Thursday, March 29, 2012

SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ON!!

I seem to start out EVERY blog like this, so I think it's a recurring theme, but sorry I took so long to update!! This last month has been whirlwind, I can't believe March is already gone! First things first...

Amsterdam with Murphy
My sister flew out to Belgium to spend her spring break with me, and it was so much fun. She was only here for 5 days, but we wanted to do as much as possible with her time, starting with Amsterdam!! We met up with her roommate from last semester who's doing an exchange in Scotland, and the three of us had so much fun.

The first day, we got there around two and went to the Heineken Experience. It's this HUGE museum talking all about how beer is made and the history of Heineken. We tasted some, and then I was taught how to bartend. It was so much fun, and my beer was practically perfect!!! After that we looked around Dam Square a little bit, ate an Italian restaurant, and went to bed pretty early because Murphy was exhausted after two days of solid traveling. At the restaurant, she ordered wine and was so happy when the waiter brought it to her without asking for an ID or questioning her age or anything. It's so normal for me now, but it was adorable to see her disbelief.

The next day, we saw the Van Gogh Museum which had amazing paintings, but we were so disappointed that "Starry Night" wasn't there. We also saw the Rijskmuseum with the most amazing china with delicate blue and white designs on it from when Amsterdam first became a city. It was absolutely beautiful. After that we went to the Anne Frank house which is INCREDIBLE. You go through the entire house that hid her and hear the background stories and then you actually get to go past the bookshelf that hid the door into their annex and see EVERYTHING. We saw Anne's room with the clippings she had cut out from magazines, we saw the kitchen that had marks on the wall of Anne and Margot growing taller, and we learned a lot about the history. I can't even imagine staying in one little room for 25 months. She was so young, and she was captured and died from typhus only 1 month before the liberation. She had already started transforming her diary into a novel, and when her dad (the only surviving member of the family) found it, he published it. It was such an indescribable feeling, being in the same house that she was in for those horrible two years.

After the Anne Frank house, we did a canal cruise around Amsterdam. We saw so much of the beautiful city and learned a lot about the history as well. I'm glad it was a nice day out! When we were done, we went to the Red Light District. Murphy wasn't too eager to go but it's such a huge part of Amsterdam's fame that I couldn't leave without experiencing it a little. The District is right in the center of town, and it's a ton of narrow streets that crisscross. We had seen it a little in the daytime, but the girls were a little bit chubbier or older and less attractive. When we went at night, the girls were all bombshells. Most of them looked around my age, with surprisingly classy underwear. None of them were naked, I think they're required to wear at least a bra and underwear, but there were so many of them. Streets and streets and they had windows on the first and second floor. No pictures were allowed (obviously) but it's something I'll probably never forget just because it was so different. When we passed, the girls looked bored and were talking to each other or playing on their cell phones and just kind of generally indifferent to the people around them. However, when a group of boys walked by, they changed their posture, started batting their eyelashes, got rid of the phone, and put all their attention on that boy. It was a dramatic difference.

When we had seen enough of that, we went to this delicious Argentinian place and ate. Then we went to a bar and the bartender kept giving us free shots and he gave us adorable little hats for St. Patricks day. We were completely exhausted after so much walking and sightseeing that day, and we left Monday morning at ten to head back to Belgium!

Belgium with Murphy
Once we were back in Belgium, we headed to Breendonk, the concentration camp just outside of Brussels. I had never been but I really wanted to go because world war two history is so interesting to me. When we finally found it (we got a little lost...) we got headsets to hear the information about the camp. It was not a happy place (obviously). The weather that day made it a little worse too, it was all grey and cloudy and cold and generally Belgian-like. We learned a lot about the perpetrators of the camp, and a little bit about the prisoners. 3500 people were kept in the camp, but only about 600 at a time. 164 were shot, 21 hanged, and 100 died of sickness, bad treatment, and exhaustion. It wasn't a very big camp, because it was more of a holding ground before they were sent to the bigger camps like Dachau, Bergen Belsen, and Auschwitz. We saw the place where they hanged and shot the prisoners outside, and we saw where they slept inside. It was freezing cold. Everything is built with concrete and had a wettish feel to it, plus it was just a generally depressing place, so as long as you were inside you couldn't get warm. We also learned a lot about the Mechelen Trials, which were held to prosecute the workers of the camp.

When we were done with that depressing experience, we went to Brussels. We saw the Grand Place and ate a delicious Belgian waffle and fries. We also had a beer at all the exchanger's favorite bar in Brussels.  We couldn't stay long because we had to meet my family for dinner, but it was a quick and efficient way to show my sister the main places I go in Brussels. Also, my friend found this hilarious thing about living in Brussels, basically if you've ever been to Belgium you'll understand most of it. It's completely accurate and hilarious.
http://cheeseweb.eu/2010/06/top-20-signs-expat-brussels-long/

The next day, we saw the Maredsous Abbey and had some beer and cheese from there, and then went to see the Citadel. I'd only been there once with Rotary and I hadn't gotten to see the whole thing, but the view is absolutely incredible. You can see all of Dinant, I could even pick out my families houses!

It was such a busy week with her, but it was awesome to see my sister again. It's crazy to think that I've been here for 7 months and can't imagine leaving. Definitely a good life I live :)

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