Travel

In Love With Amsterdam

AmsterdamAfter completing the study semester at the FH Mainz back in February 2009, the 19-year-old traveller in me was finally free to explore Europe at my own leisure. Assessments and tests that had weighed me down for the past 5 months were now behind me and I was finally able to sightsee, discover and satisfy my wanderlust with a greater peace of mind. My final journey before returning home to Melbourne took me to three cities in the span of 5 days! I was so eager to mark more countries off my list that I travelled to both The Netherlands and Belgium that winter.

Amsterdam was my first stop after a train ride in from Germany. I booked myself a very cheap hostel not far from the city centre. After a short tram trip, I dragged my suitcase up a flight of very steep stairs in an old hostel building that was strongly infused with the smell of cannabis. Wherever I have lived thereafter, I could so easily distinguish this smell from the first instance, like an airport sniffer dog! Needless to say, my accommodation wasn’t anything fancy but at least there was a roof over my head. I was only in town for one night and almost immediately after checking-in, I was out of there to explore Amsterdam in all its glory.

Architectural Styles

Everywhere I looked there were bikes and cyclists! Amsterdam was cold and at one point there was even some snow falling, but I just simply wandered the streets crossing endless bridges over the Amstel River and gazing up at the beautiful architectural style that is synonymous with Dutch living. The local people spoke English so well that I found it so easy to ask for directions and order food. Having had to remind myself that I was in a foreign country, I felt so comfortable as an international tourist in this clean, vibrant city.

As the night fell and it got dark by around 5pm, Amsterdam became a magical place with illuminated bridges and lane-ways. During my short stay in the capital of The Netherlands, I didn’t get to enter the famous Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s famous paintings, nor did I visit the Van Gogh Museum or Anne Frank’s House, but I did tick off trying Dutch pancakes, buying cute clogs to take home as a memento and weaving in and among the millions of cyclists that call Amsterdam home.

Dam Square

Travel

Wandering through Strasbourg

As an Interior Design exchange student I didn’t have a lot of time for solo travelling during the study semester. I was on campus on most days of the week, listening to class lectures in German and English, and each day I would take the bus home with all my groceries and books, cook myself a simple dinner (usually pasta!) and do my homework or prepare for tests or assessments.

Thankfully during the semester the university would organise some really great, inexpensive day trips or overnight stays in neighbouring countries to encourage networking and broadening of our minds. It was so exciting to just forget about the overflowing workload on my desk and explore a new place, clear my head, indulge in photography, and try a new cuisine and a new culture. We’d all get on a bus and go on excursions to places such as design exhibitions in small Belgian towns, or the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein near the Swiss border with Germany or for one of our assessments we’d get involved in the design of our very own exhibition stand at the International Furniture Fair in Cologne, a short train ride away from my university in Mainz. All these experiences were amazing and gave students a deeper understanding of interior design and architecture practices in the real world.

I began to eagerly plan my own solo trips once the semester ended. I had an insane amount of wanderlust and yearned to see more and more countries around me. So I bought a train ticket from the station, organised a hotel for two nights and ended up in the most picture-perfect French city known as Strasbourg.

Buildings

Much to my dismay, not everything went smoothly. For starters it was raining and it was a Saturday morning in winter and that made getting out of bed hard and getting to the train station even harder as buses were scarce. Somehow I managed though and a few train changes later I was no longer in Germany, but now in France.

Tourist Area

Strasbourg was a very empty city that February. I had seen images of its main square so alive during Christmas time and I’d also seen the flowers blooming in gorgeous half-timbered cottage windows in summer, but unfortunately that winter it was just that little bit quieter and colder! If it hadn’t been for the university program organising a tour to Strasbourg that I missed due to my study load, I probably would never have even thought of visiting this magnificently enchanting city but I was really eager to see what my classmates got to experience. Sometimes that’s all the inspiration we need to see a new place!

Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region in France and lies near the border with Germany. It is home to the European Parliament with its ultra modern façade, and was once also home to Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type printing, who was ironically born in Mainz! An entire square called Place Gutenberg is dedicated to him and a statue stands there in his honour. The elaborate gothic red sandstone Strasbourg Cathedral is located at the heart of the city and is one of the main attractions for visitors. My favourite place to explore was Petite-France, where the river Ill splits up into a number of canals and stunning half-timbered medieval houses provide the most romantic of backdrops. Strasbourg was indeed the most brilliant of destinations for a weekend away and in my opinion it’s a little gem of a city that needs to be seen in all its glory, no matter the season.

Gorgeous Buildings

Half-Timbered Buildings