Zandvoort Beach and Utrecht

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
Trip End Jul 02, 2012

Flag of Netherlands  , Utrecht,
Sunday, October 2, 2011

This past week we've been having great weather in the city. It hasn't rained for so long, I can't even remember when it rained last!

I'm really enjoying my Amsterdam in the Golden Age class. Our topic was religion on Wednesday (9-28) and we talked about three synagogues close to my apartment and a Lutheran church where I actually have one of my other classes. The class is neat, because I can actually go out into the city and see some of the historical things we've discussed. I didn't do much during the week until Saturday and Sunday.

A group of 17 international students from my apartment building took a bike trip west to the beach in the city of Zandvoort. We left around 11:30 in the morning and on the way we got to see Haarlem and Zuid-Kennemerland National Park on the way to the beach.

The national park was very pretty, with sand dunes and hills (which were not fun to bike up, by the way). By a lake, we ran into some buffalo/cow-looking creatures that were really calm. We could walk right up next to them and they didn't even seem to notice us. Unfortunately, going through the park morphed what should have been a two hour bike trip into five hours. We were all pretty pooped once we got to the beach.

I was surprised that the beach was so nice! I was expecting more of a small, rocky beach, but it was pretty large and had sand. The water was freezing! We played it safe and only stuck our feet in. We lounged around on the beach for a couple of hours. I tried some fried fish from a stand and liked it (I used to hate seafood). I think I'll have to work myself up before I can try the raw Herring, a typical Dutch delicacy. Before we left, we got to see the sunset behind the water, which was really pretty. We rode the train back, because we were exhausted.

That night, my roommate and I had a potluck dinner with some international students he had met during the ISN (International Student Network) Introduction. It was a great way to end the day!

The next morning (9-29), I took the train to the city of Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. It was only a thirty minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal. When I got to Utrecht Centraal Station, I was astonished by how huge it was! It seemed much larger than Amsterdam's and it even had a mall attached. It took me 20 minutes just to figure out how to get out of the station.

They city was neat to see. It was less touristy than Amsterdam is, which was nice. It was nice to see what a big Dutch city without all of the tourist, coffee, and sex shops looked like. I walked along the Oudegracht (Old Canal), which was very quaint. The canals in Utrecht are nice, because there's a lower level below the street with cafés and even some shops. I stopped by an icecream stand and got a stracciatella flavored cone that was refreshing.

After that, I checked out the gothic-style Domkerk (Dom Church). The church tower was completed in 1382. Poor funding later during the construction of the nave led to its collapse in 1674. The tower is now separated from the rest of the church, because the nave was never restored. The remaining parts that I saw seamed very large, so I imagine it was an impressive sight to see when the nave was intact. The tower still dominates the city's skyline, over 600 years later.

Inside the church, there were two beautiful stained-glass windows. I got to see some of the results of the Protestant Reformation, as some of the altar pieces and even the tombs had faces chiseled off. It was neat to see this, but it also made me quite sad to think about the loss of art the Reformation brought about. Attached to the church was a cloister that I got to walk through. Right next door was Utrecht University, which is the best university in the Netherlands. Before I headed back to Amsterdam, I walked north to a windmill and took some pictures.

Overall, I had a great weekend going to the Beach and to Utrecht. Next weekend I'm planning a trip to Berlin with two of my friends. I'm excited to get to see another country in Europe!

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