Archive for July 2012

some reflections

"Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep - it's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!"
- Wicked, Defying Gravity
A little overwhelmed and unsure how to feel right now. Had my last day at the office today. The last couple of months have been entirely surreal, to say the least. Was it really only four months ago that I was musing whether [the events of this summer] is real life? Three and a half months ago that there was much uncertainty? And less than three days later, filled with resolve?

Three months ago, moving to a foreign continent by myself, to a country whose language I didn't speak, was the hardest thing I'd had to do yet. Now, it feels like leaving this beautiful place is just as difficult, if not more so. I think I've really fallen in love with this country. It's been an absolutely phenomenal experience. 

I remember leaving work on either my second or third day, sometime past 6pm, and realizing as I walked to the bus stop that I was truly happy and satisfied with work. I'd hoped that the feeling would be sustained - and it has been. Today, I left at around the same time as that day, feeling the same passion and enjoyment. It's a bit bittersweet to be leaving, and I find myself almost a little reluctant to be doing so. The work was great, and the people were even greater. I'm really going to miss everyone. 

Three months ago, I'd never been to Europe before, nor had I traveled to another country - much less another continent - by myself. Three months ago, I hadn't really lived on my own or cooked for myself before (let's face it - residence = 3 meals/day provided, cleaning lady once a week, friends 24/7... that's not really independence). Now I've done all that, plus navigated 5 countries on weekend trips. The dichotomy is kind of astounding. This summer has seen an insane amount of 'first's. 

I'd arrived as a curious 19 year old, wide eyed and naive. I'm leaving as an even more curious 20 year old, still kind of lost and wide eyed, but maybe a little less naive (hopefully). I've been fairly fortunate this summer. At the mandatory Pre-Departure Orientation session, J warned us about the curve - of starting out at a high and super excited about being in a new place, and then hitting the depression low. My second last night in Canada, I said to M that I was fully expecting to fall down the hardest I've ever fallen before, but if I was able to get back up, well. S had mentioned the lows he'd experienced last summer in Geneva. 

And sure, not every moment was sunshine and butterflies, but luckily, even the lowest moment wasn't that low, relative to other experiences. The worst that happened this summer was probably losing a toenail due to subungual hematoma and getting an infection on the same toe (needed antibiotic/corticosteroids) and having to cancel trips to Berlin and Basel+Munich as a result. But at the end of the day, #firstworldproblems.

Hopefully this is only the first of many travels. Falling in love with new places, it's kind of inevitable that leaving to continue on to the next big adventure will be bittersweet. But hey, I'll take it. 

Here's to more phenomenal experiences and incredible sights and remarkable people! I'm beyond excited. 

so many cities... little time. Certainly not nearly enough to explore them all. ^ Hastily scrawled this list sometime during my first week in Europe. A random list (think word association), filled with places I'd heard wondrous things about, and figured in passing that it'd be nice to visit.

Obviously I was well aware that it wouldn't be possible to hit them all this summer - but I didn't even manage to come close to half. Which is okay. Can't deny that I'm still a bit disappointed about missing out on Berlin & Switzerland/Munich (& Dusseldorf, ever the elusive one...) in particular though, as those ones were more concretely planned in my head. Toe is still a gory mess...

Either way, I suppose for round 1... I've done okay.

We're just getting started :D

Completing the Trifecta: Maastricht + Aachen

Considering the close proximity and interlocking between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, it seemed fitting that my next weekend trip (June 9th & 10th) encompassed Maastricht (for all you poli sci junkies, where the Maastricht Treaty was signed), and Aachen. The Maas River (above) is pretty spectacular, spanned by a number of bridges. Started Saturday off by taking the train to Aachen, then a bus to Maastricht. H gave me a tour of the city, which is fairly small, but quaint and cute.  
Technically it is a university town as well, but the place seems to lean towards the calmer, quieter side. There were also animals in the middle of the city! Peacocks, birds, deer, donkey, sheep... There were a couple animals that were funny but majestic looking, and I got pretty excited, all "wow, that's a really cool animal! What is it?" sort of deal, to which H replied, "those are goats." in the city isn't exactly conducive to animal recognition skills, I suppose haha.  
Maastricht is a really place - water, parks, animals... Basically really calm and peaceful. I suppose when you're young and a student, it could get a little boring, but I would imagine later on in life, it'd be the kind of place I'd want to go to get away from the city bustle for a weekend. (Although if they plopped some places like that ^ downtown, I'd totally go there to chill.)

There's a lot of historic stuff too, churches, cathedrals, parts of the old city gate that're still standing... Probably climbed more turret/cyclical stairs in Maastricht alone than everywhere else I've visited so far this summer combined.  
Case in point: we went up these turret stairs in this church by the center square - which was kind of taxing, actually, since the steps are uneven stone and the space is pretty cramped. It took ages to get up (and then back down), but it wasn't actually all that high up (still super windy though!). It was really cool because from up there you could literally see 360 degrees - and therefore all three countries (Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands). 
I got really excited about seeing these Dutch clogs too. I remember a good decade or so ago, we went to Ottawa for Victoria Day and there were tons of Dutch tulips and clogs. Back then, it seemed more like a concept than anything else, the idea of Holland far, far away. But now, here I was, holding Dutch clogs, in the Netherlands. Kind of odd trying to reconcile your childhood self with your... in-transition-between-childhood-and-adulthood self. 

Caught the first half of the Netherlands-Denmark game (Euro Cup 2012) with H and some of his friends, 2 Dutch guys and another guy from Manchester. They were all pretty chill, and pretty funny with the translations on the commentary (since I don't know Dutch). And it was interesting to note the cultural differences in  perspective too!

Then I caught the bus back to Aachen, met up with S, and we went to watch the Germany-Portugal game. (It's kind of insane, to have been in the Netherlands while they played, and then back in Germany while they played as well :O Things like that don't really happen in North America, since everything's so much more spread out...) It was great to see Germany win! 
Getting back after the game was...a bit of a trial. S forgot his keys, so we essentially had to break into his flat. #CouchSurfingAdventures haha. Checked out a really cool bar/pub sort of place, which S described as having a "living room atmosphere" (think couches, dim lighting, vintage knickknacks...), with dancing in the basement (but they were playing polka music or something).  
Spent Sunday wandering the city, checking out art galleries/museums, the university, that sort of thing. Also had the biggest dollop of eis for the cheapest price so far this summer while in Aachen (more stracciatella :) 
Certainly interesting to check out some smaller places, see some of the ordinary, less-touristy aspects of these countries. 

(Should really start blogging while more awake - I feel like the last couple of entries have all been poorly-written, incoherent messes. Ah well...) Also - a few weeks ago I saw a blog post about seeing the Alps in Bavaria, but it was some hidden spot that isn't widely advertised to tourists because the locals want it kept secret to keep it from being over-run. The post was accompanied by beautiful photos of mountains and lakes. Trying to find this post, but can't remember where I saw it... Long shot, but does this ring a bell for anyone/direct me to the blog?

speed-cap: Belgium Day 3 & boat trip

Going to speed-recap the last couple of weeks in the next couple of posts, and hopefully get everything up to London (last weekend) hashed before leaving for Paris. So - third day in Belgium didn't carry the same urgency to see things, as I was still in Brussels. Somehow managed to get lost trying to find a church I'd walked by with P the night before. (In the process, had a really awkward encounter. I mean, getting hit on in Europe - except in Germany, apparently - is kind of inevitable, and sometimes it's really bizarre, but this one really took the cake for creepiness.) And the church wasn't even open.

Finally made it out to the Palace of Justice. Unfortunately a part of it was under renovation, and it wasn't open (since this was a holiday Monday). Still pretty cool though!
How magnificent is the sky? ^ Super hot weather the three days I was there, and the sky was so blue and clear it was unreal. (You can see the trail from an aircraft having recently taken off too!) The whole bumming around alone thing is... kind of lonely, to be honest, and it definitely sinks in more with time. You see things and think of who would also enjoy them, or have comments about sights that you'd make to particular people...but there's nobody else there. I spent a decent amount of time just chilling in parks that day too. 

Being a student of political science, of course I had to check out the politics-related, European Union, European Parliament, etc. stuff. Wandered into Cinquantenaire Park (as a result of semi-going-where-the-wind-blows and semi-got-lost). Lots of people sprawled out on the grass, tanning, reading, chilling...super peaceful and nice. Tried speculoos ice cream (ordered en français, bien sûr!)
So Av. John F. Kennedy leads up to this ^, and I want to take a photo. There's a couple in the way, and finally they move; I get my camera out and up, ready to snap one. They look at me, holding the camera. Then they pounce in front of it and started making out. I don't even know. (Saw a lot of couples in Belgium, actually.)

Also hit up Parc de Bruxelles, Parc Léopold, chilled by the water, got lost on the way to the Parliamentarium, swung by the Palais Royal... And then it was back to Germany for me. (Crazy enough, a girl who'd been on the same train on the way there was again on the same train coming back.) Alas, didn't get to everything this time around (e.g. missed out on the Atomium), but there's always next time!
I was pretty boring the weekend after that. Stayed in town thinking I would get lots of life-admin stuff done, but it mostly just disintegrated into sleep, watching videos and doing not much of anything. Grabbed coffee with J, who's from Finland, on Sunday.
Friday afternoon we had a retreat at work. Decided by vote, we went on a boat trip down the Rhine, checked out a tiny village called Unkel (which turned out to be really tiny - we'd walked the entire main area in like ten minutes), came back, and grabbed dinner at Tuscolo. The pizza was massive - bigger than my face! So yummy. Didn't partake in the wine though, as I was setting off for the Netherlands the next morning :)

Powered by Blogger.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...