27-Day Backpacking Excursion / Beligium! / Germany! / The Netherlands!

Brussels. Amsterdam. Münster. Eindhoven.

Apologies in advance…I just realized now that it has actually been an entire month since my last post. Time is literally flying by. 23.5 hours of which were spent flying from Ireland to London, to Chicago, to Green Bay. Cool news is, I’m alive and well and back in the states. Not-so-cool news is I have a month of blogging to catch up on.

First of all, back to April 27th. I never devoted any time to talking about the wonderful cities of Brussels, Amsterdam, Münster, and Eindhoven. So I’ll do my best to be brief…which should be easy seeing as my mind has the memory of Dory. These 4 cities were still a part of our 27-day backpacking trip and they made up the last 8 days.

Days 20 & 21: Brussels

On the morning of Saturday, April 27th, we hopped on a bus that took us from Paris to Brussels. We woke up at 7 am, had breakfast at the hostel and made it to the station. The bus actually had wifi, but like many other transportation segments of the trip, I slept. Slept for a solid 3 hours and the trip was maybe 4. So that was a great nap. We arrived in Brussels and ended up walking to the wrong hostel. Surprise! They have two hostels in the same city, with the same name…but they’re at opposite ends. So we got back on the metro and made it to the correct hostel. We had a ridiculously large room for just the three of us. At this point we were down to Taylor, Olivia, and myself. We headed out to find some food and explore the city. We were staying in an Arabian neighborhood which was very interesting. We were very much the minority, especially when we stumbled upon a farmers’ market/rummage sale/flea market sort of situation. But it was great! The stores were very cheap & simple. Rectangular rooms, with little to no decoration. They had nothing more than shelves and products, but they did all they needed to. On Saturday, I had a Belgian waffle (delicious chocolate…that’s coming from a girl who doesn’t really enjoy chocolate), we saw Mannekin Pis (the famous statue of a little boy peeing)…it’s quite underwhelming, but popular to say the least, and we stumbled upon The Grand Place (their  main square of buildings), which was beautiful. I also couldn’t pass up buying a pair of shoes in our Arabian neighborhood and finished the day by washing my laundry one final time…seeing as there was actually room to dry it.

Sunday was our only full day in Brussels. Brussels is one of those cities that has a really hard culture/atmosphere to figure out. It’s not that we didn’t like it-we really loved it!, but it was kind of like Budapest, Hungary in which the culture just seems so thrown together. We headed to the main part of town again and got to see Mannekin Pis dressed up…in two different outfits. How lucky are we?! And we also were able to stumble into a mustache parade. Literally a parade of men with mustaches. Taking pictures we people. With a band. In my notes I have, “No ask for $.” So yeah…they didn’t ask for any money, which was refreshing. I also had a waffle again, of course. This time it had bananas, strawberries, and chocolate on it. A “tourist waffle” as they would say (there’s way too much on it for it to be a Beligan’s waffle). We went to a bar right by Mannekin Pis where I drank my first “technical” beer. It tasted like strawberry juice. But it counts. After that, we headed to a parking garage to check out the cars and dumpsters. No but for real, we read that there were good views of the city from the top of the garage. Not only did it have great views, we also were able to hear some music from up there that we ended up checking out. Which turned out to be some competition that we found ridiculously humorous, but they were serious. All the announcing was in Dutch, so we weren’t quite sure what was happening, but it was entertaining to say the least. After that we bought some ice cream, headed back to the hostel, had some dinner, and went to bed so we could be up at the crack of dawn to head on over to Amsterdam.

Day 22-23: Amsterdam

We woke up around 5:30 for a 6:45 bus. After a ridiculously unprofessional few hours, our bus showed up 2 hours late. We sat in the station (on the floor) which was freezing; I asked how long it would be (around 6:45 am) they said 10 minutes; another man asked about his (which turned out to be ours) they told him 2 hours…he was not happy. He said, “We are not in Asia, we are not in Africa, we are in Europe.” I asked about ours again, they told me 30 minutes. Straight up lie. I ended up having chips and a Snickers for breakfast. Breakfast of champions. Tay and I started  watching a movie when all of a sudden the frustrated man came back in. He asked for 30 or 40 complaint papers which the employees had to make copies of. He handed them out as all the passengers surrounded him. It was like a revolutionary uprising. At one point, all of the people working at the station filed out the back of their office as their way of dealing/not dealing with the rising argument. That was nice and professional. This company is Eurolines by the way. Bad. They didn’t even give me my boarding pass until I went up for a second time to ask a question. Needless to say, when they arrived at 8:45, they were not in any sort of rush. Finally we made it to Amsterdam. We took the metro out of the city to a station where we were picked up by our hostel in a shuttle. The shuttle arrived and it was a creepy van with a little flag and piece of paper in the window. But things picked up from there. Lucky Lake was the cutest place. We had our own little camper with a heater. Taylor and I walked down by the lake. Then the three of us headed into the city!

Tuesday, April 30th was Queen’s Day in Amsterdam. It’s kind of like Mardi Gras for New Orleans or St. Patrick’s Day for Ireland. Everyone wore orange and they swore in the new King and his wife. We went into the city and walked around a bit before joining the crowd in the city square in front of the palace…which is literally in the middle of city streets. They had huge screens set up for video coverage of the induction ceremony that took place indoors. The ceremony was all in Dutch, but it was great! It was awesome being in the middle of a country while they sang their national anthem. After the ceremony, we had some lunch. I had my first Mountain Dew since being in Europe. We walked through the Red Light District, which is much more casual than it has a reputation for being. Not noticeably dangerous, especially during the day. It feels like any other street. It’s not a concentrated situation like you would imagine (if you’ve never been there). You can have 4 glass doors of ladies, followed by a store, followed by a bar. Honestly, it’s shockingly casual. To me, it was more sad and intriguing than anything else. It’s not creepy or gross or scary. I just feel bad that beautiful women who are around the same age as me are doing that for a living. Regardless, we walked around through the rest of the city. Watched every which way for the millions of bikes…way more than cars. Walked past tons of food stands, through the gay bar crowd multiple times (for the fun of it). One time I got a Nederlands’ flag painted on my cheek while passing through. We had a wonderful time people watching.

Day 24 & 25: Münster

On Wednesday, we woke up at 5:15 am to head to Münster. Our ticket was labeled with the departure and destination. Little did Taylor and I know that we had a train transfer. So we got off in Rheine at 9:40 and we were supposed to be meeting my friend Devin, who is studying in Germany. He was no where to be found. I found a McDonald’s, because McDonald’s = free wifi, and learned that we were still a daunting 30 minutes away from where we were supposed to be. We ended up buying another ticket for €9 ($12 Uncle Tim), and arrived in Münster at 11:30…2 hours late. Devin was just relieved we had made it. We went to his place and dropped off our bags. Then we all headed to Cologne, which was a 2 hour train ride. It is one of Germany’s larger cities and it is beautiful. We spent the evening there: climbed to the top of Cologne Cathedral, had döner kebabs for dinner, and obviously slept on the train back to Devin’s. Then to top off the night, Taylor and I shared Devin’s extra twin bed. For free accommodation, it was great. We both did an excellent job of staying on our own side of the bed throughout the whole night.

The next day, we actually got to sleep in for once because Devin had class. We went with him to meet with his German partner at 2:00 and had lunch on campus. We then walked around Münster, Devin played the organ for us at a local cathedral!, and we sat outside the main hall of his University and enjoyed the weather!

Day 26 & 27: Eindhoven

Friday we headed to the last city of our entire trip: Eindhoven, The Netherlands. At this point Taylor and I just wanted to be back in Cork…we were so close. We headed to the bus at 10:00 to get to the station for our 11:00 train. We figured out that we had at least 1 or 2 transfers…which were never labeled or explained whatsoever. We made it to the first station where we were able to ask for help at a service booth. The lady spoke a little English and was able to print us off everything we needed with the transfers explained. We were golden. We did end up running to one train, but all was well, and we made it to our last hostel/creepiest accommodation ever.

Inkijkmuseum. It seemed like it had the potential to be cute when we booked it on a fly, but boy was it creepy. We had been psyching ourselves out the entire 25 days prior to our arrival. With only 3 reviews and a few pictures…for all we knew, the owners had kidnapped a few people and made them write reviews. That was one of our assumptions. So when we arrived at this little bitty house, with two huge storage “containers” outside (room-size), and a sheet hanging behind the house covering stuff up, we were a bit apprehensive. Not to add, after we rang the doorbell, this disheveled older man came walking out of the house, peeped around his gate, and said…nothing. I’m like, “Hi……..we have…a reservation for two tonight.” But in my head, I’m saying, “See ya later!” We gave it a shot, held onto our gut feelings, paid attention to everything, and assessed the situation. He opened the gate, locked it behind us (doomed), showed us the house, and then out to our room…one of the storage containers. They kind of look like construction site campers if you will. Decent. The house was a bit dirty and the kitchen did a have a large magnetic strip of over-sized knives, but the place was okay. We were allowed to use the kitchen, we were over thinking everything, we had psyched ourselves into the whole situation, and long story short, we stayed. It sounds horrible, but had we genuinely been concerned for our safety we would have booked it out of there. When we thought about it logically, they really hadn’t done anything that deserved such severe judgment…just kept the place a bit dirty (including our bed) and had an unnecessary amount of knives.

Day 27: Back to Cork!

On Saturday, May 4th, we finished our backpacking trip. We flew out of Eindhoven into Dublin and took a bus back to Cork. It was an amazing 27 days and Taylor and I didn’t even punch each other out. Not even once. 🙂

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