Who goes to Europe for just a week? Clearly someone with a glutton for sleep deprivation and language barriers. Or a person with no intention of ever NOT being a broke college student.
All this aside, I spent my spring break across the pond in Belgium and the Netherlands.After a year of travel through Latin America, my passport finally gained a stamp from the European Union.
I went to eat waffles, admire European architecture and visit a good friend who studies there. I started my trip with 11 hours of flying right into the Belgian capital of Brussels.
The city of Brussels has a little under 1.2 million people and is midway between France and the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is relatively overlooked as a holiday destination. And understandably so: the weather is gloomy, there are no famous icons like the Eiffel Tower or Will and Kate, and it is very close to more popular destinations, such as Paris and London.
I found during my five days in Belgium that there is a lot to love –– you just have to look a bit for it. The beer is the best in world, there is a chocolate shop on every corner and the people are relaxed and genuine. The national hero is a three-foot statue of a boy peeing –– it was the fantasy world that I didn’t even think to fantasize about.
Shortly after settling into Brussels, I traveled by bus to Amsterdam. There are several cheap bus lines that run this three hour trip between the two cities.
Amsterdam is well-known for its liberality toward drugs and prostitution. It is impossible to ignore the whiffs of weed and the “relaxed” attitudes of the people.
I ended up just wandering through the small streets and along canals. Amsterdam houses some of Europe’s best museums, and I found a bit of culture amidst the Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh at the Rijksmuseum.
After a solid two days in Amsterdam, I rode bikes in the streets, nearly freezing my fingers off. I walked with a mix of curiosity and sadness through the Red Light District, looking at the women in the windows. I binged on free cheese cubes at the Cheese Museum.
Amsterdam was neither overrated or underrated. Much like the people on the streets, it was chill.
Once back in Brussels, I traveled north to the city of Bruges (canalside view, left). In typical nonsensical Belgian fashion, Bruges was the most adorable, but also worst-smelling, city I have ever been to. The cobblestone streets and canals are reminiscent of Amsterdam. For all Bruges’ charm, the city sits on a very old sewer system and it is unavoidable. Only in Belgium.
The week wrapped up with the Cyprus vs. Belgium futbol game, where Belgium swept the match 5-0. It was a perfect end to what I love about travel and my adventures abroad: no matter how weird, bizarre, or outlandish a place may be, at the end of the day, there is something very familiar in coming together, drinking and cheering for the home team.
While the time zones proved to be a worthy foe, my spring break abroad was one for the books. Until next time, Europe! ◼︎