After a fun day in Brussels, the class started by visiting the Manneken Pis and buying chocolates, waffles, and beer as we walked back to the train station for Bruges. Once arriving in Bruges, we sampled the local food for lunch where I had Flemish beef stew, and while delicious tasted no differently than what we have back home. After divulging in the local cuisine, we saw Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child which was spectacular to see. Afterwards we took a relaxing canal tour taking in as much of the local scenery as possible. The trip concluded at the Belfry of Bruges, but unfortunately too late to climb the 366 steps. Bruges is a quaint town with a lot of history, and for only a short visit the class saw a lot of great architecture, art, and history.
Friday begun with class as usual, but the weekend would begin shortly after. When we got dismissed from class is was a scramble back to the rooms to begin our first free weekend in Amsterdam; some of us would not spend it here. Prior to arriving in the Netherlands, a small group of 6 planed a trip to Paris for the weekend. Word spread through the class and three others decided to join the adventure in Paris. We all were going abroad while studying abroad, it seems very fitting to do so. After navigating through the platform to catch out train, transferring trains, and the grueling time spent on the train to France, we finally made it. Late Friday afternoon we stepped foot into our second country on our European summer session.
After just now getting confident with our navigation skill of Amsterdam, we now much learn a whole new system in Paris; luckily it wasn’t that different from Amsterdam. Finally we made it to our hotel room, and it was lacking in size in relation to most American hotels, but we dropped our things and headed straight for the door to explore what parts of Paris we could while the sun allowed it. The hotel was kind enough to provide a map of Paris, and as luck would have it we were 2 blocks away from a monument.
The Place de la Bastille is a square in Paris where the Bastille prison once stood, but it was destroyed during the French revolution. Now the July Column stands in the center of the square to commemorate the events on the July revolution in 1830 with the name of those who fell during the revolution written in gold on the monument. It was erected between 1835-1840 standing 154 feet high and perched on top is “Génie de la Liberté” or the “Spirit of Freedom.” After visiting the monument we grabbed a late dinner and returned to our room for some rest; tomorrow was bound to be busy.
Rising earlier than normal, we all set off to explore all of Paris that we could in what little time we had. Jumping on a metro we headed to the second attraction, The Louvre. Exiting the metro you find yourself under the Louvre in a mall, which I was unaware it had. The “carrousel du louvre” is an underground mall that holds the entrance to the Louvre as well as many fashion stores. Wondering through the mall I did find a 65,300-euro Rolex watch that is roughly 70,500 USD, so I didn’t leave Paris with a Rolex. After navigating the mall I found the entrance that stretched around the corner and through the mall, so being on a tight schedule I decide to come back later to enter the museum, which never happened. Exiting the mall leads you to a courtyard that was surrounded by the Louvre, and it was a sight to see. Being surrounded by one of the world’s largest museum and monuments was astonishing. Even in the courtyard had amazing works to see, including an arch depicting the romans and the infamous glass pyramid. Naturally I took pictures with everything.
Next a group ventured to the Eiffel Tower, which was quite a walk. This was a great time to explore the city, and I’m glad we did. On the way we stumbled across the famous lock bridge where people place locks on the bridge as a symbol of love, or something like that. I chocked my vomit and continued to the Eiffel Tower to meet some other friends; it was easy to find because it visible from almost everywhere in the city. Finally, I was at the base of the tallest structure that I have ever seen; it was breathtaking. Standing 324 meters tall (1, 063 feet) and was the tallest building in the world from 1889 to 1930; it was erected as the entrance to the world fair and is symbolic of the French revolution. I wanted to go up in the tower, but being the middle in the afternoon on Saturday the lines were far too long. So I again decided to come back later on Sunday morning where I was able to go to the summit of the tower and see the remarkable view of Paris.
The next stop was Notre-Dame, and as always the lines were far too long to wait through. This catholic cathedral is known for it’s French gothic architecture and is one of the most widely known churches in the world. The western side of the building is known for the two towers that stand together and is visible from most of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. This cathedral houses some of the most historic relics in Christianity such as the crown of thorns, a shard from the original cross, and one of the holy nails. It was fascinating to see one of the most notable cathedrals in Catholicism.
The final stop was the Arc de Triomphe. Standing 154ft tall is was commission by Emperor Napoleon in 1806 and honors those who died in the French Revolution and the wars of Napoleon era, with the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI resting underneath the arch. It has the names of the French victories and generals inscribed on it’s surfaces. This was a great way to end the trip in Paris, seeing a monument to commemorate the victories of the French people. I’ll leave you with this funny story; the bus driver asked us where we were from (confused us for Australians) so we told him the U.S. and without hesitation he responded, “thanks for 1945.” This caught me off guard but was hilarious! I though of the perfect response after I sat down; I should have said, “thanks for the Statue of Liberty.” In the end this was an awesome weekend trip in one of the most historic cities in the world.
A group of us planned a trip to Paris where a great time was had by all. While there I saw the Mona Lisa and tried to see as much as I could at the Louvre; we arrived late and only had one hour. The amount of art and history there is unfathomable. We saw pieces dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Islam, etc. The following morning some of us went shopping and walked through the city on foot. We made another stop outside of the Louvre for some photos before making our way to the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Everything we saw was stunning and fortunately enough the weather was cooperative – sunny with a cool breeze.
This morning the class met to visit the Van Gogh museum located in the museum district. This area has spectacular architecture and various art museums. The tour guide, Jeroen, was very informative as he lead us through Van Gogh’s art career lasting only around ten years. The tour did not spend much time looking at all of the numerous works, but focused specifically on different time periods throughout Van Gogh’s career.
As a former art major, I absolutely loved seeing original pieces. His pieces are iconic and breathtaking in person, not necessarily from a technical level, but emotional.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but seeing the original is priceless.
The day started with class talking about the Red Light District and how prostitution benefits from economies of agglomeration and conglomeration. Similar to car dealerships, prostitutes benefit from being nearby each other, and having merchant suppliers close too for necessary supplies – condoms, sexual stimulation instruments, etc.
Following an interesting class regarding the Red Light District we proceeded to take a tram and train to see some wind mills in a quaint nearby area. The class did make a wrong stop in Zaandam, but eventually found our way. The wind mills were quite a site to behold accented by a beautiful countryside and farm animals. We also saw the first Albert Heijn store – a grocer with nearly a monopoly in Amsterdam from what I can tell. The class also had an opportunity to witness a draw bridge that allows larger ships to travel along the canals. While no one was ever in any danger, Dr. Pruitt quickly made sure nothing was left to chance when crossing after the warning siren started to blare.
An early awakening this morning was not the way to start the day; groggy, tired, hungry, and caffeine-less was a mixture that has the potential to lead to an awful morning. That would quickly change. The morning was shortly followed by a visit to the Anne Frank House. Immediately after exiting the tram you could see the line form the entrance stretching around the block. We were fortunate enough to have front-of-the-line passes to allow us to enter the museum as a group. One of the first things upon entering the museum, before entering the warehouse (house), was a large quote on the wall dated 11 April 1944 by Anne Frank: “One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!” This was a bit overwhelming. Much like other places all over the world, equality is not a basic human right. Many nationalities, genders, and religions are viewed as inferior or second-class citizens; much like the Jews during World War II. This was a quick taste of her life and other Jews during this period. They wanted nothing more than just to exist, unbothered, and equal.
I’m sure many of you know the highlights of Anne’s life and the struggles of being Jewish during this era, so I’ll spare you the history lesson. The tour starts at the bottom of the house where the warehouse was. No worker was aware of the hiding place, with the exception of the office staff. The second floor is where the offices were, and the third was the storeroom where the product was housed. The third floor had a secret, actually a “secret annex,” that two families were hiding in the back section of the house. A movable bookcase that concealed a small door, disguised access the annex. The moment I broke the plane of the small door, which I even had to duck to get in, it felt surreal where I was. This is where the Frank’s and others hid for two years; quietly, secluded from society, with very little room and diminishing supplies.
This secret annex composed of two stories, smaller than a dorm room on each floor, which housed a family and other inhabitants. After seeing these living conditions and reading quotes of the daily struggle from Anne’s diary, many emotions flooded me. When I finally made it to Anne’s room the emotions become very clear, it was humbling. This was a very sad and tragic set of events that has bruised history forever; you couldn’t help but feeling humble and thankful for how well we actually have it. It’s almost too much to take in at once; such an intense moment in history staring you in the face showing it’s magnitude.
On 4 August 1944 the house was raided and the following month the eight inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. As the allied forces closed in on Germany, many Jews were sent on death marches or other camps to meet their fate. On January 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz but the only survivor was Otto Frank. Anne died March 1945 due to typhus in Bergen-Belsen camp; she died slightly prior to liberation thinking that she as the only survivor of her family. Otto Frank later return to Amsterdam to publish her diary.
The last exhibit in the museum was Anne’s original diaries, including the first she received when she was 13 and subsequent diaries and collection of stories. Anne always had aspirations to become a famous writer, which was new knowledge to myself, and she unknowingly did just that. Reflecting on this whole tour was a bit overwhelming, yet informative. A visit to this museum will definitely make most people, even the coldest at heart, feel some sort of felling’s; it’s inevitable. This is a must see museum.
Closing, I would like to point out how much of a black eye genocide is to society. I would like to think we have evolved from that, but how far away are we from it? There are radical Islamic terrorist that would love nothing more to round up non-Muslims, even some other Muslims, and decapitate us one by one. I’m aware calling all Muslims terrorist is like calling all Christians Klan members; one person doesn’t reflect the whole group. My point is that there are individuals, and substantial amount of them, that still foster the ideas of genocide. I just think it’s up to society as a whole to ensure this atrocity doesn’t happen again; especially that it’s us with the target over our head, just like a gold star.
After a great morning tour of the Anne Frank Huis, the class met with a former sex worker and head of the Prostitution Information Center – Mariska Majoor. She had a wealth of information regarding how the sex labor force operates in Amsterdam, sex worker rights, and the issues surrounding the industry. We briefly toured the Red Light District (RLD) for those who have not had the opportunity to see much of it.
The RLD is not nearly as overwhelming and breathtaking as some might think. That said – it really comes to life in the evenings around 21:00 and later.
This morning we went to visit the Anne Frank house. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the house, but I was very impressed. It was one of those places that is very emotional to visit because I have known the story so well since I first read the diary when I was younger. Seeing the actual rooms where the family stayed as well as so many more stories and artifacts was really special. After the museum I came back to the room and literally took a 5 hour nap, leaving only a little time to get food before going to the prostitution information center. I learned a lot from our tour about how legal sex work is done from the business side of things. It was eye opening to hear someone speak so strongly in favor of sex workers rights. Although I don’t agree that it should be legal everywhere, I can see both sides of the issue.
Today began early at 7:30 with my alarm going off to go to the Anne Frank House. When we got there I already saw what looked like a line that would take all day to go through. Fortunately, we had passes and were able to go straight in. The Anne Frank House was eye opening for me. I have had many classes focus on her diary and there was always talk about the Anne Frank House. I never thought that going would be a reality for me, and further, that it would have such an impact. I tried reading and watching as many of the entries from Anne Frank’s diary as possible that were around the building to try and get an even better sense of what was going on there throughout the day and in her thoughts. I really like how the House was designed to teach you solely about the Secret Annex as opposed to the Holocaust as a whole. It gave me a new perspective into the Holocaust because it showed me a view of it that I had not previously focused on.
The Prostitution Information Center was very interesting. Knowing that our guide was an actual window sex worker made all of her information and stories credible. She had lived it since she was 14 years old. She wasn’t worried or offended by any questions that were asked of her and answered them fully. I wasn’t aware that the Mayor is attempting to essentially shut down the red light district in an effort to make way for more cultured businesses and shops pertaining specifically to the arts.
- Anne Frank and her family/friends were in hiding for nearly two years.
- Anne Frank died one month before she would have been freed.
- Tax evasion is punishable by hefty fines as opposed to jail terms
- The red light district is having its own personal recession at the moment
- Bikes are a much better way of getting around in Amsterdam
This morning the class toured the Anne Frank exhibit, and words can hardly illustrate the experience. The tour was a humbling and solemn experience. I’ve visited the Vietnam Memorial, and this experience was just as surreal and breathtaking. I read the diary and watched the movie, but nothing could have prepared for me for actually walking through the attic and seeing pages of the diary. It suddenly made the atrocities committed by the Nazis immediately present and real. This wasn’t the story of a girl I never knew in a place I could only imagine; I was standing where she stood.
Standing in the attic, gave the book great magnitude and meaning. The saying goes: a picture holds a thousand words, this experience was no different.