*this post is super late... sorry folks*
Here in Turkey, they mark the end of the month of Ramadan with a holiday called Seker Bayram. I got a whole week off from work for the holiday and it translates into Sugar or Sweet Holiday and sweet it was!! I had already planned my week last spring and was ready to hop on the plane whe the time came. I flew from Istanbul to Vienna and overnight-ed there (I love Vienna). Then I hopped on another plane early in the morning, bound for Amsterdam where my lovely aunt and uncle picked me up and whisked me off to Rotterdam. We spent a couple of days together with them showing me great places like Delft, Den Haag and all around Rotterdam. It was their last weekend there as well, so it was a pleasure to spend it with them, even if the weather had no intentions of cooperating.
Me being cheesy in Delft. Everyone needs a shot in the big shoe when in Holland,
The beautiful streets and canals of Delft.
Deflt Blue Porcelain is what people think of when they think of Holland... well, that, the shoes and the tulips. In Delft, they even put it in the sidewalks and streets.
In Den Haag, we saw a procession of police waiting to escort a minister from Turkmenistan or one of the 'stans... it was pretty interesting... especially the cop on the end who was dancing...
The big cathedral in Den Haag. So beautiful.
My savoury Dutch Pancake... so yummy, washed down with a wheat beer... also yummy!
Every train station had a sign for the kiss and ride... so much nicer than the North American drop and ride or park and ride.
The boat we took for our tour around the harbour of Rotterdam. So nice!!
There they are... tulips! And these are wooden ones!
An old street car in Rotterdam.
A building in Den Haag.
After that I took a train to the most beautiful place I'd seen: Brugge, Belgium. It was the most beautiful little town with winding streets and canals everywhere. I really enjoyed wandering around trying to find my hotel on my own (not always that easy, since street signs are few and far between and the locals don't seem to know street names either - they mark a location by the church that is nearest). Once I found my hotel, I was thrilled to find out that I had the top floor where the roof was tilted and the view looked out over this fairytale city. It was simply gorgeous and the beer... well, it was DELICIOUS!! I even tried some of the local food (some of which was way out of my comfort zone: mussels au gratin, rabbit stew) and just loved it all. Not to mention the fantastic chocolate!
The view from my hotel in Brugge. It was beautiful!
The horse carriages were common and popular in Brugge. I didn't take one but I wanted to.
The peaceful cloisters in Brugge where women can live in peace and not be nuns. Very interesting and serene.
Mmmm... more Belgian beer! With over 1,000 varieties to try, I did my best but came no where close.
A Belgian waffle of course!! ;)
A very tasty brewery I found while wandering the streets in Brugge. I did a LOT of walking that day.
One of the first things I saw when entering the town. It was just so beautiful.
The next day, I hopped another train (the train system in Europe is fantastic and not that expensive really) bound for Brussels. I was fortunate enough to have a former colleague and friend who was letting me sleep on an air mattress at her place (and sleep great I did, by the way). She was also willing to be my guide that evening and to tell me the must see stuff in Brussels (she was the one who also suggested Brugge... by far my favourite place on the entire trip). I had some trouble finding her though as Brussels is much like Brugge in that no one knows the names of the streets and very few street signs or maps were around (unlike Paris from my previous spring break... where finding things was super easy). But find her I did and we went out for one of the best salads of my life in one of the prettiest restaurants I've ever seen. We also went to the local farmer's market that turns into a giant street bar! It was a blast and the beer... well, YUMMY!!This was my favourite beer: Raspberry beer!!!
The next day I hopped yet another train bound for Amsterdam and wandered around there for 3 days. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the city. People were friendly and relaxed and it was incredibly easy to get around and see everything. They even have a hop on, hop off canal tour, which I took. The weather finally began to cooperate and it was lovely.
The famous I AMsterdam sign. This is when I wish I had a travel buddy to take a pic of me in front of it.
The bell tower of the church next to the Anne Frank Huis... an amazing experience to visit there.
The view from my hotel on Prinsengracht.
The old Heineken Brewery that is now a museum and Heineken Experience. Very cool!