and everything under the sun as replicas of him, there were multiple signs “directing” us there, and even chocolate versions of the “Lil guy” as I eventually dubbed him. However, despite asking everyone we could find on the street, our group ended up getting very lost looking for him. At some point, we had been walking for quite a while and had gotten very hungry, and as if almost destiny a waffle stand appeared in our path. Now if any of you reading this have been to Belgium, you known that the waffles there aren’t one’s like we have in America. They are sweeter, and drenched in chocolate, fruit, powdered sugar, and whipped cream, also known as a heart attack waiting to happen. As we bought our waffles, we couldn’t help but notice that there was a large cluster of people in the corner near us, and walked over (of course being careful not to drop our waffles) to see what the commotion was. Lo and behold, the “Lil Guy” was there in all his tiny glory, peeing a fountain of water. We had found him, and were eating some delicious waffles to boot!

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Next we made a quick stop at the impressive Delirium Cafe, which boasts the world record of number of types of beers offered, with more than 2500. With only two hours and a desire to see the main square in Brussels, unfortunately we did not have time to try all the selections but grabbed one and walked around the ornate square before heading to the station to catch a bus to Amsterdam.

After a three hour journey, we finally arrived in the drastically different city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam had a much more relaxed vibe than Brussels, and we instantly were excited about the opportunities and experiences in the city. What truly struck me about the city upon first glance was the canals that ran through many of the main streets. I had never seen anything quite like it, and it was beautiful! Due to the canals and the age of the buildings, many of the buildings were leaning, which both interested and terrified me simultaneously. We rented an apartment in the middle of the city, and it could not have been in a better location, which we found by looking for a Lady on a Horse. The only downside to our lodgings were three flights of incredibly narrow stairs without railings, which were the bain of our stay in the city. Apparently this is extremely normal, as most Amsterdam residents have to move in to a new location using the windows as the stairways are too narrow.

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The first night we walked around the city taking in it’s unique culture and lifestyle and saw the King’s Palace and central square, and headed to a cafe to try the local brew, Heineken.  We tucked in early, ready for an adventurous morning the next day.

Our next day was full of the typical tourists stops in the city. Of particular interest to me was the Van Gogh Museum. I had been to an Art Museum in Denver, but never anything that compared to this. I loved experiencing some of the famous pieces of artwork I had read about for ages in person, including Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers”. There was also a huge section dedicated to how they restored the art work, and it was fascinating to learn about how the colors faded over time (apparently purple fades to red, and because contrast has a huge importance in Van Gogh’s painting, this change drastically changes our perception of the painting.) I am a huge fan of Impressionist artists, and was surprised and pleased to find several paintings by my favorite artist, Claude Monet, in the museum. This experience is one I will remember forever as my first true art museum. Another important lesson was also learned at this museum- lines to get in to the museums can be absurdly long!

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After a quick lunch of Kebabs and some pictures by the famous “I Am Amsterdam” sign, we took a canal tour through the city. It was awesome to see the entire city via the canals, while learning history about the city simultaneously. A fact that has stuck with me is that over 150 bikes and 1 car a week on average fall into the canals a week. So crazy! We then had a night out befriending locals and making Dutch friends.

The next morning, we headed back to Metz on over nine hours of trains, and thankfully (in addition to surprisingly) successfully made all of our connections. Week One travels were a success. Next stop- Munich!

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