Anna – Exchange to VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Semester 2, 2016
Five months in the Netherlands and only one to go!! At the moment I am on holidays from uni for Christmas and the New Year. A two-week break is very different to the long Australian summer holidays! My mum and dad gave up the warm summer weather to visit me for Christmas. The cold, dark days we are experiencing are such a contrast to the long, hot summer days our family and friends in Australia have been enjoying. But winter in Europe has its perks! Pretty Christmas lights decorating houses, streets and canals; bustling Christmas markets with beautiful hand-made gifts and delicious local foods; and my favourite Dutch Christmas/New Year treat, oliebollen, a deep-fried, dumpling sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Mum and dad’s visit was the perfect opportunity to explore some more of Amsterdam. On their first morning we did a free walking tour of the city, which included the Red Light District, the hidden Catholic churches, the smallest house in Amsterdam and more! We warmed up after with a hot lunch of stamppot, a traditional Dutch meal of potatoes mashed with other vegetables and served with a meatball or sausage.
Over the next two days we visited the Van Gogh museum and the Banksy and Warhol exhibition at the Moco museum. It was very interesting to learn more about the troubled life of Vincent Van Gogh and to see how this is reflected in his art. Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings are some of my favourites, it was wonderful to view an original in person. The Banksy and Warhol exhibition was such a contrast, a very fun and thought-provoking exhibition.
The Dutch are famous for their cheese! Mum and I visited the Amsterdam Cheese Company and taste tested a number of different cheeses. We bought a wedge of Dutch Gouda Old, which is matured for 14 months, and enjoyed this on Christmas day with a delicious fig and date jam. On Boxing Day evening, we rugged up to walk the route of the Amsterdam Light Festival, an annual light art festival in Amsterdam. The artworks were displayed in the Herengracht canal and in a park area.
Between Christmas and New Year we took a trip to Brussels in Belgium, a short-train ride from Amsterdam. As I hadn’t yet had a chance to visit any Christmas markets, I really enjoyed the markets in Brussels. We also spent a day in the beautiful town of Bruges. The weather was so cold!! While walking through the park, ice crystals were falling from the trees. It was enchanting! I couldn’t resist the many chocolate shops and bought a number of treats to take back to Amsterdam, however the highlight of our trip was visiting my friend Karlis. Karlis is a resident at The Student Hotel, where I live in Amsterdam. His family live in Brussels and invited us over for a lovely meal. It was so nice to be in a home after all these months away.
On Dad’s last day in Amsterdam we visited the Amsterdam Museum. My favourite exhibition was the Amsterdam DNA, an interactive exhibition that highlights the city’s fascinating history. Afterwards, Dad and I took mum to our favourite pancake restaurant to indulge in some delicious Dutch pancakes and poffertjes. Dad has now left for Australia, while Mum will be here for one more week! We are planning to explore some more of Amsterdam together with a couple of day trips to other cities/towns.