Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Europe Trip 2016 ~ Netherlands and Germany

The Netherlands was quite the adventure to say the least. But it challenged me and helped me grow.

The first day after I got off the boat, I went on a bus tour and canal tour. I was so tired I slept through half the bus tour, but enjoyed the canal tour, despite my best efforts to stay awake.

After I got off the canal tour I jumped the tour bus to stay at the Central Station instead of continuing on to the airport. It was only 11 a.m. My friend wasn't free until 6. I was so tired and had so much work to do I decided to just sit in the terminal and try to use the wifi to get some work done. But everywhere I sat, I fell asleep and had to move. I thought about getting a locker for my luggage and wandering around the city, but didn't think the price was worth the effort since I was so tired anyway. I'd rather have rented the locker to sleep inside.

After what seemed like countless hours, my friend I hadn't met yet arrived and we journeyed to her home in Utrecht. When I arrived there was a wonderful home cooked meal and wine and just a lot of happy and positive love in the home. It was very welcoming. The next day I borrowed a bicycle and went off to tour the city of Utrecht. It was a beautiful day and I had a wonderful time. People mistook me for a local left and right until I couldn't respond back in Dutch. Now I officially have a Dutch phone number with international data for the next couple of months. I walked and biked and chilled on park benches soaking in the sunshine and the good vibes before heading back to do some more emails and practice. Then it was time eat dinner and go to sleep.

Letting the bike rest in the park while I walked around taking pictures :)

Just had to stop for a cup of coffee, free restroom, and some free but failing wifi!

All I can say is that this dinner set the bar so high the rest of Europe hasn't touched it yet!

The next day was Saturday so I was able to hang out with my host and we went grocery shopping and walked around the Turkish neighborhood with all the amazing stores for food and goods. We ate Turkish pizza for lunch which was far better tasting than I had expected. It was a big piece of dough with a sauce and I had all the toppings of cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and I'm not sure what else lol! They rolled it up like a burrito and I could only eat half of it. After a lovely afternoon walking around the stores we headed back and while she cooked, I worked on my laptop. Terrible guest I know, but I did do all the dishes :)  She invited a bunch of friends over that night and we had a wonderful house party where I performed a half dozen songs for everyone. It was a lot of fun and they were a great group of friends.

Performing in the kitchen for a captive audience!!

The next day I had to leave but we were able to go walking along the canal late morning together and it was already so sunny, we both got sun tan lines!!! On the way to the train station, one of my suitcase wheels shredded. Then after I got to Amsterdam and was wheeling my suitcase to my next stop, another wheel shredded. Now I was pulling/pushing my suitcase half on plastic wheel casings. My wonderful host helped me out and I now have a new (to me) suitcase that functions properly!! I'm so grateful to the kind and generous people I meet.

Glorified golf carts??  I don't see how two people would get in or out of them. Amazed every time!

They are not all kind and generous though. I had confirmed (or so I thought) a host for the remaining three days in Amsterdam central. When we met, after I arrived from Utrecht, he declined to host me based on some "reasons" not proper to write, but I'm sure everyone can guess. Then he left me stranded and homeless for the night. I had booked an appointment late in the evening and I arrive in Amsterdam mid afternoon so I had several hours to kill. Once again I found myself sitting once in the Central Station. This time, though, since I'd done a lot of my catch up work for emails (I still have plenty to do...) I decided to practice violin for an hour. I figure the best place was at the piano in the main entrance hall. I could put my music there and sit and play without getting out my stand and also would be preventing a pianist from competing while I was playing. I wasn't actually playing for a crowd, but a small one gathered. Turned out to be my first busking experience ever.

Afterwards, I wheeled my luggage across town to the appointment. I was her last for the day and as we talked she learned of my situation. She asked what I was going to do and helped me find a relatively inexpensive place to stay. Her mother was staying in her guest room or she said I could have come home with her. She was very bubbly and played music from her home country for me through the procedure and we talked and laughed and then she asked me to let her know if I was ok that night so I texted her when I checked in. What another kind and generous person.

My first day in Amsterdam I walked all morning around the western half with a young French student staying in the same dorm room, before coming back to take a break. It was nice to have company for the morning. Then around 2p.m. I left for a very large (bigger than I expected) park nearby. When I walked down the stairs into the park there was already a violinist playing under the bridge. He was playing Por Una Cabeza no less. So I continued on in a quest to find a shaded venue that wasn't too loud or too windy and had some place for people to sit or stand. I finally found a small dock area with some benches where people fed the ducks and it was right across from a large children's park and pool that was very crowded. I set up shop and though I didn't make very much for the two hours of constant playing, I did get some practicing in so that was good. The problem playing out there is you have to play loud all the time and that's quite taxing on your body. I hope to find a better place next time and make more money.

My second busking location in the park.

The weather here has been wonderful. Sunny and in the 70's everyday so that all the locals and tourists are outside covering all the grassy spots with blankets and the roads with bikes and skateboards. It's quite the city to people watch.

I made a new friend the last full day I was in Amsterdam. She was also traveling alone and was looking for company so we toured the rest of the city and hung out together the rest of the last day I was in Amsterdam as well. She was so kind and generous to also help translate with a Chinese doctor who didn't really speak English. We almost made a connection in Berlin a few days later but just missed each other.

Somehow I also managed to find a jazz bar named Bourbon Street in Amsterdam. They had a reference to NOLA inside. It was pretty weird but fun none the less.

And I found one of my favorite places (a playground)!!!

We had a fabulous couple of days in Amsterdam!

My favorite photo I took in Amsterdam.

After Amsterdam it was a train ride on to Berlin. I'd never been to Berlin so I was looking forward to the new city ~ until I got there. Berlin is just not my city. Nothing bad per se happened there, but the energy was all wrong. I was enjoying the ride through Germany, but upon entering Berlin that energy changed. It never reversed back to enjoyable although I had some fun times walking around the city and eating on the river and tasting a really good (southern) German beer listening to some jazz piano. One good thing to having fluid plans is that if you're not happy someplace you don't lose a lot of money canceling your plans and making new ones.

I booked a bus ticket the day of and took off for Prague just four days after I'd arrived in Berlin.

Perhaps my favorite photo from Berlin. It's part of a fountain in the plaza across the tracks from Alex.
Another favorite from the same fountain. The kid was just camped out on the statue and it looked so natural and precious.
And my third favorite photo (I've really been enjoying my new camera!!)  These little birds were relentless in their pursuit of my lunch. After I finished I set the plate on the other side of the table for them to eat and they did. Caught this one in mid flight.
My camera died so this picture isn't as nice, but it still captures the really tasty beer and the tents behind are just on the water front of the Spree!

Now for Prague and Vienna! Can't wait :)