I figured I’d drop in and offer up an update as to my whereabouts the past two weeks. Having finally gotten pretty much accustomed to the way things work at The Hague University, I’ve been hitting the books quite a bit harder the past few weeks. The whole “self study” bit is still somewhat of an adjustment, but it’s a good exercise in building discipline.
The city itself is growing on me, too. Surprisingly, the weather has been quite good to date (knock on wood…seriously, do it – rain and I don’t get along too well). One of the things I thought I was going to miss most about Louisville was the fall – it’s by far my favorite time of year. There’s nothing like waking up early on a September morning, stepping outside and breathing the crisp Autumn air on the walk to school, absorbing the electric, fresh feel of campus that first week, and knowing that football season is merely days away. However, since Louisville saw temperatures in the 90s and 100s in September and since football hasn’t quite gone as expected, I don’t really think I’ve missed too much anyway. I actually consider myself fortunate because I’ll be in town for the thrashing (hopefully that’s not putting it too midly) of UK in basketball.
In addition to ramping up the studies, I traveled to Luxembourg City and Antwerp (instead of Oestrich-Winkel) last weekend with a few newfound friends. We were planning on going from Luxembourg to Oestrich-Winkel to see Maria and Kartik but only spending basically one day there wasn’t quite enough to justify spending the EU150 or so it was going to cost us to get there and then back to The Hague from Frankfurt.
Actually getting to Luxembourg turned out to be quite the adventure, though. Within five minutes of leaving Den Haag Central Station, we were already headed the wrong way (we didn’t see that we had to switch trains in Hollands Spoor). A culmination of this and several other train errors, some our fault, some not, led to us spending about nine hours on the train that day en route to Luxembourg. The city was very beautiful and had plenty of history, though. After quite a bit of searching – something important must have been going on in Luxembourg this weekend because all the hostels were booked – we were able to find a nice, affordable hotel within walking distance of the city center and enjoyed a phenominal meal from one of the nearby restaurants. Since this was only a weekend trip, after figuring out that it was going to be too expensive and that we didn’t have enough time to visit Maria and Kartik, we made our way to Antwerp on Saturday night.
Traveling without booking a hotel beforehand, although plenty adventerous, generally isn’t a good idea. Of course, we weren’t aware that we were going to Antwerp until Saturday afternoon so I suppose this one wasn’t our fault. We arrived in Antwerp around 20:00 and tried to take Frommer’s advice about a cheap hotel in town. Unfortunately, it was booked. As was the next one we went to. And the next. And the next. And every other hotel we asked.
Finally, after wandering around for some time, we found a cheap um…”hotel”. It was immediately and painfully obvious that the hotel wasn’t in the best part of town when I noticed that the window of the bar on the ground floor of the hotel had a rock thrown through it. I entered the building and was greeted not by a receptionist at a nice desk with posh lighting, but by a dimly lit hallway leading up the stairs to the left or into the bar on the right, an elderly African woman who was from Kenya, and her son (both of whom, I might add, were as sweet as can be). The place was actually a place of residence that I assume she (or they) bought and turned into a hotel. Unfortunately, the inside left a little to be desired. The light peaking through the door of our second floor room was the only one in the building to light our way up the steps, past the peeling paint, past the make-shift bathroom, and into our not-so-pleasant smelling room with peeling linoleum floors and no way to lock the door. I think the girls I was traveling with were horrified, but I was already relishing both how great of a story it was going to be and the low price. Predictably, we made it out alive and well and have now have a great story out of it.
Anyway, Antwerp was a magical, old-feeling city situated on the Scheldt River with cobblestone streets, guildehouses that date to the 16th century, the obligatory impressive Catholic cathedral, and even a castle. We were fortunate to witness some sort of parade through the city (one of the gentleman in the parade had an amazing handlebar moustache, I might add), drink beer in a bar that has been in operation since the late 1500s or early 1600s, walk through the diamond district, see authentic Belgian lace, and naturally, indulge in some fantastic Belgian waffles. It was great to get back on the road again.
I suppose it’s time to exercise some of that hard-earned discipline and continue studying for my Finance-5 test that’ll be administered tomorrow. My travels during fall break will take me to Geneva, Switerland for about five days where I’ll get to see among other things, the UN, the Alps, and hopefully some quaint Swiss town, and then up to Ireland for about a week where I hope to travel all over the island. Until next time…