Saturday, March 24, 2012


 I've spend the past couple days here now, it's been interesting. I can't say I overly like Amsterdam, or maybe just that my mood has reflected how I've viewed the city. First day I had to be out with my host when he went to work, so I was right in the heart of the city at 8am and couldn't get back in to the apartment till 7 when he finished work, which is fine, but it's quite a long day of walking around.

I spent a chunk of the morning sitting in the sun reading a guidebook I had been lent.

The Begijnhof  (very old convent)
 Then I visited the Amsterdam museum, which was pretty impressive. Had a great interactive exhibition on the history of Amsterdam city.
Fun facts:
Named after a Dam that was built on the river Amstel. Amsteldam became Amsterdam
The city is a few meters below sea level (4 meters at the airport)
Buildings are made of brick, which are built on piles that sit in marshy soils.......comforting!

 Everybody bikes in Amsterdam, this is by central station, it's like a small parking lots for thousands of bikes. Makes crossing roads difficult because you have to look for Trams, Cars, and Cyclists. Each have their own part of the road, you need to be pretty focused!

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam
 This was the original town hall, used in 1655 when Netherlands was one of the richest countries. It was a public building back then and now is reserved for dignitaries.

That evening we had Indian takeaways for dinner and headed out with a few of his friends to a couple of local bars. Hmmm probably should have packed something slightly dressy. Never mind!

Next day I was going to do the Van Gogh museum but I had lost the museum pass my host had given me. Woops, felt really bad and spent a chunk of the morning hunting for it. No such luck. I think he can get another one for free but still felt bad.

Museum Square

I amsterdam

I went shopping and bought some new walking shoes, which are really comfortable. My $20 K-mart shoes are slowly wearing out beneath my feet. 

 I went to the flower market on the street, had lots of quirky stuff. Bonsai trees, bulbs and flowers in a can, and marijuana started kits. 

Erik made a batch of muffins.....with chocolate...they were delicious!!

Don't think I'm going to go see the famous red light district that is here. I've already seen enough walking down the street during lunchtime. You'll just be casually wondering along a shop window front looking at the closely at the displays, then on your next step you're standing less than a foot away from a half dressed woman posing in a curtain booth behind a window. You casually look away to see whats on the other side of the alleyway, and oh dear more prostitutes. Quicken pace and look skywards.

But yes overall, I do like how the city operates and the generally relaxed atmosphere, I think Christchurch could take a leaf or two. I think I'd be more happier here if I was into the soft drugs, picking up prostitutes and partying every night but It's safe to say I'm ready to leave and looking forward to moving on and getting to Salzburg tomorrow morning.

Leaving to Amsterdam..

Had a lovely quiet day round the apartment, until it was time to go to the station to catch my bus to Amsterdam.
Albert dropped my off at the station just after lunch. Big thanks to him for such a comfortable and relaxing stay!

Della was also taking the same bus to Amsterdam so was awesome to have someone to talk to the whole way. Certainly doesn't feel like 6 hours when you've got good company.

If felt like we stopped in every Belgium city before even getting to Amsterdam! We had a 30 minute stop in Brussells so we jumped off the bus and ran into a bar to grab a pint of Belgium beer which Della realised she forgot to try while she was here. We chugged them back ( I had a wit beer actually made in Bruge called Brugs, even though I'm not a huge beer drinker, this was probably my favorite beer ever) , grabbed some snacks and hopped back on the bus.

We arrived about 9pm and took our separate ways on the tram. I stayed up just catching up with my couchsurfing host, who is also very nice. He is a psycho............therapist ;), and travels pretty extensively himself, so he gave me some more good tips about travelling, and also gave me a museum card which gets me into pretty much any museum in Amsterdam for free. Sweet!! Will have to use that up while I'm here...

In Bruge

Another fantastic day in Bruge....not much to report, did a couple museums, lots of walking, chilling in the park, eating copious amounts of chocolate etc. 

Me In Bruge.!

Koningin Park - Amazing park

Hundreds of Swans fill the canals...but this is just one

Bruge has HEAPS of chocolate shops selling homemade Belgium Chocolates....This entire tree thing is chocolate

More Churches

Belgium Waffels..Yum

For Dinner Burt and I bought some Mussels and had 2kg pot of steamed mussels, salads and fries with a chardonnay. I've been craving mussels forever! 

Earlier we bought some desserts from a bakery, this is meringue with some sort of soft gooey toffee inside, slathered in cream and chocolate flakes. All for me. 
 After dinner we watched the movie "In Bruge" (while in Bruge!!! isn't that funny) if you haven't heard or seen the movie it's pretty good, you can watch the trailer...might have some coarse language. It's not a comedy kinda sad actually, but worth watching. 

went on a walk through Bruge at night. Such a different atmosphere at night, incredible. Another balmy evening too.. I couldn't help but everywhere I went now, "Oh that was in the movie" so I'm glad I watched it on my last night in Bruge.

 We got home late-ish, but still enough time to devour my chocolates I bought earlier...

Can't remember what each filling each has but something like....Raspberry sugar coated, vanilla cream, peppermingt, marzipan, Baileys, hazelnut, and strawberry cream. Albert also has a 2kg pack of little chocolate Easter eggs which I have not stopped eating...soon they will be all gone

Biking With Betty In Bruge..

Note: Sorry, couple days behind again so will just quickly post this I wrote the other day and then do a a quick summary of Amsterdam which is where I am at the moment.

Today I had arranged to meet up with Della, who is a Canadian girl I met at the hostel I stayed in yesterday. We had planned to do a bit of a bike trip out to the beach. So I met her in the morning just after breakfast and we hired the bikes from the hostel..

 Biking in Bruge is very common, everyone seems to have these kind of bikes. They aren't mountain bikes, they aren't road bikes, they are just basic city bikes with a few gears. I love how old school they look and how they make you sit upright rather than hunched over... the wicked witch of the west.
Albert was saying how unseasonably warm it has been compared to last week, so I've been lucky and timed it right..(it's not really warm,, around 13 degrees, just clear and not rainy)

We followed the bike paths out of old town. Helmets aren't compulsory in Bruge, most don't wear them, but they are recommended. All around Bruge, bikes and small motorcycles have their own separate pathways so not like you are biking among heavy traffic. (Also good for me because I keep biking on the wrong side of the road!)

We followed our map (soon getting lost) but we new which direction to go and we were soon out in Blankenberg on the beach..

The North Sea

Almost looks summery.....really wasn't though. Bitter sea wind, cold enough to see my breath. My face and hands are quite numb in this photo. 

We found a little shelter bit out of the wind and enjoyed the sun. Much warmer without the wind. 

Stopped at some random Tearoom and had some hot Soup with bread rolls. 
We were biking on a main road so we detoured and took another route home..

 Passing through a small town called Lissewege, so small but a lovely atmosphere. Biking on cobblestones isn't very comfortable though...

Along a very wide and long canal
 That evening I cooked my own dinner, but Albert gave me another Belgium beer, which is a cherry beer. Quite sweet with very strong cherry flavour, but delicious.

This is my personal beer glass he serves my beers in

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Venice Of The North..

Today was my first full day in Bruges, I'm completely captivated by this place, it's so tiny and so perfectly preserved. The Bruges town has been around since about 850. Originally a very commercial town with it's large canals leading out to the sea meant ships could come right into Bruges to unload it's shipment. However the canals became inaccessible over a period of time due to an increase in soil in the canals, and the town ground to a halt and almost abandoned. It wasn't till tourism started did it become protected by UNESCO and become the city it is today.The city has a population of around 116,000 with 20,000 living in the old town. The old town is the original part of Bruges where all the heritage buildings and houses are, old town is surrounded by a large canal (kinda like a moat) and a wall (more like a grassy hill) and has the original gates that would have been the only access into the town. 

I think I can confirm a sneaky suspicion I had about myself. I'm a complete small town person, I like the simplicity, the peacefulness, the charm and history of smaller towns. Okay so Bruges is a total tourist town;  with tourists (in summer) exceeding the number of Flemish people in old town, but it's still incredible.  

One of the few gates reamining. 

Old houses and cobblestone streets

Burg square

A lolly and chocolate shop

Being In such a magnificent place I started questioning it’s authenticity. I thought, maybe it’s like Disneyland where you are fooled into this illusion buy the fact that the staff never break character when they are walking around;  you don’t see how the rides work and you don’t see behind the shop facades. But no matter how hard I looked around Bruges, I still couldn’t find the headless Minny and Mickey mouse hiding in a dark alleyway; sitting on beer crates sharing a cigarette and gulping their triple shot espressos. Bruges was in fact, a real Belgium city!

After wondering around in the morning in Bruges main squares, I headed across town (You can walk everywhere in Bruge, it's so tiny) with my backpacks to my couchsurfers place.
The view from my room

I have my own bedroom, wardrobe, dresser, and ab King Pro (not like I'm going to use it though!)
Albert is a fantastic host!! He works at the port at security and is involved in the local council. On arrival he gave me a quick run down on the place and took me on a walking tour of Bruge...

Minnewater Lake

Convent - Very quiet with hundreds of daffodils

We stopped off at one of the few breweries that are located within the old town part of Bruge, and had a nice cold beer. This one has one several awards throughout Australia and Canada. Now that's a beer glass!!

Canals of Bruge

Inside Our Lady Church

More Canals with the afternoon sun.

The Belfry in the background 

Bruge's city hall


That evening Albert prepared a delicious meal which was slow cooked beef with an iceburg lettuce salad, grated carrots, and fries, washed down with another locally brewed beer. There was so much food I just had to stuff myself till I couldn't walk, otherwise it would just be thrown out! A good day I must say.