Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bruges: Day 2

Well folks, this is it. We have just completed our final day in Europe. It doesn't even feel real, but it has been such an incredible experience.

Our last day in Bruges was, of course, wonderful. It rained quite a bit this morning, but by the afternoon, everything had cleared up, so that worked out quite nicely. We spent the morning wandering the streets and shopping. (I forgot to put this on yesterday's blog, but Greg actually wanted to go shop for clothes for himself. AND he bought a few things! Crazy!) When the rain got really bad, we stepped inside a cathedral called the Church of Our Lady and saw this beautiful sculpture by Michelangelo:

After that, we climbed the 366 steps (in 9 minutes) to the top of the bell tower to see this spectacular view of the city:

and also this one:

Adorable, no?

After our climb, we went to get some lunch...more waffles! These were especially delicious and picture worthy:

We maybe had waffles for lunch and then more waffles for dessert. Come on though, it's Belgium! We had to.

After lunch, we took a little boat tour through the canals and saw tons of cute stuff like this:

And this house appears in the Audrey Hepburn film "A Nun Story" which I have never seen, but now plan on watching:

After the boat tour, we went to the Chocolate Museum to learn all about the origin of chocolate and why Belgium is so famous for it. We also got to watch a chocolate-making demo and try some samples. They were delicious. This was Greg's favorite part:

The rest of the day we just spent walking around, enjoying the city. We found some beautiful places to sit and walk through:

Bruges has definitely been one of our favorite cities and it was a great way to end our trip...though it's not really over yet. Now we get to go to San Francisco to see one of Greg's best friends get married! Maybe I'll post about that too...we'll see. We're sad that the trip almost over, but excited to be reunited with all our friends and family.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bruges: Day 1

Well, we are in the final city of our trip. Number 16 of 16. It's crazy and it doesn't feel real at all. It's pretty bittersweet actually...we're excited to be coming home soon, but we're sure gonna miss being here too.

Bruges is, of course, absolutely incredible. People have been telling us how amazing it is ever since we decided to come, and they are right. We took the train here this morning and got in around 2 pm, after which we immediately got some Belgian waffles for lunch. They were pretty delicious and we're looking forward to having more tomorrow.

After checking into our hotel (which is right on a canal, so our room has a beautiful view of the water), we went out exploring. Everything here is so adorable and picturesque:

After some wandering, we found the Bloed Basilek, which basically means blood basilica. That's because there's a phial of Christ's blood kept in a silver tabernacle inside. Apparently, it was brought back from Jerusalem by the crusaders. While we were inside, a priest had the phial out on display and people lined up to touch it and pray over it. It was actually pretty cool:

After that, we really didn't do much except for walk. Each street was so adorable that Greg kept pulling out the camera to take pictures of its cuteness. Here are a couple good ones:

After all the walking, we had a nice dinner at a cafe. Greg ordered what seems to be the specialty here: mussels and fries. I stuck with chicken.

By the way, there were 56 mussels in there and Greg ate them all. Go him. Tomorrow is our last day here. Crazy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Hague: Day 3

Today was supposed to be our beach day. There's a beautiful beach about a 15-20 minute walk away from our hotel and we were looking forward to enjoying it. The weather, however, didn't want to cooperate. We checked the weather the first day we got here and it was supposed to be mostly sunny and mid 70s. It was overcast and upper 60s instead. Not as much fun for beaches. But we still tried to make the most of it and went anyways. This is one of the cute streets we walked along to get there:

This was closer to the beach. They had the flags of all the countries in the European Union (we think...)

And here is the lovely (cold) beach:

We had lunch at one of the cafes on the beach...and waited about an hour to get our mediocre/overpriced food. But hey, we're in Europe! So we're not really complaining. After the beach, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some stuff for dinner, and went back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the day reading/writing/watching hotel television. Another very relaxing day for us, so now we are fully ready to move on to tons of sight-seeing in Bruges, our last stop on the trip! 3 days left!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Hague: Day 2

Today was lovely. It probably won't be too interesting for you to read about, but we had a great time. It's been raining here for a good part of the day, so we stayed in for a lot of it. Greg kept singing this song from Sesame Street:

I guess it's from the 80's so it's just a little before my time. Greg is old.

Anyway, we did get out of the hotel to take the 10 minute walk to a nearby shopping center where we picked up some cereal, milk, and bread for breakfast/lunch (the hotel breakfast here is like $20 a person). This is the cute area:

But most of our day was spent doing this:

Greg finished reading The Brothers Karamazov on this trip, so now it's my turn. I love reading days. :) Only 3 more full days till we come home. We can't believe it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Hague: Day 1

This is the last post of the day, I promise! The internet in our last few hotels has been really slow, so I've been procrastinating updating the blog. But from here on out, hopefully I'll be better.

Day 1: 

So, our original reason for going to The Hague was to go to the temple. Unfortunately, when we called the temple to make sure that there was a time we could come, they told us that they are only open Thursdays through Saturdays, even though on the website they said they do things on Tuesdays and Wednesdays too. I guess it’s a really small temple, so they aren’t open half as much. We were pretty disappointed though.

Even so, The Hague is a really cute area. We walked through a lot of the city today and saw the Palace:

And the Parliament building:

We also randomly found a really cool flea market that we walked through. They had a lot of cool jewelry and other antique trinkets:

Then, we walked through the big shopping area:

After that, we decided that we wanted to see a movie. Everyone has been talking about how amazing Inception is, and we found a movie theater close by, so we went to see it. And it was amazing. And the Dutch subtitles didn’t bother me like I thought they would. It was another good day. Only 5 days left till we come back to the states! 

Amsterdam: Days 1-3

Day 1:

We spent our first day in Amsterdam doing what we do on our first day in almost every country: walking around. We loved all of the Dutch architecture. Even the train station is cute. This is an especially cute little street:

Unfortunately, in Amsterdam, wandering isn’t always a good thing. We saw what we thought would be a nice street to walk down…and it ended up being a part of the infamous Red Light District. Oops. It was pretty awkward, I’m not gonna lie:

Luckily, we made our way out of that part of the city pretty fast and got back to the cuteness.

Day 2:

Our second day in Amsterdam, we decided to do a group bike tour around the city. Everyone here seems to be on a bike, so we figured it would be a good way to see things, and it was. Plus, the bikes were cute and yellow, so it was awesome:

After the tour and some lunch, we went to the Anne Frank House. This was the place that she and her family were in hiding for 3 years before they were betrayed and sent to various concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto, was sent to Auschwitz, and was the only one to survive. This is the door (behind a movable bookcase) that led from the factory below to the “secret annex” where they lived:

Then, for dinner that night, we ate delicious pancakes:

Day 3:

Our final day in Amsterdam was a big museum day. First, we went to the Rijksmuseum, where we some Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Steen, as well as a ton of other awesome Dutch paintings:

They also had these cool dollhouses. In the old days, it was a sign of wealth to have a dollhouse that was basically a model of your own house. Sometimes the dollhouses ended up costing as much as a house themselves:

After the first museum, we grabbed some lunch and hung out in Vondelpark for a while. The weather in Amsterdam was great, so it was very relaxing.

Next, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, which has over 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings on display. They also display them in chronological order, so it gives you a good look at his artistic development over time:

After the museum and some dinner, we caught a train to The Hague. 

Berlin: Days 1-3

Day 1:

We didn’t get into Berlin until late afternoon, so our first day was pretty relaxed. We walked around the area near the hotel, which was full of shops. We also saw the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche, which was partially destroyed in the bombings of World War II. They decided not to fix the damage and to leave it standing as a reminder to the people:

Instead, they built a new church next to it, which isn’t much to look at from the outside, but has some incredible stained glass windows that look awesome from the inside. It’s very modern:

Day 2:

Our second day in Berlin we started out by going to Brandenburg Gate, which is kind of a representation of Berlin’s unity, as it acts as a fulcrum between the East and West of Berlin:

Next, we went to the Holocaust Memorial and walked through the museum they have there:

After a lunch of the German specialty, currywurst (it’s like hot dogs with a curry sauce), we went to Babelplatz square where the famous Nazi book-burnings took place, right across the street from a University. If you can’t tell, the monument they have in the square is a bunch of empty bookcases: 

After that, we went to see a section of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved. It’s right in front of what’s called the Topography of Terror, which is where the headquarters of the Gestapo used to be. It’s now a museum that tells of their acts:

Day 3:

We spent a lot of our third day in Berlin shopping. Greg had a blast at the Lego store, and I found a nice dress.

We also made our way over to Checkpoint Charlie, where people would pass from the East to the West part of Berlin during the cold war. We even got our passports stamped. It was pretty cool:

That night, we took our last over-night train to Amsterdam and it was a much better experience than the first time around. We actually had beds this time and were able to sleep pretty well. Yay! 

Prague: Days 1-3

Day 1:

Our first day in Prague was a travel day, so we didn’t actually get into the city until mid-afternoon. Then, while trying to find our hotel, we got very, very lost. We probably took every wrong turn we possibly could and it was scorching hot. Plus, we were both carrying around 20+ pounds on our backs, which made things even more miserable. Once we finally did get to our hotel, we were so relieved by the nice, air-conditioned rooms with complimentary apples that we didn’t leave for the rest of the night.

Day 2:

In order to make up for the lack of sight-seeing on our first day in Prague, we spent all of the second day walking around the city seeing everything we could. We started out at Malostranske Namesti (the main square), where we saw the church of Sv Mikulas:

Next, we walked up this cute little street:

To get to the Prague Castle, which includes St. Vitus’ Cathedral:

And the Old Royal Palace (you can see it in the distance here):

After a quick lunch, we walked across Charles Bridge:

And found this really adorable square called Staromestake Namesti:

Finally, we walked down Wenceslas Square (apparently, Good King Wencleslas is from Prague, his crown jewels are actually in St. Vitus’ Cathedral, but they are hardly ever taken out), and ended up at the National Museum, which we didn’t go inside. We did sit by the fountains for a while, which was nice.

Day 3:

On our third day in Prague, we decided to take a day trip to Terezin, which was a concentration camp during World War II. The weather was gray and it drizzled for most of the day, which made for kind of the perfect atmosphere for such a somber place. It was a very humbling experience. The whole place just had this terrible, gloomy feel to it. Terezin wasn’t a death camp, but many of the people there died from the terrible conditions and a good part of those who made it through their time in Terezin ended up getting sent to die in Auschwitz. Here are some pictures from the day:

This is a picture of what a typical women’s dormitory would look like:

This was above the entrance to one of the sections of the camp. It was kind of a Nazi slogan that means “working makes us free” or something to that effect:

They had dozens of rooms that looked just like this where 50 prisoners would sleep:

While the Nazis were running the camp, they either cremated the bodies of the dead prisoners or buried them in mass graves, sometimes with over 600 bodies in one grave. After the liberation of the camp, the bodies were dug up and laid to rest in the national cemetery: