Usually when I return from a weekend trip, all I have to bring with me are photos, memories, and perhaps a souvenir or two to remind me of the glorious 48 hours I spent in yet another foreign city. But not this time! I brought Emily back from Cologne, and after fashioning a makeshift mattress on my dorm floor at 2am, we were as pumped up as ever to savor our last days in Europe together. Unavoidably, class got in the way of us being able to do stuff during the day but after I introduced Emily to the bike lif, she was out and about to explore the City and the Dam while I spent the day in class. But that’s what afternoons and evenings are for!
For anyone who goes to Utrecht, climbing the Dom Tower is just one of those things you have to do. It’s like going to New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty. Not allowed. With Emily here, I figured it was the perfect time to do it since I would need someone to motivate me (and complain to) up all 465 steps. The Domkerk, as the adjacent church is called, is the tallest church in all The Netherlands and built in the 14th century. The climb up was actually quite easy, since we stopped a few times in the bell attic and various lookout points. And the view at the top?
I also showed Emily around some of my favorite places in Utrecht, included the beloved 1 euro ice cream place near our dorms. After wondering for weeks what made this ice cream so addictive and unlike American ice cream, the owner told us it was “illegal stuff”, which I of course assumed to be what you would think. Turns out this illegal stuff is raw milk! It may not meet FDA standards, but it is the purest form of dairy around and therefore the tastiest. The Dutch do it better.
The last week was also about accomplishing everything we had planned to accomplish and just never did. That included a traditional Dutch dinner of Pannenkoeken at a cute little Pancake House. A 15-minute bike ride into the country brought us to a little cozy barn with some of the biggest and best pancakes around. They are both sweet and savory; I got mine with ham so I guess it can be called a hamcake 🙂
Thursday we had our final exam and in celebration of our last night, the whole Kriekenpitplein crew got a table at our favorite dinner spot along the Oudegracht (Old Canal), Il Pozzo. The waiters know us; their favorite American girls who they know to give complimentary water to and who will high-five them back and have no reservations about photobombing our group pictures. Even Emily, who just came from 10 weeks of eating authentic Italian, agreed that Il Pozzo is the real deal!
Since we turned our bikes in that night, we had to walk the full 2.5 miles back from the city center to our dorms. But with a beautiful sunset, ice cream in hand, and unbeatable company, the walk couldn’t be long enough.
Friday morning we had our final commencement with the class, and all went to a café with our professor for some farewells. If I will miss anything about the Dutch academic experience, it will be the professors. They are so approachable, accessible, and genuinely care about us, as students. They want to see us succeed and are always willing to help and accommodate any requests or needs – now understand why I always get anxiety about going to office hours in the States.
Most of us were staying in Amsterdam for the night, but Kristen and I parted ways from the rest of the group a little early because 1.) it was her BIRTHDAY! And 2.) her parents were waiting for us in Amsterdam. After sneaking on a train to Amsterdam (we were rebellious and didn’t buy tickets…just planned to hide in the bathroom if the conductor came to check), and a sweet reunion with Kristen’s parents, I dropped off my luggage and we all had lunch at a sandwich shop. As good as they taste, I will never be able to adopt the Dutch custom of eating a sandwich with fork and knife. It’s called finger food for a reason.
Aside from the birthday girl’s choice rule, Kristen and I were pretty museum-ed out after our study abroad, so we had a different kind of fun in mind: The Amsterdam Dungeons. Like a toned-down Halloween Horror Nights/fun house, the Amsterdam Dungeons recreated the underground scene of prisoners, treason, pirates, tavernkeepers, drunkards, and mad doctors from the 16th-18th century. Part historical reenactment, part horror show, our 80 minute exhibition tour had us screaming and clinging onto each other for dear life. But I really do love scary things, especially when you are chased out of the cellar by Jack the Ripper.
After a stroll along the canals, Kristen, her parents and I enjoyed a drink outside (last time I can do this legally for a few months) and then we said our goodbyes so I could meet up with the others at our hotel. Waking up this morning, I was relieved to find that there had been no flight delays, so far, so good. As I write this on the first wing of my flight <-
punny <- I feel the same bittersweetness I felt after my 10 weeks in D.C. last summer. Wherever you go really does become a part of you. While I only have memories and pictures (and some stroopwafels) to bring back to the states with me, I am thankful the memories I have yet to make with most of my Kriekenpitplein crew. And to think, I traveled across the ocean to make friends from home!
Thank you, Utrecht.
And thank goodness I found my passport.