Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring break in Europe: A whirlwind adventure starting in Amsterdam

Post University art teacher and tour facilitator Sarah Rohlfing
at the I amsterdam sign
Whirlwind is a tornado, whooshing through, whooshing out. I hope we didn't leave too much destruction in our wake.

As our cadre of Post University students, faculty, and friends/family awoke to the fact we were in Amsterdam during our recent spring break trip, our first impression was walking ... and walking ... (this could become a theme) ... from the hotel to the tram. Scrambling for the unfamiliar euros for the fare for us eight (including our wonderful guide, Pascal) and (not) remembering to validate the ticket!

That first morning, some of us had a breakfast of pancakes with odd things fried into them. Others went to the van Gogh Museum. On the cold, gray day with the north wind reminding us it was still winter, the darker van Goghs, those of workers in fields, seemed to be more appropriate, and more understandable as we felt that grim grayness. But then the kaleidoscope, the sunlight! The paintings of Provence brought us to the van Gogh we know better.

City bikes abound in Amsterdam
I remember Amsterdam mostly for its many street lanes. One each for trams, cars, buses, and, yes, the ubiquitous bikers.

You can see in the photo the city bikes (which can be rented anywhere and dropped off anywhere) that nearly killed me more often than anything else.

I remember the canals, giving us an odd memory of Venice despite the cloudy sky and cold wind. And, of course, we saw the place that puts all these concerns into their proper perspective -- the Ann Frank House. You can see the entry to the museum's center, and next to it, the old original house.

The Ann Frank House
We entered what appeared to be a conventional tourist welcome center, guided by our brilliant Pascal to get there just before the lines started forming. And we began to climb, and climb, and climb some more. Each staircase was steeper and narrower than the one before; each room smaller, darker, and lower.

We thought of the persistence of hatred that was willing to climb all those stairs to capture the Jewish people hiding there, and one young girl who dared to write her dreams. We had to confront the worst and best of human kind in that place, climbing the stairs, feeling the pain in our bodies and souls.

But we ended the day in a familiar place, the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam. The idea was to ease us slowly into the country's cuisine we were to sample, but who wanted to start with burgers? I will admit, it being the first Hard Rock Cafe I'd ever been to, that it, and the music, was very cool to this child of the 60s who remembers when the first one was launched.

Post University students Jon Savoy and Josh Edward
The next day was the obligatory trip to the cheese farm, to see a windmill, and to see wooden shoes being made. I was almost convinced it would be a good idea to try a pair, but my better sense prevailed, and I went away with artisanal Gouda cheese that if I hadn't opened the bags nightly would have stunk up my suitcase in no time.

Next stop: Brussels, and some surprises ...

Watch our blog for my next post!



Editor's note: Every spring break, Post University students and faculty travel to a different country to learn about new cultures and see the world.