Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Netherlands for the Weekend


I worked like usual but left at about 3 PM and went home. I began gathering things for my trip to Amsterdam and the Netherlands since I hadn't done it the night before and at 7:45 PM I was picked up by a member of the Paderborn University Formula Student team (equivalent to FSAE.)
[more info here]
Formula Student as they call it in Europe (there's no SAE in Europe but something like it) has only been around since 2006. The Paderborn team has been around since then. They don't learn any practical application for things like SolidWorks in courses and the team has a sponsor who offers courses for participants. Team membership is on a completely voluntary basis and so they have issues recruiting members. Funding comes from three main sponsors and the team attends two or three competitions a year. This year they went to one in Hungry one in Germany and one in the Czech Republic (I think...) European competitions are later in the season than US ones which would make attending the Michigan competition a struggle. Most team members are in a masters program as rules in Europe on masters students participation are different because universities, and the time spent in each level, in Europe are different.
I went with her to their shop that I had first visited the night before and I met more of the team. After a bit, we all went together to a bar and gathered in the basement for drinks and food. Everyone was excited about having a contact in the US because the team wants to come to the Michigan competition in the future. Money is the main issue they have with traveling to the US.

They would also like me to help them with their business plan this year before I go back to the US and maybe even with the marketing plan. Finally around 11 pm I got a ride back and threw my things in my bag and went to bed.


I woke up as if it was a work day and because it was so early I walked to the train station because there are no buses running that early in the morning. I got on a train at 6:30 AM and went to Duisburg where I had to change onto an international ICE train but I waited an hour until my next train at 9:26 AM to Amsterdam.

On this train, I met a girl from Taiwan, we talked and I told her about the walking tour I was going on and about CouchSurfing and she was really impressed that I would travel alone in Europe and that I was OK with staying with complete strangers. I gave her information on both the tour and CouchSurfing and we planned to meet for the tour and go together but she wasn't there and I was a bit sad.

Once we arrived in the city, I got off the train and went directly to the tourist information area across the street but there wasn't anything I wanted or needed and everything was for sale rather than free. You also needed to get a number to talk to someone. I didn't need that so, I went into the city again and just began to walk around. I first found Dam, where the National Monument is located and the Royal Palace is also located. I saw a sign advertising an Andy Warhol exhibit inside a church and I decided to go in.

I paid 7,50 Euro and went into the church that had the exhibit on display. It was interesting to see the exhibit but I was a bit shocked to see there was only one image of his, last supper (pink), and the rest of the church was empty. There was also a short documentary of his life. The documentary was in English with Dutch subtitles so it was easy to follow.

After I saw his work and watched most of the documentary, I wandered the church. I found out that not only was it a neighboring building to the palace, it was also where each monarch in the long list of monarchs was crowned there. Also, the place, Dam, the square that the church borders, was literally that. The dam on the Amster river.

I left the church and went to the meeting point where I met the tour group and got my ticket. Finally we broke off into two groups and we began the tour. Like the other free walking tours I have gone on, this tour was three hours long and you're walking and learning all the way.

I learned all about the city and why it's roads are narrow and the buildings are tall and even about their sky hooks used to lift furniture and goods up and into a house. Storage in the basement wasn't possible since the city is below sea level and everything gets wet.

We walked through the exclusive section of the red light district and around churches and so much more. According to the website, we visited:
  • The Old Church
  • The Red Light District
  • The Jewish Quarter
  • Royal Palace
  • The Jordaan District
  • The Anne Frank House
  • The Dutch East India Company
  • The Begijnhof Convent
  • Masterpieces of Dutch Art
  • The Widest Bridge and Narrowest House
But really, we saw so much more! I had an awesome host named Ged and even though he was from Great Britain, he knew a lot about the city! He answered all my questions and even told me some things I probably didn't need to know.

We ended the tour at the Anne Frank Haus but I didn't have time to go inside, or so I thought. I thought that I was to meet my host at 5 PM but I later found out that we were to meet at 6 PM. Since I thought I was meeting my host at 5 PM I went to our meeting place and called him but he told me wouldn't be ready until 6 PM so I wandered the area more and found Amsterdam's most famous coffee shop and made a stop inside.

I even bought some souvenirs and Christmas presents and then met with my host. We had to wait for his friend to arrive because he drove her home and we were on our way to his home in den Haag. When we were nearly there, we went shopping for some items for breakfast and then went to his place.

To be honest, his house didn't look like much from the outside. It was quite industrial looking with a big heavy, thick door, but once inside it looked modern with tall glass wall length windows. Yet, even given the clashing appearances from outside the inside was different yet and had a cozy feel to it.

We had a drink and talked some and then his brother, who is living with him currently, came home and we all talked and had the TV on in the background.

Not too much later, my host left to spend the night at a friends and I hung around with his brother for a while but finally retired upstairs to take a bath, yes a bath, it's been months since I have even seen a bath tub! Man, was it relaxing to lay for an hour in the warm water! Finally though, I pulled myself out of the bath and went to bed, in a king sized bed with a full foam mattress.


My host, Mark, came home from his friends place around 9AM and made me eggs with ham and cheese for breakfast, kind of like an omelet. We weren't in a hurry to go anywhere so we played some XBox and then he showered while I read.

When he came downstairs, we went into the city to explore. It was raining quite hard so we had umbrellas and walked through the city center of den Haag. We stopped for coffee and some food in a nice coffee shop (not like the ones in Amsterdam...)

When we were done with our food, we left the city center and went to Medoradam.
Madurodam is a miniature city located in The Hague, in the Netherlands. It is a model of a Dutch town on a 1:25 scale, composed of typical Dutch buildings and landmarks, as are found at various locations in the country. This major Dutch tourist attraction was built in 1952 and has been visited by tens of millions of visitors ever since.
The miniature city was named after George Maduro, a Jewish law student from CuraƧao who fought the Nazi occupation forces as a member of the Dutch resistance and died at Dachau concentration camp in 1945.

This park was the inspiration for Storybook Land, attraction which was opened in Paris in 1955. In addition, a visit to Madurodam inspired Fernando de Ercilla to start the project of Catalunya en Miniatura, one of the largest miniature parks in the world, which was opened in 1983 in Catalonia, Spain.
After we wandered Medoradam for an hour or two, we went to the north sea and walked on the beach a bit and around the breakers there. On our way back, we stopped for some fresh fish at a restaurant along with a beer, Heineken of course.

We did a quick drive by of the Peace Palace. No, literally, we drove in front and I took a photo and we left. There was no going in (as far as I could tell) and all I wanted was a photo anyways... We then drove back to Mark's house to relax some, it had been a long day.

We walked to a supermarket near his house and bought some stuff to make dinner and went back. I wasn't hungry yet so we watched a movie and then he cooked me dinner. It was like a chicken alfrado but it wasn't cheesy, more of a cream sauce.
We then watched some Dutch TV and he played me some music from the Netherlands and we relaxed a bit. He made me a CD with some Dutch music though since English is nearly the first language, the music was mostly in English as well. Mark left again to go to his friends for the night and I went to bed.


When I woke up at 8 AM, Mark still was not home and I didn't know when he would be home so I made breakfast and got ready. By 9 AM I was ready to go and had gathered my things, I left mark a note thanking him for his hospitality and left the house.

I walked to the tram which was near the grocery store we went to before and got on and went on my way to den Haag Centraal station where I got on a train to Lieden Centraal station where I would need to change my train to get back to Amsterdam.

I had the option to take a bus to Amsterdam since there was construction preventing me getting to Amsterdam or I could wait 20 minutes for the next train. I was in no hurry to get anywhere, I waited for the train in Lieden Centraal station and 20 minutes later I hopped on and was back on my way.

When I arrived in Amsterdam I walked to the Dam and National Monument then went to the Anne Frank Haus because I didn't get to see it on Friday. I waited in line to enter for about about 45 minutes before I got in and paid 9 Euros to enter.

It's amazing how cramped the house was but what was more amazing than the fact that 8 people lived there in silence hiding from their near imminent deaths was seeing Anne's multiple diaries and stories she wrote while in hiding and that they survived the war.
For her 13th birthday on 12 June 1942, Anne Frank received a book she had shown her father in a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book, bound with red-and-white checkered cloth and with a small lock on the front, Frank decided she would use it as a diary, and began writing in it almost immediately. While many of her early entries relate the mundane aspects of her life, she also discusses some of the changes that had taken place in the Netherlands since the German occupation. In her entry dated 20 June 1942, she lists many of the restrictions that had been placed upon the lives of the Dutch Jewish population, and also notes her sorrow at the death of her grandmother earlier in the year.
On the morning of Monday, 6 July 1942, the family moved into their hiding place, a secret annex.

Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression that they had left suddenly, and Otto Frank left a note that hinted they were going to Switzerland. The need for secrecy forced them to leave behind Anne's cat, Moortje. As Jews were not allowed to use public transport, they walked several kilometers from their home, with each of them wearing several layers of clothing as they did not dare be seen carrying luggage.

The Achterhuis (a Dutch word denoting the rear part of a house, translated as the "Secret Annexe" in English editions of the diary) was a three-story space entered from a landing above the Opekta offices. Two small rooms, with an adjoining bathroom and toilet, were on the first level, and above that a larger open room, with a small room beside it. From this smaller room, a ladder led to the attic. The door to the Achterhuis was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered. The main building, situated a block from the Westerkerk, was nondescript, old, and typical of buildings in the western quarters of Amsterdam. - Wikipedia

After the sobering museum I walked back to the main train station while stopping in a few coffee shops for well, you all know.

When I arrived at the train station, I didn't know where to go or which train to take so I went to information area and I got a number A474. When I got to the counter they were on C248 great This would take forever!

I realized quickly that I was at the wrong counter and went to the correct one where the woman printed me an itinerary and told me to run, I ran to platform 5 and just got on the train in time.

Since I didn't reserve a seat, I wandered the train until I found an empty seat to relax in until I reached my destination of Duisburg. Since I had Internet on my phone again, I was back in Germany, I could find my way back to Paderborn using the application from DB.

I stopped for some quick food and went to the platform where I boarded a train to Hamm (Westf)

When I arrived in Hamm, the train I needed to use to go to Paderborn was there so I boarded but there were a ton on soccer fans on the train too and they were loaud! I had to put up with their singing and yelling nearly the whole way and they caused a 20 minute delay from being too loud and jumping and shaking the train.

Finally, I arrived in Paderborn and left the station to wait for a bus. I took the number 11 bus home and opened a beer and tried to respond to emails before sleeping.

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