This weekend was amazing. It began on Friday when a group of us from my art class left with our professor Rob for Maastricht where he was giving us a mini-tour of the city and showing us his amazing museum. Maastricht is one of the southern most cities in the Netherlands, and also one of the oldest.
In the old part of the city, the medieval gates that used to contain the whole city are still standing. They are called the Gates to Hell. Pretty creepy. Anyway, we get to Maastricht and Rob takes us all out for coffee and cake, muffins, cookies, whatever we wanted basically. He told us ahead of time he would do that, so we all expected it, but were very thankful all the same. After coffee, he began our tour. Maastricht is built on two sides of the river Maas. It is incredibly beautiful and way less touristy than Amsterdam, so it felt kind of like a secret place we were discovering. After showing us around the city and giving us lessons on architecture of buildings and churches and stuff, Rob then gave us free time to get lunch and explore. He invited anyone who wanted to come with him to a little restaurant for lunch. Figuring he probably knew much better than we did, a group of about 8 of us went with him. We all ordered food and talked with Rob, who is very funny and interesting and probably one of my favorite people ever. After we ate, he wouldn't let us pay anything! He insisted on buying us all our lunch, which had to be pretty expensive considering how many people there were! I couldn't even believe it! Then we met up with the rest of the group and headed to the museum which is inside of an old cathedral.
It is gorgeous! He showed us all around, and even took us into the crypt and showed us all the artifacts the general public doesn't get to see. We saw sarcophagi, and secret tombs and got to go into the "Emperor's Room" which was this crazy hidden room way up in the church. It was too cool. Then he showed us their collection of reliquaries, which was probably the coolest part. We saw the "Key to Heaven," and a piece of Mary Magdalene's skull, and the arm of St. Thomas that touched Jesus, and even what is supposedly piece of the cross Jesus was crucified on. Pretty intense stuff. After seeing his awesome museum, Rob took us out to a bar for drinks. It was a new experience to drink with a professor, but it was really fun and we all had a great time talking to him. He ordered us Bitteballs? which are Dutch appetizers you eat with drinks. Anyway, they were really yummy. And then, again, he would not let any of us pay. Basically this man paid for all of our food for the day, which to all of us who are traveling on a budget, is like the ultimate gift. I cannot believe how generous and kind he was to us.
After drinks, it was time for Kara, Nicole and I to depart from the rest of the group and begin the trip to Luxembourg. We had to take a train to Liege, Belgium, and then head to Luxembourg City. On the way, we had help from a very nice train attendant and a French man who helped us when we weren't sure if we were at the right platform in Belgium. When we finally got to Luxembourg, it was around 9 and it was pretty dark out. As the trained pulled into the city, all we could see were the sparkling light of the city's neighborhoods in level on the hills. The lights started in the valley way below us, and then zigzagged across the hills of the city. It was beautiful. At the train station, once again we were helped by a nice woman who helped us find the right bus to our hostel. We checked into our hostel, which was in the part of the city called Pfaffenthal. It was this crazy looking building, and on the inside it kind of looked like Piano Row, for anyone who's been to Emerson. It was pretty cool! We had 3 other suitemates the first night: A South Korean woman named Poon who snored really loud, a slovenian woman who also snored loud, and an American girl named Sara who is studying in Barcelona. She actually goes to Trinity College in Hartford, which was a really cool coincidence. She was very nice and we became fast friends with her. We all went to sleep that night with the help of some earplugs due to our snoring roommates.
The next day we woke up early to get the free breakfast at the hostel. By 9:30 Kara, Nicole, and I were out in the city exploring. To get out of Pfaffenthal, we had to climb a huge hill, and then cross over a bridge. On the way, we found the Bock Casemates, which give some of the most amazing views of the city.
It was like we were looking down at Cinderella's Kingdom, it was so beautiful. We spent the morning walking a long the casemates and the fortresses and exploring the Ville Basse (or Lower Village) of the city. We found a gorgeous abbey, and a really cool tower that we hiked to. It was really empty in the morning, so that made the city seem even more special. We climbed up to the Ville Haute (High Village) afterwards and saw the Palais de Grand Ducal and watched part of the changing of the guard. Then we found an adorable farmer's market where we bought some cheap food for lunch and made a picnic on a bench by the casemates.
After lunch we continued wandering and poking in shops until we found our way to the Place de la Constitution, which also gives gorgeous views of the other part of the city. We sat there for awhile and enjoyed the scenery. It was so nice and sunny outside that we just wanted to sit outside while we could.
After awhile we started to get hungry again so we found a waffle stand and got waffles!!! They were delicious! Mine had whipped cream, powdered sugar, and strawberries! Yum!!!! After the waffles, we went back to the hostel to chill for awhile since we had been walking for 6 hours straight. We all fell asleep for 2 hours. Haha. After we went back out to get dinner and we wound up bumping into Sara, who we made sit and eat with us. We all sat and talked at dinner for a few hours, and discussed everything we had done in the city that day. It was fun! Then Sara left us again, and Kara, Nicole, and I went to a bar we had heard about called Urban. When we got there, it was a much older crowd than us, but it was still nice. We actually ran into the nice woman who had given us directions the nice before and she talked to us for awhile. Weird!
The people of Luxembourg have all been pretty nice to us. I've noticed that if you try to speak French to them it helps. Actually, this was the first time on this trip I have really noticed a language barrier at all because in the Netherlands everyone speaks english. In Luxembourg, the most common languages are French and German, so we kind of had to use what little French we knew to find help when we needed it. It worked out well though.
Sunday was not the best day ever. We left Luxembourg early because we knew it would take about 5 hours to get back to the Castle. If only we had been right! Our original itinerary was to go from Luxembourg to Brussels, then to Dordercht (sp?), and then to Venlo where you catch a bus to Well. However, our train to Brussels got there an hour late, so we had missed all our connecting trains. Basically, what should have taken 5 hours took 9 hours, and we wound up touring Belgium as well. The good thing was that along the way we kept meeting really kind people who went out of their way to help us. On a train from Brussels, we met 2 kind Dutch women who helped us figure out what stop to get off at, and one of them was getting off with us. We helped her with her luggage, and she was so thankful that she helped us find our next train too. After that train, we still had to connect twice more. On our last train, a man overheard us saying how hungry we were and he offered us his dinner. We didn't accept it, but it was still so kind. I feel like this weekend I have met more kind and self-less people than ever before in my life. Between Rob, and the woman in Luxembourg, and the Dutch woman etc, I didn't even mind having to deal with the nightmare of getting home Sunday because everyone we met went out of their way to try to help us. People are so nice!
I was so happy to get back to the castle once again, and I was exhausted!!! I also got to talk to my mom and brother for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks, so that was nice! Anyways, I need to get some serious rest this week, because I have a cold and need to get better for Belgium with Vanessa's family this weekend!
Hello again everybody! Last week flew by insanely fast!!! Most of the week was concerned with getting work done before the weekend and planning trips, which I have figured out is actually more work than the homework we get. Anyways, most of my major trips are planned out now. I am going to Budapest after Croatia for 5 days. As much as I want to go to Romania, it is so far away that it really isn't possible. But I am really excited for Budapest. Its going to be incredible. Then during the other travel break I am going to Ireland on a Ryanair flight that we booked FOR FREE! Seriously, it cost 8 pounds after all the handling fees and taxes, which is like $15 or something. Insanity! So, yeah those places are for sure gonna happen!