“Think of England” / Endnotes

I actually went through England multiple times on my trip, but just for short periods of time and just because London is a good jumping-off point that I can navigate through somewhat easily. So this post is kind of a summation of my time spent there, mostly in London but also briefly in Wales.

The first time I made a pit stop in London was the day before I went to Zambia. I was just staying at hostel until my flight for the next day. It should have been easy – I’d actually stayed at this hostel before, shortly after New Year’s, when my sister and I spent five days in London together. Like I said, it should have been easy. I knew exactly how to get from the airport to this hostel. Except, it turned out to not be as easy as planned, because Transport for London had decided to do construction on the underground (aka metro, aka tube) line I needed to get to said hostel. So everyone was basically dumped at this station on the line out of the blue, because the rest of the line was closed. It would have been fine if we’d been dumped at a station that connected to other parts of the underground, but of course, this one didn’t. We were left to the mercy of the bus system.

I hadn’t really used the buses in London, so I was basically clueless standing at this train platform. I turned, and there was a girl about my age, who approached me and asked, “Do you have any idea what’s going on?” To which I laughed, and explained that I was American, and totally lost. It turned out she was a native Londoner, and happened to be going to the same stop I was going to, so we formed a team. We eventually figured out which bus we needed (I say we… it was really all her), and at the end of our bus ride (which turned out to be really long), I’d made a new friend. My final day of being in Europe was spent in East London with her, where we met up again…intentionally that time.

The second time I flew to London to reconnect with my English friend Megan. I also met her during my study abroad, and she’d planned a day of hiking in Wales for us, along with her friend Dafydd, whose parents we were going to stay with. Because Heathrow Airport is the actual worst (I can’t say enough bad things about it…I’m so serious. It’s awful), we were delayed for like over two hours trying to retrieve my tablet, which had been confiscated at the gate of my layover from Africa. That’s because my layover was in Turkey, one of the countries where UK authorities will take your laptop/tablet from you at the boarding gate, until you arrive back in the UK.

Policies aside, once we arrived in Wales we had an awesome time together, as we always do. Megan, Dafydd, and I went hiking at this park called Brecon Beacons (which is a great name). It’s beautiful and so green. The greenness is a result of the consistent rain Wales endures – something that I fortunately didn’t have to deal with while I was there. It was a pretty magical place.

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The lovely Welsh countryside

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The final time I stopped in London, I stayed at a hostel but Megan came to visit me in the city. We, along with her friend Anna, attempted to be classy at the Victoria and Albert Museum… but it didn’t really work out – and we made some random lady take this great photo instead.

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We then went to the theater and saw The Woman in Black, which if you’ve seen the movie, you already know it’s scary. It was pretty good overall, and sometimes funny due to the actors being a little over the top in certain moments. It was great to be with Megan on two separate occasions this trip, and get to know a couple of her friends too.

One other note about being in London over this summer: it goes without saying that England has had a rough time this past year, between the concert in Manchester and the three separate terrorist incidents in London. So the title of this post is appropriate, because England deserves some thoughts and prayers and such. I’ve always felt very at home in England – which is probably due to its former ownership of America – but as a result, I just love the place and the people in it. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to spend time there, and I don’t think the fear of what could potentially happen there (or anywhere, for that matter) keep you from traveling there, if given the opportunity.

Well, I guess that concludes these overviews of my travels. I don’t have much else to say, except that I’m really grateful to all the people who housed me in various places in Europe (and the Jones in Zambia). I’m also really thankful that I was able to travel around for a month and a half by myself, because I realize not everyone has the good fortune to have that opportunity. I always thought that in my 20s I’d travel some and “get it out of my system”, but the more trips I take, the more I realize that for me, traveling is something I will always make time for and plan to do.

*”Think of England” is a song by Bear’s Den. Listen here.

“Rivers and Roads” 

I’ve just been in Krakow, Poland, visiting a dear friend of mine that I met during my study abroad in Spain. Poland was a totally new part of Europe for me, so I was excited from the start. Furthermore, it had been two years since I last saw Kinga, so it was great to be with her again.

Krakow is Poland’s historic capital, so basically all the main sights are really old. Like, some of them are 10th century old. There’s a ton of stuff I learned about Poland’s history that I was really kind of unaware of, like how part of the city was walled and only a small part of that wall remains, and how part of the movie Schindler’s List was filmed in the Jewish Quarter. I know that tidbit because Kinga and I went on a free walking tour around the Old Town of Krakow, and later I toured the Jewish Quarter. 

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An alleyway where a scene from Schindler’s List was filmed.

The first day was spent walking around the Old Town. In the main plaza of the Old Town sits this absolutely gorgeous cathedral called St. Mary’s Basilica. Besides being beautiful on the outside, the basilica hosts this incredible altarpiece – the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world. During Nazi Germany’s occupation in Poland, the altarpiece was dismantled and sent away from Krakow, with many pieces being badly damaged. After some time, the altar was recovered and restored to its rightful place in St. Mary’s.

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St. Mary’s Basilica, complete with the adorable horse-drawn buggies.
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The famous altarpiece that’s really hard to get a decent picture of.

The Jewish Quarter of Krakow was also really interesting to see… and haunting. Prior to WWII, Poland had the largest Jewish population in the world. I went on a tour that followed the Ghetto Memory Trail, the area where the Jews of Krakow were forced to live prior to being shipped to concentration or death camps. One thing that stood out to me in particular during that tour was this main plaza that once was the center of the Krakow ghetto and now contains rows of chairs that are covered in netting and shells, some with a candle in the center. Every chair represents 1,000 people that were taken to a concentration or death camp, and I think it’s a pretty powerful image.

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The chairs face the direction in which the Jews were forced to march.

Kinga and I also visited the Schindler Factory, presently a museum dedicated to Krakow’s story during World War II, as well as the history of Schindler himself. The Factory actually served as his office space during WWII. Schindler was quite a controversial figure, I learned, because he didn’t set out to be an ally of the Jews living in the city at the time. In fact, he moved to Krakow as a sort-of get-rich-quick scheme, and employed Jews at his factory as cheap labor. The end of that story though, is interesting, because most of the money he gained during the years of WWII, he spent paying off people to escort his Jewish employees to safety. I didn’t take any photos inside the museum, but it’s incredibly well-done and takes you through the years leading up to World War II, as well as the years after the war.

I’m not some kind of history buff or anything, but I still found the Schindler museum to be very accessible. I also think that if you’re in a place like Krakow – a place embedded with so much history – the least you can do is take a moment to educate yourself. It’s heavy material, but that’s the reason it’s so so important to remember and reflect upon.

When I wasn’t in museums or on walking tours, time spent with Kinga was time well-spent. She took me to eat some classic Polish food (it’s heavy, but delish), and we saw lots of cool and iconic spots in the city. There’s a local legend about a dragon that used to live near the city, until a brave cobbler killed it. Now, in addition to a ton of dragon memorabilia throughout the city, there’s a statue of the dragon you can visit.

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Krakow seems to be a pretty artsy place in general, and we saw some really cool street art along our rambles through the city.

All and all, it was a lovely time, and I owe Kinga a tour of my hometown when she comes to visit. 🙂 At this point, I’m back home and just trying to play catch up. I have at least one post left about my last stop of this trip, England!

*”Rivers and Roads” is a great song about traveling by the Head and the Heart.

“Borderlands”

The final two days my team and I were in Zambia technically weren’t spent fully in Zambia. The first free day we went to Victoria Falls, which is one of the largest waterfalls in the world. It was magnificent, incredible, awe-inspiring, and so on and so on. I’ll stop and just show pictures, but even those don’t do it justice.

The most incredible double rainbow!
The Boiling Pot, where the falls hit the wall of the canyon along the Zambezi River and make weird currents.

The following day we took a day trip to Botswana. To do so, we had to cross the Zambezi River, which intersects the Chobe River, and that point forms the border of Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. Once in Botswana, we did both a river boat safari and a land safari. Both were unforgettable experiences. A highlight while on the riverboat was watching two elephants cross the river to reach the island on the other side. The first one tentatively stepped in, and then shortly after he went in, the other followed. At one point you could just see their trunks above the water – it was adorable. 

Cuties coming out of the water 🙂
Can you find the lazy hippos?

We saw all sorts of creatures and it was just amazing to see them doing their thing, unimpeded by human contact (for the most part). The Chobe National Park is awesome for that reason – there are no gates, so animals come and go freely, and no one interferes in any way with any of the animals, so you get the circle of life happening as it will. 

Fun fact: impalas are adorable.
The Vervet monkeys refused to pose for the camera

Another random thing I learned while on the safari: when it’s the dry season and there’s not as much water, elephants tend to stick to the trees and eat the leaves and even the bark to get water, which kills the trees.

An example of a gnarly tree elephants destroyed. Looks cool though.

Basically, if you get a chance to look around Victoria Falls or the Chobe National Park, you should.

* “Borderland” is a song by John Mark McMillan that happened to be stuck in my head while writing this.

“American Privilege”

The past leg of my journey has been different from the rest due to it having been a mission trip where I came to serve, as opposed to just sightseeing or visiting friends (although we did sightsee the last two days).

“American privilege / is blurring my vision / inherited sickness” —Allen Stone, “American Privilege

In the devoloped Western world it’s really easy to get wrapped up in our own problems. As Allen Stone sings in this song, it’s almost like a sickness that keeps us stuck in the egotistical mentality of “me before anyone else”. Which is why I strongly encourage mission/service trips (but make sure to do your research first– I’ve heard too many white savior stories… as defined here by the Matador Network). I was just in Zambia, Africa, for about ten days – here’s a snapshot of that. 

So I was working with children, but you won’t find pictures of them here – despite the fact that I did take some. That’s mostly because I don’t want to post the classic “look at me, I’m a white American holding a sad black African child” selfie (which would be hard to do anyway, because the kids we were with were so happy). And I’m not looking down on anyone who does. It’s just that for me– and this is just my opinion, but still– it undermines what I think was actually meaningful work in a really cool place. 

The moon over said really cool place / probably the best photo I’ve ever taken

Okay, now to the fun part. 

I went to Zambia with ten people from my hometown church, two of whom run a mission organization with a focus on children’s ministry. They are good friends with a couple who live full-time in Zambia, and so we stayed on the property of that couple’s orphanage. Mike and Linda, the couple, have lived in Zambia for twenty-some years, and the orphanage that we visited is just one of many projects in Zambia that they’ve invested in. The grounds consist of a main building (one room being a primary school), an outhouse, an elementary school building, a shared kitchen in the center of the complex, and various buildings surrounding the kitchen.

Some of the buildings of the orphanage can be seen in the distance here.

 There are four house moms on the property, and each one is given a house where they host about ten children each. All the house moms are widows, an important detail, because culturally widows aren’t given much thought or care. Being hired as a house mom gives them a new opportunity to take in an income and reinvents their position in the community.

Cattle can be a measurement of wealth in places here. Also I just thought they were cute.

While the house moms do amazing work in meeting the needs of so many children​, obviously they can’t provide significant one-on-one attention to every child often, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s where we came in. 

A couple members of the team with practical skills worked on some construction projects under the guidance of Mike, while the rest of us were pretty much given free reign to play with the kids when we didn’t have planned meeting times. The amount of energy these little guys had was ridiculous. Every night I went to bed absolutely wiped from playing soccer, running around with them, and acting as a human jungle-gym. 

But it was all so worth it. Those kids are awesome! They have so much joy, and they all welcomed us with open arms. It was fun to foster relationships with them as individuals and see how those relationships grew deeper throughout the week. We held a ministry session every day, which consisted of puppet shows, skits, and prayer time. A lot of the children there have some knowledge of Bible verses and the basic concept of God (Zambia is kind of an unofficially declared Christian nation), but not much beyond that. So we showed them God’s love as it can be through a personal relationship, and it was cool to watch them begin to understand that. 

I won’t bore you with any more details, and I don’t want to be cliché, but really and truly, the best things in life happen when you step outside of your comfort zone and serve someone other than yourself. I as an average American have way more than any average Zambian has – more wealth, opportunity, access to education, et cetera. And yet, they helped me just as much (probably more) than I helped them. 

Next up – I’ll share the free days we spent in Zambia! 

“Touching Heaven”

There’s a fun nickname that I’ve seen used for Copenhagen sometimes– “Copenheaven”. My guess is that it evolved from the Danish name for the city, København, but also it’s just a really lovely place that kind of deserves the name in my opinion. A place where there are more bikes than cars, tons of green spaces, an excellent beach (which surprised me, to be honest), quality pastries, and generally helpful people in my personal experience. Granted, I saw Copenhagen in a good moment: long daylight hours are in full swing (I woke up at 4 to catch a plane to my next destination and it was already light out), and it only rained on me a couple times. As I kept telling Amanda, Copenhagen would be perfect if it weren’t for the winter. 

I spent a week in Copenhagen, which was really nice because I could space out activities and go at a nice relaxed pace. For the majority of that time, I lived with Amanda in her apartment (which is actually the bottom floor of a couple’s house but, anyway) and it was like the old roommate days. It was actually her final week in Copenhagen, was she’ll be in Finland during the summer and then move to the UK in the fall. As a result, she had to make sure her apartment was sorted to leave, study for a final exam, and say goodbye to her friends all while hosting me. So a few days I simply left the house with a recommendation from Amanda and went to whatever random part of the city she sent me to see. 

I really had no trouble finding things​ to do. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few fun things I saw in Copenhagen. 

The Botanical Gardens

Okay​, so I’ll admit that I actually just really love botanical gardens and things of that nature (I used to live by an arboretum, after all), but these gardens really are amazing! They’re affiliated with the University of Copenhagen (KU) and very well-maintained. There’s a palm house which is fun; you can walk in it and go up on what is basically a cat-walk around the house’s edge for a cool view that makes you feel like you’re​ up in a tree. The rest of the space is allocated to some gardens (duh), a beautiful pond, and a ton of grassy area for people to sit in and hang out. It’s a great place to read a book and take in some sun. 

Rosenborg Castle/ Kongens Have

I won’t pretend to know the history of this castle, all I know is that it’s super pretty and so are the surrounding grounds.

The Music Museum

This musuem takes you through Danish music history as well as other parts of the world. What’s cool is the extensive collection of antique instruments they have – everything from crazy-looking Swedish lutes to a Wurlitzer organ. There’s also a soundproof room where you’re encouraged to try your hand at playing some of the instruments, which is where I played a harp for the first time (not a full-size one though). 

Glyptotek 

If you’re going to spend money on a museum while in Copenhagen, let it be this one. The Glyptotek Musuem holds an incredible collection of French and Danish sculptures that show off how realistic and artistic a sculpture can be. It is the only art museum that I’ve ever visited to host such an expansive collection of sculptures and statues. There are a couple displays that are actually a little creepy, because the entire room is filled with statues, and then one room with just statue heads (yes, really). But despite the initial eerieness, it really is a sight to behold. 

Besides the exhibits themselves, the Glyptotek is a remarkable work of architecture. In the center of the building a circular glass ceiling creates this pavilion effect, and the open area below has become a garden of sorts, with actual trees inside. Furthermore, there’s a sweet little terrace with a great view of Tivoli, an amusement park and garden. All in all, it’s impressive place.

Strøget

Strøget road is the city center and has a ton of shops. In the middle there’s a cool fountain and you kind of just have to go to say you’ve been. I don’t think I’m selling this well, but it really is a nice place! 

Kastellet 

An old fortress shaped like a star that still holds some military personnel, but is mostly just used as a park now. You can walk around the perimeter of the star, and it provides a nice view, as the pathways have been built up above the rest of the city. It rained on me here, which wasn’t cool, but if you want to play outside and also see some old cannons, this is the place to go.

The Little Mermaid

Another must-see, the Little Mermaid statue is pretty close to Kastellet and sits on the water. It’s actually relatively small, but still a nice landmark in Copenhagen. Hans Christian Andersen was Danish, so the statue commemorates him and his stories. 

Amager Strandpark

It’s called a park but it’s actually a beach. Although it does have really nice pathways for running, which is more park-like. The coastline here was so so different from my hometown of the Outer Banks. For starters, there’s some land that juts out in the distance and there are a dozen or more windmills lining it. There’s also this strip of water that sits in between the mainland and the beach, kind of like the sound on the OBX, except I’m pretty sure this body of water was also salt water, as opposed to the brackish water of the sound. A low pier sat on the water and actually had a platform with steps that led down to the water where you could swim. That would never fly on the Outer Banks, because of the waves. The water at Amager Strand was totally flat and super clear. It was beautiful, and so refreshing to be by the ocean again. 

Christianshavn

This neighborhood is where a lot of pretty and quintessential Copenhagen things are, including this port where you always see photos from (like the featured image of this post). 

Church of Our Saviour 

The most famous (and in my opinion, most magnificent) church in Copenhagen, the Church of Our Saviour features this amazing steeple with a spiral staircase that you can actually climb up, in theory. I didn’t get the chance to do so because of the wind (which seems to be a common problem in Copenhagen), but even if you can’t climb the tower, just seeing the inside of the church is an experience. The main sanctuary is massive, and has these two huge wood carvings of elephants, which hold up the enormous organ. It’s breathtaking.

The Danish Parliament Building

If it’s too windy to climb the Church of Our Saviour, an alternative place with an equally awesome view is the tower of the Parliament Building. It’s free, which is a plus, and oh man, that view. Copenhagen is just as beautiful from above as it is from below.

And now there will be a little break in my posts, because I’m going to Zambia and won’t have WiFi. Until next time!

*This title was borrowed from Johnnyswim’s song, “Touching Heaven”. Listen here

“When in Rome”… or Elsewhere in Italy

My apologies for the blog hiatus. The past ten days were spent tramping around Italy with Amanda, and after walking an average of ten miles per day, the only thing I wanted to do at the end of the night was have a shower and stumble into bed. But anyways, I’ll address my top concern first:

Food!

I thought that people were sort of over-hyping Italian food. I mean I love a good pasta and would probably happily eat pizza every day of my life (if there were no consequences, that is), but listen, the food in Italy exceeded my greatest expectations. Granted, being a tourist means that you only see restaurant food, so Amanda and I actually had to actively seek out some plant-based food every few meals so we wouldn’t get sick of pasta/ die from excessive carb intake. The highlight of our foodie adventures was this restaurant in Florence, where we had a goat cheese lasagna with zucchini flowers and saffron. It was so delicious I almost cried when I tasted it, and that is not an exaggeration.

The lasagna that changed my life

Then of course, there’s​ gelato, aka ice cream. But make no mistake, gelato is not your average ice cream. It is so creamy and just magical and also quite cheap, so Amanda and I ate some…every day.

This is just a fraction of the gelato consumed
Two winning gelato spots, in Milan and La Spezia

And here are some other random food pictures.

Amanda with her one true love and me with mine
Beautiful pizza

Okay​, I guess I have to move on from talking about food now, but you get my point. So we were in Italy for ten days, and traveled north from Rome to Milan. We made stops in Siena, Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Genova, and Pavia. I wish that I could revisit every day and give more than just the highlights, but it would take forever and I’m not about to type all that out using my tablet keyboard. Because I really like making lists, I’m going to use the bullet method for sharing just a few of the really great moments in Italy.

Siena

  • The little town charm of this place made it super fun for Amanda and me to walk around in (not to mention the fact that it was gorgeous!).
  • When we did a free wine tasting and the shopkeeper was the absolute sweetest man and enlightened us on how Tuscan wine is made without being condescending.
One of the charming side-streets
The front entrance of Siena’s cathedral

Florence

  • The cathedral in this city is absolutely stunning, to say the least. We climbed its bell tower (414 stairs in a pretty claustrophobic setting, in case you were wondering), and got to witness the giant bells chiming at noon. It was deafening. And a little sketchy. But totally worth it.
  • One of my sisters studied abroad here, and it was a surreal but kind of magical experience to feel like I was walking in her shoes.
  • This is where I ate the revolutionary lasagna, and also a really quality pizza. Food was 10/10.
Il Duomo di Firenze (the Cathedral)
Ponte Vecchio, the most famous bridge of Florence

Pisa

  • We just stopped here en route to La Spezia, but SO WORTH IT. That tower is wild y’all. It was leaning even more than I imagined it would.
Classic Pisa pics

La Spezia

  • Staying in a hotel instead of a hostel here (they were the same price) made us feel like we were living the high life
  • The port is beautiful. Also we saw the most ridiculous behemoth yacht ever, which isn’t relevant to the trip but was insane to see in person just the same.
A nice green space beside the port
The massive yacht

Cinque Terre

  • A day trip from La Spezia, where we saw four of the five famed fishing-turned-tourist-destination villages.
  • Hiking between two of said villages (Monterroso and Vernaza), which took two hours but was the best hike of my life with the most amazing views
  • Making friends with some Australians on that same trail and having so much fun chatting with them along the way (hi Nik and Lucy!)
  • Being in the actual most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in person.
Farmland on the mountainside
Vernazza, the most famous village of the five

Genova

  • A quick side trip on our way to Pavia that showed us a very urban city but had amazing architecture everywhere you turned.
Piazza de Ferrari

Pavia

  • Visiting my dear friend Flor, who studies in Pavia and whom I haven’t seen in a little over two years
  • having dinner with her and her friends. It was so fun to get a glimpse of Italy from someone who lives there, as opposed to just being a tourist.
Flor and me!

Milan

  • The cathedral here is one of the largest in the world… It is stupid big. Like, hard to even wrap your head around its size, but that’s what makes it amazing
  • Super fancy gelato that Amanda rated the best we’d ever had
The massive cathedral
“The most adorable little sisters anyone could ask for” –Gwen
Looking up in a shopping square near the cathedral

And those are the main points of a truly lovely trip through Italy with my best friend 🙂

PS. Besides being the saying, “When in Rome” is a great song by Nickel Creek. Listen here.

“Round and Round and Up and Down”

The past few days have truly been a whirlwind. Last weekend I had the chance to catch up with one of my good friends, who was finishing up a month abroad in Amsterdam with his department from school. He, two of his friends, and I visited the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art (they’re all art students, so it was a good place to meet). One of the various installations particularly stood out to me, and I wish I had taken pictures of it but sometimes in art museums my attention is so focused on what I’m seeing I forget that I have a camera. So I’ll do my best to convey the general idea.

The theme was the worldwide refugee crisis, and the designer’s place within that crisis. It focused on the fusion between function and design, and basically made a case for how designers can create a huge impact through clever and inventive products. Various artists and projects were showcased who had worked to make products that would aid not just refugees but also impoverished people. This meant everything from a jacket that could be converted into a tent, to bio-degradable sheets, to a database where users could add phrases of their language that would be helpful for a newcomer to know: things like “where is the bathroom?” or “is this water safe for drinking?” and so on. The entire display highlighted the importance of recognizing those in crisis or poverty or whatever as humans, and also the importance of art and design. 

Another notable museum I visited in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House, which takes you through the story of Anne and her family as you walk through where they went into hiding as Nazi forces expanded into Holland. It’s the type of place that I can’t really into words, so just know that it’s important and impactful and if you have the opportunity to go there you should.

Shifting to a lighter note, I’d be remissed to not mention the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam has around 400 museums, so yeah, there’s a lot to talk about). Van Gogh did so so much for the art world in just ten years of producing work, and to say he was a powerhouse doesn’t even really say enough – in the final months of his life, he painted 75 works in just 70 days. And I’m talking LARGE pieces of art, not like wimpy 4×6 inches​ things. Speaking of large, the Rijksmuseum is…that. It houses Dutch artwork dating back from like the 1500s (or maybe earlier, even) until fairly recent 20th century pieces, and also hosts this magnificent research library that, as a nerd and former library employee, I can safely say is impressive and beautiful and #librarygoals. 

The Van Gogh Museum building is a work of art in itself
Inside the Great Hall of the Rijks
The Library of the Rijks

A short train ride away from Amsterdam will take you to this town whose name I still struggle to pronounce, Zaanse Schans. I knew I wanted to take a day trip somewhere, and it worked out that two girls in my hostel wanted to do the same, so we went together. Okay, here’s a crazy but true fact: a good portion of the town straight up smells like chocolate. Not kidding. Apparently the scent owes itself to this chocolate factory located there and oh man, it is great. In addition to the heavenly smell, Zaanse Schans has incredible views of these old windmills that overlook the sea. It’s absolutely stunning. The historic town also features all these random museums: a Clog museum, a musuem dedicated to grocery stores, a spice mill, this place called Cacaolab where you can make your own chocolate bar, and on and on. The shining star of the town though, in my opinion, was the cheese factory/store, home to a round counter of cheese samples. Lucky for me, my travel buddies were just as passionate about trying every kind of cheese as I was, so it was a judment-free zone as we circled the counter multiple times. 

Zaanse Schans
Look at all that beautiful cheese.


Finally, my adventures in Holland came to a close as I flew to Copenhagen yesterday to be reunited with my freshman year roommate and forever friend, Amanda. A quick side note about her is that in addition to being a multilingual genius, she also is an amazing writer, and has a blog of her own – check it out here. So Amanda gave me the quick run-around of Copenhagen, and then this morning we hopped on a plane bound for Rome. We’ll be doing a ten day interrail tour through the western part of Italy, so more to come on that later! A warning: I’ll probably be shameless when it comes to taking food pictures. 

A fun ivy tunnel outside of the Rijks
Close-up of the Rijks Library

*The title of this post is taken from the song “Bikes” by Lucy Rose, which seemed appropriate due to the insane amount of bikes I have seen between Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and the insane amount of traveling hither and fro that I’m doing. Listen here.

“Are You Getting Somewhere…”

“…or did you get lost in Amsterdam?” — is a lyric from one of the four songs called “Amsterdam” that I can think of off the top of my head (this particular one is by Guster, listen here). With so many people dedicating songs to the city, I figured it was worth checking out. 

So far, I haven’t been disappointed, although I can answer the question above with a resounding “yes”; I did get lost in Amsterdam. First of all, the street names are crazy and long so you have to pay really close attention or else you might, I dunno, stumble into the Red Light District instead of finding your hostel (in my defense, I was only a street off-base). Secondly, everywhere is beautiful, but kinda looks the same, due to the many channels of water intersecting the city.

Wednesday seemed like the longest day of my life…in fact, I think it WAS the longest day of my life (I was awake more or less 36 hours by my count, with the exception​ of a maybe 40 minutes on a plane). After catching two flights in the US to get to London, I spent a few hours in the city before my flight in the afternoon to Amsterdam.

The Saatchi Gallery, London
A random flower display, that I later learned was​ from the Chelsea Flower Show.

My bus to Gatwick airport (which is slightly outside the city of London) took longer than expected, giving me just enough time to high-tail my way to gate at the last minute, only to discover that the particular airline I was using was extremely specific when it came to its carry-on specifications. I mean RUTHLESS. My bag was too big — I had to pay a fine. End of story. I was obviously annoyed, but what could I do? I paid the fine and hoped for better luck next time.

Fast forward to dinner time, after arriving in Amsterdam and dropping off my bags at the hostel. I was starving, and walked into the first restaurant (well actually, it was a bar because that was all I could find) I saw that wasn’t 1) swarming with people and 2) actually served food in addition to drinks. I was seated and waiting for my meal when three men came in the door, speaking English. After a moment they struck up conversation with me, and as I ate my dinner and they drank their beers, we covered various topics from the drawbacks of the two-party political system, to the linguistic similarities between Gaelic and Dutch. Two of them were probably in their mid-40s, both expats, one Canadian and one Irish. The other guy was younger and Norwegian, but apparently came to Holland often, just for fun. An hour or two passed and one by one they left the bar, wishing me safe travels. The Irishman, who was last to leave, graciously paid for my meal, telling me he was “paying it forward” for all the times someone treated him while traveling. 

The reason I share that anecdote is two-fold: It reminded me that friends can be found wherever you are, and that sometimes the best experiences are those that you weren’t expecting to have. Traveling is fun! 

And now, some photos.

The quintessential canal shot.
The Botanical Gardens of Amsterdam, featuring plants from all over the world.
Inside the Botanical Gardens’ “Palm House,” an architecturally awesome building.
Side view of the Rijksmuseum

Until next time!

“So Long, Lonesome” 

If you’re reading this, I’d assume that you already know who I am. On the off-chance you don’t — hi. I’m Mary. I like exploring and music and people and above all I like having adventures. I’m using this platform to document my trip that I’m embarking on for about a month and a half through (mostly) Europe. Anything can be an adventure if you try hard enough… at least that’s what I tell myself. A quick backstory: I just graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree, and​ that’s what spurred said trip, because I’m delaying having to make any actual adult decisions​ for as long as possible, because I’m an irresponsible millennial or something and also I just like to travel, okay? I just wrote a run-on sentence but we’ll pretend I have the artistic license to do so.

This is kind of a warm-up post, I want to tell stories of traveling and​ right now I’m just sitting at my​ parents house trying to decide what shoes to pack. But by next week I’ll be in another country in another time zone, and that’s when the fun will really begin. So I hope I haven’t bored you to tears already and thus discouraged you from reading anything in the future with my name attached to it, but like, if that’s the case I get it, dude. 

I’m trying out this whole blog thing mostly for myself, because I’ve always written my thoughts down somewhere for as long as I’ve been able to write, and that way when I’m 90 telling stories that start with the phrase “back in my​ day,” I can have evidence that things were, in fact, the way I describe them to be. Also now you can travel vicariously through me, if you’re in to that.
A final note:

I owe the title of this post to a song​ of the same name by the post-rock instrumental band Explosions in the Sky, off their album All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. 

The album’s title itself has kind of resonated​ with me lately, because graduating college basically makes you take a moment to reflect on your life, and I came to that exact conclusion: “Wow, it’s like suddenly I just miss everyone I’ve met over the past four years.”

The way I see it, the song’s title can be taken one of two ways. One: you’re describing something (presumably a road) that is both long…and lonesome. Or, as I prefer to interpret it, the song is a hopeful goodbye. Because after leaving college maybe everything seems a little lonesome or weird, and you’re not really sure what’s happening. I’m​ talking to myself here. So you say “so long” to that feeling, and you choose to keep on keepin’ on. 

As I said before, the next post should contain more exciting stuff.