Remember when I said I would get my post about my final trip up before I went back home to the U.S? Haha, well, life happened and here I am almost a month later finally finishing my rave about Amsterdam! I apologize for the delay, but that does not make my last trip in Europe any less amazing. Get ready!
For my final trip abroad, my entire friend group and I went to Amsterdam! When I was planning cities I wanted to see while abroad, Amsterdam was close to the top of the list. I always loved everything I saw about Amsterdam and was so happy when it was featured in John Green's The Fault In Our Stars and then in the film adaption. We only had about two days in Amsterdam, and it was absolutely filled with fun experiences.
When I visited Poland in high school, I had the honor of touring two concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau (Auschwitz II). It was one of the most moving and memorable experiences of my entire life. It was during that trip that I realized there is so much you can learn in school and through textbooks, but to really understand the world, you have to go out and see it - and feel it. It was also through that trip I became especially interested in Holocaust history and since then, I have visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C (highly recommend!) and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and I had always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. As soon as we booked our tickets to Amsterdam, I researched the Anne Frank House and made sure I bought my all-inclusive pass two months in advance. It was absolutely the best highlight of Amsterdam and one of my favorite parts of my semester. You are not allowed to take pictures in the house, but my friend took this one at the very beginning. I cannot explain how surreal it was to be in the actual annex the Frank family and friends hid in for over two years. I have the utmost respect for them and their long, absolutely unjustifiable journey through being Jewish in the Netherlands.
There is a chain of pancake houses in Amsterdam called simply, Pancakes! and I knew I needed to visit one. For those of you who do not know, pancakes are my absolute favorite food of all time. I am obsessed with them; I had my dad's pancakes in the ten days I was home upwards of six times. My friends and I went to the Pancakes! location right next to the Anne Frank house. I got two huge buttermilk pancakes with a fried egg, bacon, and maple syrup. It was the FIRST time I had pancakes in Europe (they are really hard to find), and they were delicious.
After breakfast, we headed to the museum square, which is the home of many popular museums as well as a market. The first museum we went to was the Van Gogh Museum. It was absolutely incredible. I got to see one of my favorite paintings, Sunflowers, and many other classic Van Goghs. My favorite exhibit was called "Dreams," and it actually did not feature any paintings. It was more of an interactive exhibit that depicted each stage of Van Gogh's life as an artist with amazing walk-through rooms, lighting, and sound effects. We actually went through twice because it was so cool.
The next day, we returned to the museum square to see the MOCO Museum, home to Banksy paintings. It was also featuring an Icy and Sot exhibit at the time. I absolutely love Banksy's work - I find it so compelling and I absolutely love all the prominent issues his work seeks to protest, including police brutality issues in the United States. Many of his paintings are so clever I could not help but smirk or laugh out loud once I understood what he was conveying.
Below is one of my absolute favorite Banksy works that was featured in the MOCO. It is a statue of a priest with his face "blurred" out with squares. This is meant to denounce the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. This work really, really spoke to me as someone who is Catholic and has closely followed the scandal. You can read more about the piece and its relation to the scandal here.
Prior to visiting the MOCO, I did not know of Icy and Sot. However, I was extremely impressed with their work and their story. Icy and Sot are two brothers who grew up in Iran and started creating artwork to protest different world issues including discrimination against Muslims, war, and gun violence. They ended up fleeing Iran when their safety was in jeopardy because of their controversial artwork, and they now reside in the U.S and continue to create moving, detailed pieces. The work below is a sculpture of a pencil with the trigger of a gun attached to it - meant to, of course, denounce the influx of senseless school shootings in America. I wish I could post more of their work - but I definitely encourage you to look them up and see some of their work yourself. This is their Instagram.
Another thing I was really looking forward to trying in Amsterdam was a Stroopwafel. They are a thin, crunchy waffle with caramel in between, sometimes covered with toppings such as Nutella or chocolate, among others. They are amazing. Like, so damn (haha) good. The first Stroopwafel I got was at a market we went to - pictured below. The man made them fresh right in front of us and it was SO good. We also got more the next day at little hole-in-the-wall Stroop cafe.
When most people think of Amsterdam, they think of the classic canal-with-the-bikes Instagram post. I cannot say I was not looking forward to this too, and let me tell you - they were everywhere. According to one of my tour guides in Amsterdam, there are over 880,000 bikes in the city - over four times the amount of cars. They are everywhere, and they definitely add to the aesthetic.
My trip to Amsterdam was a great way to end my journey around Europe. I spent one last week in Dublin before heading home for the holidays.
I absolutely cannot say enough about my time abroad. I am so grateful and forever indebted to Elon University and my parents for making this semester possible. But, I am even more indebted to myself for getting out of my comfort zone and taking life for what it is. It is one hell of a ride when you let it begin. To my loyal readers, thank you for allowing me to share my crazy adventures with you! One year after beginning my little blog, I am over 10,000 views strong and can only dream bigger.
Here's to 2019 and all that is to come. xx
Just living, learning + loving and writing some of it down along the way. Senior + Director of Panhellenic Recruitment at Elon University in North Carolina. Currently interning + curating social for some badass clients at SFW in Greensboro, NC. Yogi, sightseer, shopaholic, foodie, writer.
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