I think we were somewhere in Germany in our last post from the trip. Getting off a bus at 6 am in Cologne if I’m not mistaken. I know it’s been a long since we have updated with anything from the trip itself, but the second half was so good and so different that we want to make sure we share it with you. We continued our trend of seeing amazing things and meeting awesome people right up until the very end.
It turns out that in a college town like Cologne, there’s not much happening at 6 am, so we sat around the main square for a while waiting for things to open up. We found that at the train station there was a bike check where you pay 25 cents to have your bike stored for the day which was pretty awesome! The most famous site in Cologne that we had to go see was the cathedral, or the Dom. It towers over the city in incredible gothic style and was one of the more impressive churches we visited.
We spent a while at an ancient roman site that has been turned into a museum, walked across the bridge which was covered in love locks and then rode a little ways up the river to camp.
Halfway through our ride the next day we met a group of older germans on a bike trip and in talking to one of them were told that w had to go see Xantan, an old roman camp and city. It wasn’t too far and sounded really cool (we’re both pretty into the Roman Empire) so we headed that way. On the way we ended up making some new friends in Krefeld after getting invited to a birthday party while trying to find a place to sleep. We had a lot of fun (maybe a little too much…) and it was really nice to be around people our own age but not at a hostel for once! The next morning when we were in no state to ride the remaining 60 km to Xantan, Tobi offered to drive us up there! We loaded the bikes and all our stuff into the little car and made our way up to Xantan. Thanks Marta, Laura, Tobi and everyone else for the hospitality!
We thought we would be able to spend a couple hours checking out the Roman Museum and then head to Utrecht, but we severely underestimated. The museum was really really good and HUGE. We must have spent at least 5 hours between the museum, incredibly preserved baths and reconstructed buildings.
By this time we realized that we weren’t gonna make it all the way to Utrecht, but we did realize we had crossed into the Netherlands when the road changed to this:
The next day we made it into Utrecht and headed to Snel Tweewilers to meet up with Hera who we had previously met in Macedonia and had just completed her trip back to The Netherlands from Southeast Asia. she had arranged for us to stay with a friend who is the 3rd generation owner of a bike shop in Utrecht. It was great to meet Peter and Marion and spend the evening eating great home-cooked food and talking about bikes and travel. The next day Hera toured us around the city, showing us all the sites and the conservatory she had attended.
We stayed at a campsite on the edge of the city that used to be an old fort and had a really cool restaurant in the old fort building. We also had some awesome dutch apple pie for breakfast.
We rode into Amsterdam and to the Prinsengracht, one of the famous canals which rings the city center and met up with Johannes, a friend of a track racing buddy of mine who had moved to Amsterdam a few years before but was unfortunately out of town. We left our stuff at the house and wandered around for a while before heading over to the Van Gogh Museum. We had read that it’s best to go really early or late to avoid the long lines and sure enough we spent almost no time waiting to get in. The museum was really well done and had some very cool pieces. I especially enjoyed the first floor which was a collection of his self portraits which were usually practice pieces and often painted on both sides of canvasses to save money. Here are a few standouts from the museum courtesy of the internet:
After the museum we wandered around some more in the city center and surrounding area. The canals make for a really beautiful city that is unlike any other we had visited.
By chance one of our Decatur classmates happened to be in Amsterdam for the weekend while she was on exchange so we met up with her in the morning to go to the Anne Frank house. The line is always long so we got there 30 minutes before it opened but still had to wait over an hour and a half to get in. Even with tons of people packed around us walking through the empty rooms in which the Frank family hid was really powerful. I can’t even imagine all of them being crammed in those tiny rooms with dark blinds drawn all day. Afterwards we wandered around a bit more and saw the cathedral and the new church (which isn’t particularly new…) before getting some good indian food. We were advised by all the dutch people we talked to to avoid dutch food and instead try some of their really good ethnic food which did not disappoint. As the farthest north point of our trip it was light until almost 9:45 so we walked around some more after dinner.
The next day I joined Johannes for a ride with RIH Sport, a local bicycle frame builder in celebration of the Giro de Italia. It was an awesome day on the bike of beautiful scenery, good company and some classic dutch mountains (AKA strong, strong, wind)
After I rode and Autumn finished some stuff for school we went to the Red Light District and took a tour at the Prostitute Information Center which was really interesting. The center was founded by a former prostitute and the tours are usually given by former prostitutes. (Our tour guide however was just someone who had studied the history of prostitution) It focuses a lot on the issues that prostitutes face business wise in Amsterdam. I would highly recommend the tour, very interesting. We got Surinamese food for dinner and enjoyed the city at night again. The next day Johannes rode with us in the rain to Haarlem where we said goodbye and picked up a path south along the coast to Den Hague. It we made it to the Atlantic ocean and then slowly trudged south in the cold windy rain. By the time we arrived at Robert and Ellen’s house we were thrilled to be out of the rain. We weren’t really sure what to think about them before we arrived because we were put in touch with them by a friend who had been an au pair in the Netherlands and from all we had heard the family she was with had been horrible and mean to her and she ended up leaving early. By this point in the trip though if someone offered us a place to stay we would pretty much take it, no questions asked. When we got there Robert was surprisingly nice and seemed very American and there didn’t seem to be any kids. We were quite confused by just talked timidly and tried to rationalize the situation to ourselves. It wasn’t until the next morning talking with both of them that we realized our mistake. This was not the family that our friend had au paired with, rather they were the ones who saved her from the people she had been with and let her stay with them for the last few months. Once we realized that we stopped tiptoeing around and had great time chatting with them! Before catching a train to Brugge we got to stop by the MC Escher museum which was pretty incredible.
We barely made our train on the way to Brugge but we got there and headed out. More from Belgium and beyond to come!