After spending Christmas and New Year’s in Norway, I made my way to Copenhagen for a 1-day layover. I stayed at Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, which allowed me to walk around the city to all of the places I wanted to see. I was able to walk to the Tivoli Gardens, Nyhavn, and the National Museum of Denmark, learning a bit more about Denmark with each place I wandered to. Unfortunately, it rained quite heavily so I wasn’t able to bike or wander further, but the time I spent at the National Museum taught me a lot about Denmark’s history that I hadn’t known previously. My hostel served a delicious breakfast of smorrebrod, open-face sandwiches on dark, dense bread, similar to that which I’d been enjoying in Norway. I met a few people at the hostel and ate breakfast with them, including a girl travelling alone from Australia! She was headed to a different city, but it was comforting to eat breakfast with someone of similar outlook. After my day exploring, I made my way back to the airport to fly to Amsterdam!
I spent 10 days in the Netherlands, split between hosteling in Amsterdam and staying with my friend and former OU exchange student, Hester, near her university in Utrecht. I stayed at the Flying Pig Uptown Hostel, a well-known hostel with a friendly environment and good location—as this would be my first time in the Netherlands I mostly wanted to see the museums and meet people at the hostel! I arrived during the evening on my first day, so I stayed in the hostel and chatted with some of the others who’d just arrived—some from Scotland, Australia, and some Americans just finishing their semesters abroad in Europe. The next day, I planned to go on a walking tour sponsored by the hostel so that I could learn more about Dutch history and see some of the main sight where I might like to return later. It was a chilly and tiring 4 hours of walking, but well-worth my time. I took in the sights—canals, bicycles, beautiful tall buildings. I learned a lot about Netherland’s proud and not-so proud history, its massive trading empire, and the ways it took advantage of many people to grow to such wealth. I also saw some tall houses which had begun to tilt to one side and learned that the buildings were built tall and narrow in a row so that people could pay less taxes.
After a few more days exploring Amsterdam and making new friends, I met my friend Hester, first in Amsterdam to eat at her favorite Japanese ramen shop, and then to make our way back to Utrecht. Utrecht was possible even more beautiful than Amsterdam—some call it the more beautiful canal city in all of Europe. While Amsterdam gives a feel of Dutch culture, it is a very international city. Utrecht, on the other hand, is quintessentially Dutch—with cozy restaurants to take respite from the cold. For someone like me who is easily lost, the Dom Tower serves as an easy marker in the skyline. After arriving, we visited an outdoor market selling cheeses and various things and bought ourselves warm stroopwafles—delicious on the cold, wintry day. I spent the next few days visiting Hester, hanging out in Utrecht, fighting off a flu bug, and meeting another former OU exchange student.