No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I truly thought I would have more time to update while traveling, but I have not. Those of you who are more experienced than I are probably not surprised. I have had so many nonstop days which last from the moment I wake up to the moment I pass out at night.
Unsurprisingly, this first European Adventure has been truly amazing. I still have about a week left, and I am already feeling the weight of sadness of leaving the “Old World” behind. As much as I miss my friends and family in the states, I think I have truly fallen in love…especially with Budapest. Ever since I left BP, my heart truly has longed to return.
While I have been in Europe, I have been very, very busy. I’ve spent most of my time in Holland. While in Holland, I’ve been staying with my friend Dorina, who lived with me last year while she had an internship in DC.I’ve visited Hoofddorp, Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, and Gronigen, where I was able to visit cousins I haven’t seen in 10+ years. I’ve also technically been to several other towns in between (I’ve come to know the train station in Utrecht very well), but I’m only counting the places I’ve spent more than ten minutes. I’ve come to love several aspects of Holland. First is the practicallity. Cities and towns, especially newer areas, are built with very practical designs. Bikes are an important mode of transportation (and seem to usually have right-of-way), and towns have special bike paths separate from the normal roads to allow bikers to safely arrive at their destination. Also, all those windmills are still functional. Another things I’ve come to love about Holland is the fact that people always seem to be out an about. The shopping areas I’ve visited always seem to be fully and lively. The third thing is people view animals very differently. The general consensus is animals should have a happy, healthy life, which means cows and other animals are free to roam their field instead of being jammed into a crowded space. So, I’ve been able to see so many cows, goats, sheep, etc. There’s something relaxing about seeing animals in a field…
As I’ve mentioned multiple times before (and probably will a million more), I was able to spend four days in Budapest. I traveled with Tomi, who stayed with us in DC last May for a couple of weeks on his first visit to the States, and his friend Sherwin, who is such a blast. Tomi is Hungarian, and he was very excited to see what my reaction would be to BP since I was able to see his first reactions to DC and the US. It was also Sherwin’s first time in BP. The three of us probably had a little too much fun. If you are friends with me on Facebook, be sure to look at the pictures from this part of the trip. Between the sheer beauty of the city, the excellent food of which we ate way too much, and the many, many laughs, this portion of the trip was certainly a success. When I think back, I can only remember good things. Thinking of Budapest almost brings me to tears, partially because I deeply miss the city, and partially because I’m laughing so hard just thinking about those four days. I don’t know if I can put into words what. exactly, about the city pulls at me. Though, I think it has something to do with the tension between beauty and pain. You can tell deep wounds still remain from the years of occupation (the Nazis, then the Soviets), and yet so much beauty exists in the architecture, the people, the music. BP is also an extremely romantic city. I think I want to fall in love there…lol. Seriously, though, when you walk through the city at night, especially along the river, you can’t help but want to be in love (if you’re not already, I guess). The next time I go, I think I want to spend a couple of months.
I also spent yesterday in Cologne with Dorina. We had a great time visiting the Dom, which is a massive cathedral. We also ate schnitzel, walked through the botanical garden, and rode this train-like vehicle on a tour through the city. A study was published recently which basically said that experiencing awe-inspiring moments makes us better people. Seeing the Dom was one of those moments. It’s the tallest building in the city (I think), and so we could see it from almost anywhere we went in the city. I could never get over the grandeur and beauty. The entire day was turning a corner and my jaw dropping at the sheer beauty of seeing it from a different angle or vantage point. I probably could have spent an entire day just looking at the building, inside and out. However, there was one very important reason why we went into Cologne…the cablecar!!! The cable car takes you high across the Rhein. You get an amazing view of the city. The ride is quick, but it was definitely worth it!! We also walked part way across one of the bridges. On this particular bridge, couples put locks with their initials on the bridge to symbolize their love. One day, I want to put a lock on a bridge (after falling in love in BP, of course). There were thousands of locks on this bridge. I didn’t have time to stop and really look, but the oldest one I saw was from 1974. I have a feeling I would be able to find much older ones if I had some time to just look and imagine the stories that go with each lock.
All this to say, I’m having a fabulous time. I’m going to be very, very sad to leave, but it also makes me very excited for Ukraine and to be back in Eastern Europe for a short time.