With the semester in full swing, the pace is definitely picking up for my life here in Bonn! Alongside that, though, I’ve managed to squeeze in some wonderful adventures – both with great friends – these last two weekends!
Stop #1: Freiburg
Am vorletzten Wochenende (on the weekend before last – less of a mouthful in German, I think), I went to visit Isi (my family’s former German exchange student) in Freiburg. I had heard that Freiburg was a lovely place to visit, and I would certainly agree! Just miles from the Swiss border, Freiburg is framed by mountains and the Black Forest, and boasts lovely views in almost every direction. As I happened to be there in October, the fall colors certainly didn’t hurt the scenery either! Isi and I made several excursions to enjoy the nice views – despite almost continuous drizzling (that seems to be a recurring theme whenever Isi and I are together!) – on one of the days. First was Schlossberg, a mountain providing a lovely overview of the city, and from which Isi could point out to me all of landmarks of her life in Freiburg! The next, nicer day, we headed to Schauinsland (this is the name of the mountain, and means “Into the Countryside”), traveling by tram, foot, and cable car! A rather funny note – I think the last time I was in a cable car was 2014, also with Isi, and also in Europe (Switzerland), when she came to visit me on my Sound of America music tour! The cable car ride was beautiful, and the views at the top of the mountain – especially from the lookout tower/contraption – were stunning!
Another highlight of the weekend was attending a concert of one of the Freiburg student orchestras! They played the Grieg Peter-Gynt Suite No. 1 (including such famous movements as, “In the Hall of the Mountain King”), which was truly incredible. A fantastic piece of music played by an excellent orchestra, I was very impressed, and thoroughly enjoyed the concert! Perhaps next time I can see Isi and her own orchestra perform!
Besides enjoying the beautiful views and music, Isi and I also enjoyed some excellent food together! My first night there, Isi and I made a sweet potato-pumpkin quiche together. The next day, Isi’s frugal and generous roommate shared her Foodsharing pastries and fruit with us! Foodsharing is a really fantastic program I think we should bring to the U.S.! Basically, students/others can sign up – for free – and then receive leftover/expired/almost-expired baked goods and produce for free! Great for reducing food waste, and reducing food expenses. I for one would totally do this! Anyways, we enjoyed some delicious croissants, as well as the first persimmon I have ever tried! Later in the weekend Isi introduced me to a sauce for pasta/spaghetti made with broccoli and hazelnuts – rather different and interesting, but very good. And, of course, in the dessert department, I enjoyed some delicious raspberry-nougat gelato from one of the ice cream places in Freiburg (according to Isi).
Stop #2: Amsterdam
Amsterdam had been on my list to visit anyways, but this past weekend I headed there because my longtime-friend Jason is in the Netherlands for work right now! I arrived in Amsterdam via Blablacar – another great German institution I think we should bring (or maybe it already exists in some form) to the U.S.! Basically, I say I want to go from here to there on this day, the website tells me what rides people are offering, I can look at reviews other riders have left about the driver, and then I can buy ride carpooling with someone! So kind of like Uber, but cheaper and therefore better? Normally there’s several people carpooling at once, too, making it overall pretty safe. I had a great experience with it – mostly just reading/snoozing in the back seat, but also enjoying a bit of conversation with my carmates.
Once in Amsterdam, my first priority was finding stroopwafels! (And finding Jason, too!) Having looked up about five articles/blog posts on the best places to buy stroopwafels in Amsterdam, I figured it was a good idea to squeeze one in on Friday, so as to better spread out my stroopwafel consumption. That night, I tried a Van Wonderen stroopwafel – the more modern, Instrammable version with toppings. I was not particularly impressed – rather pricey, very sweet, not particularly flavorful. After this tasty, if not entirely satisfying, treat, I headed off to meet up with Jason at the hotel. Amsterdam is lovely to walk around. With all of the canals, bridges, and traditional architecture, it is a truly charming city to visit. En route to the hotel – perhaps appropriately, as Amsterdam is known for its bicyclists – I was run into by a bicycle! It was probably a little bit both of our faults – I was distracted by food across the street and was just starting to cross, I don’t think the bicyclist was really paying attention either – but he ran straight into me, I fell, etc. Thankfully this was not a repeat of the elbow incident, and I was fine! The bicyclist was very relieved, I think. I was very relieved that my beloved trench coat did not sustain any damage.
Jason and I started off our Saturday morning with a feast of a breakfast! I will have to say, I was very excited that Jason was such a great food buddy – I love traveling with others and sharing things so we all great to try more (without stretching wallets/waistlines too much), and he (even though he doesn’t have quite the sweet tooth I do) was totally down to do that! On the way to Albert Cuyp Market, we stopped at Holtkamp – a patisserie I had read good things about – where we picked up Tompouce (as recommended by the site where I had read the good things!). Then we continued on to the market. After chasing down some ladies passing out free pastry samples, and continuing down the wrong road for a good while (because we got off track with the free sample distraction), we bought some poffertjes. Poffertjes are these wonderful little dutch pancakes garnished (or rather, drenched) in butter and powdered sugar, and are basically dreamy, fluffy, bite-sized clouds of deliciousness. I highly recommend that you all try them! Next we headed to the Original Stroopwafels stand. Here, we made some mistakes. Jason and I arrived just as they were opening, and the samples weren’t out yet. So, assuming that what the guy near us was holding was a jumbo wafel, Jason decided to go for the jumbo. They also advertised an original and an original chocolate wafel, and, being indecisive, I decided to get one of each. Now, as it turns out, what the guy near us was holding was the original size – the jumbo was quite a bit larger. Further, the chocolate wafel was really just an original, half drizzled with chocolate, so they weren’t so essentially different that I really needed one of each. Thus, mistakes were made, but nothing too critical – especially as these mistakes involved a little bit too much great food. And boy were these stroopwafels good! I was much more impressed with these than Van Wonderen’s – both in terms of price and quality! Jason grabbed a chicken sandwich from a guy who’d handed us samples en route to the stroopwafel stand, and we then sat to enjoy our feast! It was delicious – fluffy tompouce cake, gooey warm stroopwafel (which Jason sadly spilled all over his sweatshirt), delectable little poffertjes. Suitably stuffed, we wandered around to enjoy the rest of the market, enjoying free samples and picking up some Mozzerella balls and smoked cheese bites to enjoy along the way.
We did also enjoy some non-food attractions in Amsterdam! Later in the day, Jason and I explored the Royal Palace, visited Rembrandt square, bought cheese (oh, wait, that’s food again…), and took a boat tour of the canals. In the evening, I visited the Anne Frank House – something that’s been on my list for a long time. Especially having read her diary and learned about her story, I really enjoyed seeing the house. They have some diagrams to help you understand the layout, but it’s still a little bit challenging to understand how these several rooms are somehow concealed from essentially all sides. Being there made the whole story a bit more real – people actually lived here, just in these rooms, and for over two years. Knowing how much I like my freedom, independence, and own space, I cannot imagine being cooped up in such a small space with the same seven people for so long. After walking around Amsterdam all day, it was also pretty crazy to think about having lived in the city – walked along its canals, its bridges, been part of its buzz – and then to disappear, to still be there, watching it all a bit from the windows, but to be watching as an observer, no longer part of it all. Sadly, as excellent a hiding place as it was, it wasn’t quite good enough – they made it so long, and so close to the end of the war, but right near the end they were discovered, arrested, and sent to concentration camps and Otto Frank is the only one who managed to survive. Still, how fortuitous that Otto did survive, so that we are today able to know so much about Anne, her family, and their story.
After some seafood tapas that evening, and more Dutch pastries the next morning (I decided against more stroopwafels – three is enough for one weekend, I suppose!), Jason and I said good-bye, and headed our separate ways. But what a great weekend! It really was a blast to spend some quality time with a good American friend, and to enjoy some European adventures together! All in all, it was a great two weekends of traveling fun! I’m excited to do more traveling over the next few months, but this weekend, I’m looking forward to a nice, quiet weekend here in Bonn!