confused, kitty, keyboard

Netherlands Emails: (31/31)

Finally reached the end (for reals this time)!  Kinda awesome that it took 31 posts, since I was there for 31 days...

Friday morning everyone lingered over breakfast, not really wanting to start the exodus.  Technically we were supposed to check out by eleven, but John didn't seem to care, so people just brought their suitcases downstairs and hung out in the breakfast room.  Finally, Jen, Rachel, Sarah and I decided to begin the trek home - they to Schiphol to stay in a hotel by the airport, me to Amsterdam for one last weekend of touring.  Jaime and Ariel had already left by then - they were headed to Paris, then Rome, maybe? - but most people were leaving on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning/afternoon, unless they were travelling for a bit after the program.  I can't imagine going anywhere else in addition to all the travelling we've already done, but Lauren was headed to London before coming back to Amsterdam for the flight home.  :P  

So ends Maggie's Netherlands adventures.  It's now 2 am the night before my flight, so barring some crazy apocalypse (or flight delay), I should be getting in to Seattle around 4 pm tomorrow (ain't time differences grand?).  I'll be seeing William then, and I'll be sure to call the parental units as well (or at the very least send a text, since apparently it's Emma's birthday tomorrow, and the party's at seven...and I may or may not be unconscious then).  
On to America, where the streets are paved with cheese!  

Angelic Vash

Netherlands Emails: (30/a zillion)

The End of An Era...

The last day of the program was rather uneventful: we had our last guest lecture at Erasmus University, then group dinner at six.  In the inbetween time I sorted through my dirty clothes and started packing things up.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated how much clothing I needed- I thought two weeks would be good enough for me only to have to do laundry once, but somehow it didn't work out and I was three days short.  So I ended up having to do one load of laundry.  :P  At the laundromat I ran into Chloe, Jeanna, and Katherine T., and we hung out at the pub next door while waiting for our clothes to finish.  The restaurant we had our last group dinner in was vaguely spanish - we had three courses once more, of cold tapas, warm tapas, then dessert.  We've gotten better at avoiding the overeating problem that some of my classmates suffered from in previous group dinners (I'd like to think that I was an excellent example in that regard), so dinner was quite enjoyable.  We took a collection to get John Baan a gift certificate to a restaurant, because he really made our hotel a home away from home and went above and beyond to help us with whatever we needed.  

Netherlands Emails: (29/a zillion)

The Dutch DC...
On Wednesday we went to the Hague to get a tour of the Royal Library (which was an adventure finding, because of - surprise, surprise - construction.)   By now tours of libraries had become sickeningly standard for us, but the Royal Library managed to wow us with an exhibit of ancient texts and government documents in a joint exhibition of the archives and the library.  Unfortunately, lack of funding is forcing the library to stop making those kinds of exhibitions.  :P  After the tour of the library, we went our separate ways, and I stopped at an albert heijns for lunch foods, then headed straight for theMauritshuis, an art museum that is housed in a building done in the neo-classical style, right next to the dutch parliament building and offices.  On my way there, I saw a giant crowd of people dressed in black robes and white cravats, all gathered in a square.  The mood was more relaxed than anything else, and there was an orchestra playing music under a tent, so I was rather confused.   I asked one of the police officer's monitoring the event, and she told me that since this square is adjacent to the parliament building, it is used for protests against parliamentary decisions - the people in robes were lawyers and judges, and they were protesting a recent decision.  Chillest protest I ever saw.  :D

The Mauritshuis is possibly my favorite art gallery that I've been to in the Netherlands, which is saying something, considering the number of galleries I've been to.  It's not so much the collection of art that the place has, as it is the place itself - instead of the modern fashion of giant blank walls with one painting on them, this house has retained it's character, with elegant wall fabric, bits of furniture placed around the room, frescos on the ceiling, and (most importantly) no giant paragraphs written on the walls!  I get so distracted by those - I feel like I have to read them all, but then I barely even glance at the art itself.  At the Mauritshuis, you get an audio tour free with admission, and I've finally realized how great those are - you can hear about the context of the piece or about specific details, without having to take your eyes from it!  Genius!  I don't know why it took me so long to realize this...  So I wandered through the relatively small museum (two floors, eight rooms each) slowly, enjoying the atmosphere of the place as much as the art.  

Afterwards I wandered towards the Binnenhof, but I couldn't find the entrance (I actually accidentally entered one of the office building - even went through x-ray and bag check - before realizing my mistake and sheepishly making my exit), so I moved on to the Prince William V Gallery, the first art gallery/museum open to the public in the Netherlands.  It's a tiny collection, done in the traditional gallery style, but remarkable because it was essentially a private collection open to the public.  What's even crazier about it is that it's in this tall, skinny building typical of dutch homes, but right next to an old dutch prison.  They also have tours of the torture room and gaols, but I missed the last tour and didn't feel like wandering through on my own.  An interesting video on display at the gallery speculates about the reason Prince William V chose to have his gallery next to the prison - their theory involving symbols of cultural/intellectual and judicial/legal power... meh, who knows?  

By then it was after five, so I wandered to the Oudekerk (because a dozen churches just isn't enough) and just checked it out from the outside.  I saw signs for the "Oudekerk Markt", which sounded like an open air market, but when I followed them, they actually led me to a metro station underground!  At first I was like, "Is this an underground mall?  Is Markt some sort of metaphor?" before common sense hit me.  Whatever.  I hopped on the metro back to Central Station, not wanting to walk back as it got colder (autumn had finally made it's presence known in the Netherlands, after some annoyingly muggy weather), then grabbed the metro back to Rotterdam, but not after finally weakening my resolve and getting a tall soy vanilla latte from Starbucks.  Bad new bears, there: starbucks cards do not work in the Netherlands - no free soy and flavor shots for me! :(  Found Jaime and Ariel on the metro and helped them navigate the confusing Beurs station (you have to actually ignore the directional signs in order to get to the right platform without having to check out, then in again, with your chipcard), before heading to the Rotterdam library for one last night of reading/chess watching. 

Netherlands Emails: (28/a zillion)

Milo would've loved this place...

On Tuesday we had another guest lecture at Erasmus, and in the afternoon, a tour of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, which is sort of like the Sound & Vision place, but with Architecture.  They too are part archive, part library, and part museum, and there were some pretty interesting exhibits using the huge collection of architectural models they have.  I'm torn between the crazy white suess-like room with spiral willy wonka-esque hallway leading toward it and the small room covered in giant movie screens depicting urban city-life (complete with sound effects) as the weirdest/most awesome exhibits, but I will say that the room filled with lego-stations to build stuff with was where I spent the most time, though Gary would totally beat me and Chloe in a building contest - but whatever, his bachelors is in graphic design, so it's not a fair contest.  :P  It was such a nice day that afterwards Chloe and I just wandered around Rotterdam along the canals and enjoyed the good weather.  
Omake Kimiko

Netherlands Emails: (27/a zillion)

More quiet this point, we were all getting pretty tired.

The last week in Rotterdam certainly was the quietest for our group.  A lot of people were sick, and the rest were thoroughly tired of the train system, so many of us stayed close to home, unless we were going out for a class thing.  On Monday after Trent's last lecture in the Olive Garden I went to see the Cube Houses, yet another of Rotterdam's architectural wonders.  The floor is even, but the walls are every which way, so the furniture actually has to be custom-made.  The houses really are rentable, but one is open for touring for a few euros - by the end of my walkthrough I was tempted to ask how much rent was per month (they're like treehouses, but even cooler).  I also wandered around yet another church, but since it was Monday, I couldn't go in.  Spent the rest of the day at the library, though, and tried an interesting wok/smoothie place called Eazie, though it didn't feel quite right to eat stir fry without William. :P  Some people had thrown together a potluck at the hotel, so I munched and chatted - I tried something that was like the giant, sweetened equivalent of a TCI communion wafer.  (You think you've found the weirdest food in the Netherlands, and then they just pull something else out of the giant bag of weird...)
Audrey Hepburn

Netherlands Emails: (26/a zillion)

Another quiet (though productive) Sunday...

I headed back to the hotel and chill for the rest of the evening, catching up on readings and chatting with my roomies Jen and Sarah L.  The next day I head back to Scots International Church and get in touch with the pastor, who had called the hotel and left a message for me, as well as a note.  Turns out he had just wanted to postpone our lunch to the next week, which was fine with me.  After church my group for our final project had a meeting, so I spent the afternoon trying to get an idea of how to begin looking for literature on the dud phenomena in musicals - it's as difficult as it sounds, really.  Got hungry 'round nine, so I wandered down the block to the "Mix R Chicken" for a doner broodje (sandwhich).  The place is as sketchy as its name, so I got take out and ate in the hotel while socializing.  At this point most of us are familiar enough with the country (and sick enough of trying to coordinate group outings) that we often do our own thing, or find just one or two friends to go with when exploring, so I tried to make sure I wasn't isolating myself too much.  
confused, kitty, keyboard

Netherlands Emails: (25/a zillion)

Uuuuutrecht! Tall buildings, churches, and tea!

So I'm settling in for a long night, because I did some research online, and according to the interwebs when you're travelling from east to west it is best to start staying up late and sleeping in before your flight, to prepare for the time change.  Unfortunately  that wasn't an option last night, but I figure one night should help me a little, at least.  And I've always been a good night owl.  

Going back to the Saturday before last, I decided to take explore Utrecht, mostly on the advice of Trent, who loves the city a ton (mostly because his best friend lives there, but whatever, I wasn't in the mood for Gouda [pronounced how-da, btdubs]).  So I took it easy, heading out in a leisurely fashion and getting there around noon-ish.  Unfortunately, one of the difficulties of the layout of Utrecht is that if you want to get to Dom Tower and all the other cool stuff, you either have to walk through a giant mall (Catherine Hoog), or take the long way 'round, with some pretty intense construction to have to navigate through.  I didn't want to walk through a mall (I can do that in the States), so I took the circuitous route, which, while scenic once you get past the construction, is a bit roundabout.  I found the Museum Speelklok easily enough, which is a museum dedicated solely to mechanical instruments: music boxes, chiming clocks, self-playing pianos, and even giant fairground organs.  The tour comes free with admission (which, thanks to the ever-useful museumkaart, is always free for me), and it's given in dutch and english (though I was the only person who needed the english version in my tour group. :P).  What's great about the tour is that rather than just walking around looking at these instruments, the tour guide plays a good portion of them for you.  Although I do wish that the concept of volume control had been invented a bit earlier - the music from the street organs was often very very loud (not to mention just a smidge grating on the ears).  Some of the organs were fifteen feet high and at least twenty feet long, and very... colorfully decorated.  Apparently street organs were especially popular in the Netherlands, more so than any other country - they figure it was all the flat land that made the things easier to tote around.  :P  You wouldn't believe how many different kinds of instruments there were; there was even a mechanical organ that included drums and violins!  

After grabbing the requisite postcards, I wandered towards the giant tower that dominates Utrecht's skyline, and stopped in at the ever-helpful VVV to see if they had any free maps (my guidebook's map didn't quite extend as far as I liked), but what I found instead was that the only way to go up the giant tower was to buy a ticket for a tour (6 euros for students, w00t!), and the next one started in twenty minutes!  I wandered in for a quick look round the Domkerk (which is actually separate from the Domtoren, something I'll explain in a bit), and suddenly found myself listening to a lovely chorale group rehearsing.  I hung about as long as I could, then scurried back to the VVV for the tour.  The tower has over 400 steps, some of them quite steep (as is characteristic for the Netherlands), but there are a few rooms in the tower to pause in while the guide tells us about the building's history. 

 The first room is only a few stories up, and is actually often used as a wedding chapel, since it's so very picturesque (very small weddings, as I doubt more than twenty guests could be seated comfortably).  The uppity-ups used to have special ceremonies and meetings there.  A few more stories up, there's another room that has some historical exhibits, but most importantly, a narrow spiral staircase that leads to a tiny door.  During the religious revolution, the staircase was actually just a ladder, and the tiny door lead to a room stocked with food and supplies: it was kept as an emergency refuge for the catholic bishop, in case the protestants started rioting (as they often did - those nutcases used to destroy the faces of beautiful sculptures for fear people would worship them).  He'd pull the ladder up after him to keep from being followed; apparently ladders weren't too common then, or else the angry mob would've just fetched another. :P  

This room is also where our guide explained how the space between Domkerk and Domtoren (Dom Square, imaginatively enough) came to be.  Domkerk was built in a few stages - first, the original bit that I wandered into for a moment, then the tower, some ways away, and finally, the second bit of the church, which is now Dom Square.  The reason it is now Dom Square instead of a perfectly good church is that the protestants were becoming rather popular, so nobody wanted to give money to build a catholic church anymore.  Short of funds, the builders didn't include the flying buttresses that the other part of the building had; which, in addition to looking ridiculously ornate and rather silly, actually serve a rather important structural purpose (who knew?).  This worked just fine, until this crazy hurricane came along: the old part of the church and the tower were just fine, but the non-buttressed bit collapsed into a heap of rubble.  The even more pathetic bit is that, since Catholicism was still rather unpopular, there wasn't even enough money to clean it up!  The rubble just hung about for two hundred years  or so, until sometime in the 19th century when somebody decided that a giant heap of rubble isn't very good for tourism, and decided to clean it up and create the square.  

The next room up had all the bigger bells, and boy were they huge!  They also hung rather low, so between them and the crossbeams you had to duck and weave to get around the place.  There were shutters of a sort over the window spaces, so you could only see down, but I tried to take pictures of the square from above anyway.  These large bells are not normally played, because they can only be played by hand, which means getting twenty people in the room below and having them all work together to make some sort of melody; but according to our guide they are played at Christmas and Easter.  I hope the bell ringers wear earplugs.  

The last room isn't much of a room at all, because of the huge window spaces that allow the sound of the bells to ring out.   This is where all the smaller bells are kept, and a machine pretty similar to the ones I saw in the museum automatically rings the right tunes at the right time.  The only time a real person rings those bells is on Friday and Saturday afternoons, when a guy climbs into this little box waaay up there next to the bells, and gives a little concert.  At this point we're about 300 feet up, and there's a porch area we can go out on to enjoy the amazing view.  Despite the fact that it was the rainiest summer the Netherlands has had in nearly a hundred years, the day was sunny with a cool breeze.  We had one last set of stairs to climb, and this last set was much more reminiscent of the Niewekerk stairs of scary that I had previously climbed.  But the view at the top was totally worth it.    I tried to take a perspective picture using my hand for reference, but who knows how it turned out.  The cool breeze had turned into a strong wind up there, and like Niewekerk, it was another skinny walkway surrounded by masonry (thankfully much taller than Niewekerk) - very exhilarating.  The climb down was actually the freakiest bit, because the lower sets of stairs, while thankfully wide and square, with little platforms every now and again, were damp with condensation and probably some rain coming in the window spaces.  Wet stone does not a stable climbing surface make, so I gripped the occasional handrails like a lifeline and kept a hand on the wall: no way was I breaking an ankle abroad!  By the time I got all the way down and out my legs were completely jellified.  

As I ran back in to the VVV to grab my purse from my locker I found some seriously awesome loose tea for an excellent price, and I just had to get it.  Rather than a VVV product, it was from some sort of tea/delicacy/tableware shop called Abraham Mostert; I got Domtoren Thee and Droom van Utrecht (third shelf from the top, second tea to the right of the green divider), a green and a black tea.  I've shared the teas with my classmates, who all also approve - the green tea has a citrus-mint taste that's very refreshing, while the black is strawberry, orange peel, and a hint of cinnamon.  Good stuff.  :D

I wandered back in to the Domkerk to see what I missed before, but when I walked in I was handed a music program.  I had walked in just before the free Saturday concert, which this week was the chorale singers whose rehearsal I had listened to, interspersed with pieces played on the giant church organ.  The organ wasn't half as grand as the one at Haarlem, but it was a lovely way to spend an hour, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Unfortunatley, by the time the concert had ended, it was half past four, and so I had to hoof it to St. Pieterskerk, the oldest church in Utrecht and one of the oldest in the Netherlands, it still bore some traces of the Roman occupation in a few areas.  I had just enough time to take a quick look 'round, which is all I needed - it's not a very large church, and I have seen enough to know that lingering isn't often necessary unless there's beautiful music playing.  

It was five, so all of the churches and museums were closed, so I began the trek back to the train station.  I'm a little disappointed a didn't have time to get to the University Museum, the Science Museum (first microscope and creepy things in jars), or the Miffy Museum (yes, they have one), but they're a bit of a ways from the train station, and I would've had to skip over the Dom and headed straight to them first.  In the end I'm glad I climbed the Dom - heights are just so fun!  

On my walk back, I glanced down one of the little turn-offs to see a cafe that was actually in an old church, proclaiming to specialize in Belgian beers.  I hadn't had anything since breakfast but the snacks I keep in my purse, and I knew that I should at least try something, in honor of dad.  I sat at the bar and ordered a Rodenbach, which is a slightly lighter cousin in taste to my most-beloved Bacchus, as I discovered the night of the football game.  The bartender asks me if I've had it before - apparently sour ales are not for everyone, so he always checks before serving one.  When I tell him that sours are the one kind of beer I consistently enjoy, he recommends Oude Geuze Boon.  Before trying that one out, I feast on a delicious dinner consisting of a giant meatball filled with cheese in a tomato-sauce bath (including baby stewed tomatoes), friets w/mayo (I've finally given in to this horridly unhealthy tradition, if only because the mayo is nothing like the american stuff and more of a mustard/mayo combo), and a salad of deliciosity.  Soooo goood.  Afterwards I try the Oude Geuze Boon, which smells like cheese on the verge, but has a smooth sourness that is not as fruity as the other sours I've tried, but is good nonetheless (too much fruit can be a terrible thing, as those awful kriek (cherry) beers prove).  

Angelic Vash

Netherlands Emails: (24/a zillion)

Fluffy Family Details

I'll continue on in a subsequent email about my Saturday trip to Utrecht, and my last week in Rotterdam, but for now I'll let you guys take a break.  I will let you know that since the program ended on Thursday, I took the train to Amsterdam and checked in at the hotel that I booked for the weekend: Hotel Nadia.  Despite the horrendously cheesy website, it's actually a pretty cool hotel.  I'm on the 4th (read 5th) floor, but they deliver your bags to your room for you, so it's no big.  Breakfast is included, there's free wifi, and I got my own bathroom at no extra charge.  They even put a bouquet of fresh flowers in my room!  It's in a good spot, too: there's an atm and an albert heijn close by, as well as the Anne Frank House, Royal Palace, and Westekerk within a block or so.  I'm getting up early tomorrow so I can be at the Anne Frank house when it opens, otherwise there's always a huge line.  Sunday I have to wake up early as well to go back to Rotterdam to the church I've been attending, which is a bit annoying, but the pastor's invited me to lunch at his house.  By the time I get back I'll probably crash, and then it's to the airport Monday morning (my flight doesn't leave 'till three, but since I have to check out at eleven, I'll just make a late morning of it and give myself plenty of time to get to Schiphol, which is another train ride away.  So tomorrow's my last chance for sightseeing - I'm planning to make it a good one.  Also: any souvenirs you particularly want, ask now or forever hold your peace.  I've got a bazillion postcards, a metric ton of good loose tea (the good stuff's reeeeaally cheap here), a tea dispenser made in the delft pottery style, hats and t-shirts, even a scarf, but if someone is really craving wooden shoes or a shot glass, there are a dozen souvenir shops within a block just begging for my business...

Anyways, I'll be seeing you soon (at least, William, and then Dad soon enough - everyone else will be in phone range again.  Speaking of which, does it cost anything to receive international calls?  I have a phone in my room that I can use for free (if I figure out how to use it), and I figured that might be a cool thing to do.).  Love and miss you!



Netherlands Emails: (23/a zillion)

Leiden & the Opera

On Friday
 Monica, Aaryn and I went to Leiden, since we didn't have class and figured it'd be a good day trip.  We left early, since I had to get back in time to change for the opera, and as soon as we get out of the train station at Leiden, we are confronted with one of the coolest open air used bookstores ever: the owner basically kept all of the books, spine up, in wooden crates, and to display them he stacked them on their sides, in cool patterns.  It was very impressive, and I most definitely took phone pictures.  After getting a map from the ever-helpful VVV, we struck off toward the town center, only to have to pause every five seconds to take pictures of cool stuff.  We passed the Museum Volkenkunde, but did not go in, since it looked like it would take a lot of time, and we could always stop in on our way back.  I had been elected navigator, and unfortunately I led us in the complete wrong direction for a block, but thankfully I noticed pretty quickl
y, and we correctly course with little loss of time or good humor.  While wandering, we kept passing this huge group of college-aged people dressed in formal business wear - black slacks/skirts, jackets, and white shirts, all of them.  It wasn't until we caught up with them at a scenic bridge that we figured they were law/business students at Leiden University, performing some sort of convocation tradition: half of them stood on each side of the covered bridge, and shouted chants at each other in dutch, sometimes singing together.  Before we made this enlightening discovery, however, we spent a good hour at the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden, which has excellent ancient egyptian, greek, and roman exhibits, as well as an interesting exhibit on the Netherland's ancient history as understood through archaeology.  We then wandered to St. Peter's Church, which is now a community center, as we unfortunately experienced when we discovered a quilting convention being held in the church, effectively denying us access unless we wanted to pay the six euro entrance fee for the convention.  Since a good view of the church was mostly blocked by all of the booths set up, we gave it up as a lost cause and moved on toward the public library on our way to the science museum.  We ended up stumbling upon what's left of Leiden Castle, which, in addition to housing some odd public art, gave us excellent views of the city.  We looked in the windows of the library, saw that there was nothing too special about it, and continued heading in the direction of the science museum.  We found more lovely canals and cute shops, and decided to split ways there, since Aaryn and Monica didn't have to leave so early, and wanted to linger a smidge.  So I headed to the Museum Boerhaave, an excellent science museum that had a recreation of an anatomical theatre, complete with creepy skeletons, and one of the oldest botanical specimen collections in the world.  The Netherlands has a pretty awesome tradition of science, which you don't realize until you remember that Leiden University was founded in the 1500s by William of Orange himself.  A good handful of people from the University have won Nobel prizes, as well.  

At 3:30, though, I had to drag myself away and dash to the train station, where unfortunately I missed the next train to Rotterdam by a few minutes, and had to wait twenty five minutes for a stop-train (which, as the name implies, stops at every piddling little station it can, and thus takes FOREVER).  I get off at Schiedam instead of Rotterdam because it's closer to the hotel and grab the metro home.  By the time I get back to my room, it's five, the time I wanted to leave for the concert hall, which is by Rotterdam Station.  I rush to change into my brown dress and run to catch the tram, only to see it leave just as I'm walking up.  I have to wait ten minutes for the next one, so in the end I don't get to the hall until 5:24.  Thankfully, there's no line to pick up my ticket and I run in with a few minutes to take my seat.  I pause to buy a program (though it's in dutch), and the ladies behind the counter are very nice and one escorts me to my seat, so I don't have to get lost finding it.  According to her, my seat is in the spot that the mayor normally sits when he goes to a concert.  I believe it: I was right smack dab in the middle, in the second tier with an excellent view of the orchestra.

Now, some of you might be wondering "Orchestra?  Who cares about seeing them?  Where's the stage, anyway?"  Well, although they were performing an opera- choir, lead singers, and all - technically it wasn't one, since it wasn't staged with sets and costumes and such.  More of a concert performance, like the all-star performance of Les Miz we have on VHS.  What made this particular performance super awesome was the presence of "Zand Kunst", which translated, means Sand Art.  When I was translating the brochure the night before, I thought Google had made a mistake: sand art?  What?  But yes, Sand Art, by Kseniya Simonova, of Ukraine's Got Talent Fame (not kidding).  Watch the video, because it's kind of hard to explain otherwise.  At the opera, at the beginning and end of scenes they would show this video of her creating an interpretation of the scene in sand on a backlit surface.  What was especially awesome was the fact that it was really more of an animation than anything else, because after creating an image she would wipe away part of it and turn it into something else: for example, after drawing a scene of Troy burning, she wipes away the tree in the foreground in such a way that it looks like a profile view of Aeneas' face...  It was pretty awesome, especially combined with the music.  I'd never heard Berlioz before, and while I don't think I'm a fan of his pacing, it was a very beautiful opera, and an interesting interpretation of events.  I can't comment too much on the actual storyline though , as I was trying to simultaneously translate what I could of the french they were singing while deciphering the dutch subtitles.  I've decided that living in a country where you don't understand the language is a lot like constantly playing sudoku - you don't know any of the answers, but if you just keep puzzling things out via context, you might fill in a blank or two.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening.  There were two breaks, one fifty minutes and one twenty five, and during the first I met a very nice older gentlemen while looking for postcards of the concert hall (gorgeous is not even close to describing the hall), and we chatted while sipping the free tea/coffee.  You could also purchase pastries and sandwiches for pretty good prices, so I had pastries and tea for dinner - very decadent.  Because it is an opera, it wasn't over until eleven, so by the time I got home it was all I could do to get on pjs before crashing.  


Netherlands Emails: (22/a zillion)

Delft: basically, the Epcot version of the Netherlands

On Thursday we took the train to Delft, where we visited the technical university's library, which is particularly awesome because it's roof is a giant grassy hill just begging to be rolled down.  Unfortunately, it was rather drizzly that day, so no rolling for me, but the potential was there.  After hearing a talk about some of the great work they're doing making a research dataset database and getting a tour of the library's equally-cool interior, I struck out on my own and wandered to the center of town, but not before first visiting the Delft University Science Center, which, unlike the one in Haarlem, is much more modern in it's exhibits.  Obviously meant for class field trips, the center had all sorts of fun interactive toys, like a camera that you could move around the room in a long tube via air pressure, or a model airplane with adjustable wings that could be tested for fly-ability.  It also had a 3D video room, and my personal favorite, a set of cubes coverered in the new square barcodes, that when presented in front of the camera, would cease being barcodes on screen and instead would be little 3D rooms.  The point of the game was to guide the little man inside the rooms to the exit by tipping the cube in the direction you wanted him to walk.  After making your way through one cube's maze, your man would walk into a new cube, and you had to find him and guide him through that one as well.  It was made extra tricky because the "floor" of the room was subject to change from room to room.  

Wandering around Delft was a ton of fun, even in the rain, because Delft is just too adorable - it's like an Epcot version of a dutch city.  Tiny little canals with pedestrian bridges everywhere, and cobblestone everything.  I found the "New" Church (circa 1400, which is just ridiculous), where William of Orange is buried, in the creepiest and most ornate sepulcher thing I have ever seen.  For 3,50 you can go up the tower, which is quite the athletic event.  The only way up is via a spiral staircase, and after climbing quite a few steps, which turn from stone to wood (scaaaaary being able to see between the steps), when you enter a large room you're like "Finally!  But why can't I see outside?  These clockworkings are nice and all, but I really came here for the view."  And you notice a doorway opening to more steps, and you're expecting that it's just a small passageway to the balcony, but no, the stairs don't end, and after you're about to pass out, you see a door marked "1", and you go outside and realize that you're only a third of the way up the tower.  And the staircase is so narrow that you're hoping no one is headed down, but then of course someone does, and you have to shimmy around the central pole (and no, of course it's not freaky to be half-hanging over empty space) while the other person gets to flatten against the safety of the wall, and thank goodness they don't let more than 60 people up there at a time!  But you keep climbing, because you paid for the ticket, darn it, and you were climbing to the top!  You pass by door 2 without a glance, because you want to reach the top, no matter how freaked out you're starting to get about how you're just climbing into thin air, and finally, just as you're beginning to ponder using one of the emergency phones they have stationed every few feet (along with dutch signs that I can only assume are the equivalent of "Don't jump!  You've got plenty to live for!"), you reach the third door, which you can barely open because the wind up there is so strong.  The balcony, however, is really just this two foot wide ledge that runs around the exterior of the tower, and while I felt perfectly safe because the stone masonry was up to my chest, I can imagine some very tall dutch people getting pretty nervous up there.  The view was amazing, but it was pretty sad that the most recognizable building in the distance was the giant blue Ikea...  The highest balcony is just above the clock, the second just below it (seriously, you can stand underneath the clock hands and everything), and the third is just before the tower narrows.  I got a postcard just for the purpose of pointing out where I stood.  :D

I couldn't of, course, just be satisfied with one church, so after making my descent I headed in the direction of another church I saw from the tower: this one turned out to be catholic church that had every inch of wall and ceiling covered in either stained glass, sculptures, altars, or paintings.  It was very intense.  After making my way through the market square (Who sells leggings from a street stall?!?  Who would buy leggings from a street stall?!?) and stopping in at the stadhuis (and stopping right out again, as a wedding party had decided to take their pictures in that location - I've seen so many wedding photos being taken in N-land, it's ridiculous), I wandered to the Old Church (1246 AD), where duplication seemed to be the theme: three pipe organs, two pulpits, even an extra hall... considering all the work that's been done on the building (it looks newer than the New Church), I'm not surprised that they put some extras in.  Apparently structural soundness is something the church has been striving for, unsuccessfully - the foundation wasn't very stable, so it sunk a smidge, and now the tower leans.  It doesn't help that the building is right on the edge of a canal.  Hope it doesn't fall, as Delft has suffered enough disasters: the city's gunpowder store exploded back in the 1500s, killing a ton of folk and destroying a good portion of the city center. :P Vermeer is also buried there, which is cool. After leaving the Old Church, I wandered some more, in the general direction of the train station, and finally took the train back to Rotterdam.  At the hotel, I was looking up more information about this Gergiev Festival  that I had picked up a flyer for at the library (seriously, could they squeeze any more festivals into the months of august and september?!?!  It's ridiculous!), and I found that on Friday at 5:30 the Rotterdam Philharmonic was doing a performance of Berlioz' Les Troyens, his take on the end of the Trojan war and the beginning of the Aeneid, a story near and dear to my heart.  After a little more research, I found that student rush tickets were on sale for 18 euros, which, considering that I happily paid 37 dollars for a ticket to see opera at the Met, was a pretty good bargain.  I was even able to buy a ticket online and choose my seat!  Unfortunately, they don't consider people over 26 "students", so that disqualified a majority of my classmates from going cheaply, so I was on my onesies, but I was still very excited.