The past few weeks have been nothing but stress-free and relaxing. I just returned from my 10-day vacation with a few friends and it was awesome! However, traveling in Europe during the winter can be a little bit chilly- to give you an idea, the temperature in Zermatt was waay below the freezing point.
Our first stop was Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city reminds me so much of Copenhagen- from their canals, to rustic architecture, to dangerous bike lanes. We stayed in a downtown hostel located in the center of Amsterdam. The location was prime! Restaurants and shops were conveniently located next door. We spent three days in the city doing walking tours, visiting museums, having pancakes for dinner, and many more exciting and relaxing activities. My favorite museum we visited was the Anne Frank’s House. We waited in line for an hour or two in the cold, but it was very worth it. If you didn’t know who Anne Frank was- she and her family were victims of the Holocaust. The museum has displays of pages from a diary Anne wrote during her time hidden in a room
View from the fifth floor of a store in Amsterdam.
Buildings near a canal way! So similar to Copenhagen.
Me in front of a canal way.
The walking tour was also very informative. We learned so much about how Amsterdam became tolerant of many concepts and ideas. We learned about the red light district’s history and why it is acceptable for women to operate their businesses. We learned about the conflict of different religions back in the day- mainly between Catholics and Protestants. Apparently, Catholics had secret churches hidden throughout Amsterdam when Protestants came into power… I have always loved walking tours. They make me appreciate and understand each city I visit even more. I would highly recommend them when you embark on your study abroad journey. It is very easy to find free (or as they call it, tip-based) walking tours- it’s an awesome deal because you pay for what you think it’s worth, you are the judge of your experience.
Paris! Woohoo. I enjoyed Paris a lot though we only spent 2 full days there. We stayed at Generator Hostel, which was nice, clean, and located roughly 20 minutes away from the center center by metro. Similar to Amsterdam, we also did a free walking tour here and learned about the history behind many landmarks. Our tour guide informed us of the time period where Hitler temporarily occupied (for the lack of better word) France. He apparently hid bombs under all the beautiful landmarks (like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre) that made Paris, Paris in attempt to destroy the city when he realized that he was slowly losing control. I am telling you! These tours are awesome history lessons. They are great ways to get to know cities.
Here is a photo of my friend, Gabby, and I near the Eiffel Tower.
The Louvre Museum.
Lastly, Switzerland. The Swiss Alps were so so amazing! We took a three hours train ride from Paris to Zurich, Switzerland. We spent a night in a hostel near old town Zurich. The vibe here is quite different from other places I have been to. Zurich seems to be very laid back, even more so than Copenhagen. We had dinner at the oldest Vegetarian restaurant! It was very expensive, around $5.50 per 100 grams. This was surely the only time we ate out in Switzerland. After Zurich, we hopped on the Glacier Express to Zermatt with an Interrail pass. I personally think Interail passes are very worth it since train tickets for Switzerland railways are extremely pricey. Anyways, the (almost) 360 view on the Glacier Express was so awesome! The mountains were truly incredible- they were one of the prettiest sights I have seen thus far in Europe. A fun fact is that the Glacier Express is apparently the slowest fast train. We spent 5 hours (!!) on the train and spent it playing cards, eating a bunch of snacks, and listening to the train audio that tells you history about each place we pass through. Once we got to Zermatt, we were all very pleased because the small town is incredibly gorgeous. Buildings were mostly wooden. Some properties had wooden picket fences around them. Though Zermatt is well-known for the ski resorts, we didn’t go snow boarding or skiing, we spent most of our time exploring the town, and walking everywhere. Everything about Zermatt was so breathtaking that I would recommend going even if you have no intention of participating in winter sports. Chances are it will be very expensive if you didn’t bring your own equipment. And even if you do, one round-trip on the ski lifts cost a fortune!
Here is a view of Zermatt! :-) It was freezing cold but very beautiful.
Here is a picture of my friends: Daniela and Laura!