Saturday, October 25, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: 24-Hours in Leeuwarden

I'm in a class called "The Netherlands and Its European Context" this semester and one of the things we have to do for this class is pick a city and present on it.  Two Thursdays ago, Marika chose the city of Leeuwarden to center her project/presentation on and needed to visit the city for research.  She was nice enough to invite me along!

After our classes on Thursday, we caught a train and made the three hour journey to Leeuwarden.  The train ride went surprisingly quick.  We got there around 5pm and after hunting down a map of the main city, we were both hungry.  So we got Pannekouken on a ship.  Because we can.

Apples and bananas :)

After dinner, it was getting kind of dark (it gets dark between 6 and 7 in the Netherlands.  I can't remember what it is at home) and we figured that we should probably start heading to our bed and breakfast.  This journey was more interesting than it should have been.  

Story Time: We spent some time walking around the bus station asking the various drivers if they took us near the street where we were staying.  No one had ever heard of this street and had no idea that there was a bed and breakfast out there if the street did exist.  Good feelings all around.  Finally one driver said that he thought his route would take us in the right direction at least.  So we hopped on the bus and got out when he told us too.  We ended up in the opposite side of town than we had wanted.  Grr... so we decided to walk, following our map on Marika's phone (because we only had a map of the main part of town.  Finally it got to the point where we couldn't find the next stop on our map, although we were making progress.  Then technology started working against us.  Marika's phone would shut down randomly even though her battery was at 50%.  How frustrating.  Luckily, we were in a residential area.  A car with a family in it pulled up to a house and we quickly caught them before they went inside (I remember from reading things about traveling in small groups of women that if I'm lost or confused that we should ask a local woman or approach a family for help).  We asked if they could help us figure out where our next landmark would be, so they whipped out their smart phones and looked up the walking directions for us.  We were about 1km away from our final destination and there were quite a few instructions to remember.  So the mother offered to just drive us there.  Normally I wouldn't get into the car of a stranger, but I've never felt unsafe in the Netherlands and this family seemed very nice.  We made sure that she really didn't mind, and she didn't, so we accepted her offer.  She saved us a lot of walking and a lot of frustration.  She was incredibly nice and I'll always remember her.  Her name was Edeke (sp?).

The moral of the story is to 1) look up directions from the correct train station (I searched for buses from the other train station in Leeuwarden, not the one where we actually got off), and 2) have a hard copy map.  I promise you, we've learned our lessons.

We arrived in one piece at the bed and breakfast, where we met the owner, Pieter.  Marika and I stayed in the small house in the garden.  It was quite cozy.

Story Time: There were robes that we could use for free and since it was a little chilly in the small cabin, of course we put them on!  When we put them on, we noticed all of these random sticky white patches all over both of our robes.  When I looked down, there was a giant spider crawling on me.  I hit it and it fell somewhere on the ground and then I threw my robe on the ground and Marika hit what she thought was the spider with her shoe.  Much screaming ensued.  We never saw the spider again.  And we realized that the white sticky patches were spider webs.  Gross.

Home Sweet Home.
The main house.
The next morning, we woke up, had breakfast in the main house, and Pieter offered to take us back into Leeuwarden since he works in the center of town any way.  We accepted.  We'd have to walk (not a big deal) and mess around with the buses (big deal) again.  That also meant that we'd have more time to spend actually in Leeuwarden.  Pieter dropped us off in front of the train station and we went on our merry way.

The first place we stopped was this leaning tower that used to be part of a church.  You can kind of see it in this picture.  Look at the edges of the picture and compare the edges of the building.  You can kind of see it.

In the morning when we went to see the tower, it was closed and really foggy, but we decided we would come back later that day when it was open to climb to the top.  So we went to a book store across the street.

The book store we went to was a Frisian bookstore.  Leeuwarden is situated in Friesland where people not only speak Dutch but a lot of people know Frisian and speak it either just with family or in every day life.  The lady in the book store was so excited that Marika had come to Friesland to see the place where her family might have lived at one point.  We asked her if she knew English when we came in, to which she responded something to the tune of "Ja, maar, jij spreek een beetje nederlands!" (Yes, but you speak a bit of Dutch!) and she insisted that we converse in Dutch.  It's rare that the people I encounter in Leiden will insist that we speak in Dutch when I try to speak Dutch.  If I say, "Wat zeg je?" (which is the polite way of saying "huh?") they'll assume I plain didn't understand a word they said and switch to English.  But people didn't do that so much in Leeuwarden.  I can't say that I'm unhappy about that.  I got to practice a bit (we kommen uit amerika en ik studeren engels en filosofie bij St. Catherine Universiteit-- We're from America/U.S. and I study English and Philsophy at St. Catherine University) and I realized that I understand more Dutch than I think I do.  Even though I can't form sentences like Marika can (though she's minoring in Dutch at her home school), I could listen and get a basic idea of what Marika and the book store lady were talking about.  This immersion method of learning a language is amazing!

After the book store, we went to the Leeuwarden history center so that Marika could get more information for her presentation.  What I found most interesting were the pictures comparing parts of Leeuwarden to how they once were to how they were now.  Some of the differences were shocking.  you might not know that you were looking at the same place:

After the history center came the Princesshoff where we visited an exhibit about tea and how people around the world have responded to it and gone crazy over it.  There's also an exhibit on ceramics, which was neat.

I found a princess cap and I put it on :)  (I hope that it was a princess hat.  Otherwise this picture is sour).
Tea drinking started in China...

...and traveled to Japan, where tea became an art form...
...and then came to Europe via trading.

After the Princesshoff, we walked to find lunch.  On the left in the picture below is the Dutch flag and on the right is the Frisian flag.

We went to the Fries museum to learn about Frisian culture some more.  I figured out that I can do this with my camera...

...while looking at pictures of the life of an average Frisian person.

Afterwards, we went back to the leaning tower and went to climb it!  What was weird is that you couldn't tell when you walked inside that the building had sunk into the ground.  Not really, any way.  But when you walked up the stairs, you couldn't help but notice that you were walking up some stairs and whipping around some corners faster than others-- you felt the lean rather than seeing it, which was interesting.

We got to the top and found this...

Scary panel where you could see the ground far below.
I'm having a lot of fun with this panorama option on my camera :)  This is Leeuwarden from above.
Just chilling on the window sill.
After coming down from the tower, we walked around Leeuwarden some more before getting dinner and heading for the train.

St. Bonifatius
It's too bad that Leeuwarden is a three-hour train ride from Leiden.  I'd like to come back here or explore other parts of Friesland.  Everyone is so friendly there and Leeuwarden was very beautiful.

Until next time, tot ziens!


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