Week three started off as a blur: we woke up Monday morning, and my friend Michael and I planned to catch our first train to Milan. We confirmed with the lady at the hotel desk that the train station was right around the corner and set off for the day.
There was only one problem: it was the wrong train station. I looked at my map and realized we were at the wrong place, and then quickly understood that we needed to move fast if we still wanted to make it. The other station was a 14 minute drive, and there was 20 minutes until our train left. We rushed to the side of a major road and spent about five minutes hailing a taxi, quickly jumped in, and were off to the other station. We thankfully made it just in time and got on the train.
The ride to Milan was pretty and short. As we approached the station, I texted Michael to ask if it was our stop. He said that it was, and as I got up and started to grab my bag, the train started moving. I looked out the window as Michael stood on the platform, myself on the train. Our second mishap of the day. It turned out that that had been the wrong stop, and I got off at the correct stop. Michael took a taxi to the other station and we continued our adventure. As we rode through Switzerland, the landscape was absolutely breathtaking.
View from the front of the hostel
We spent most of the day on trains, but we eventually made it to our destination in Interlaken. We arrived at our hostel after a short bus ride, and met up with a bunch of our friends from the trip. It was really nice to just sit and chill for a night in the Swiss Alps.
The next morning, we got up and headed to Harder Kulm, a little station on the top of a mountain overlooking the lakes. We took a funny little slanted train up to the observation deck, and the views were absolutely incredible. However, my overly ambitious self wasn’t quite satisfied yet, so I decided to lead us on a hike up to the true top of the mountain. It was really even more incredible from the top.
In the afternoon, we went to the grocery store to buy some food to cook at our hostel. We got sandwich stuff for a quick lunch, and then headed back out to enjoy the views and do a little swimming. Later on, we cooked dinner, and I made a Maltese dish for an intro assignment for anthropology school. We ate a lovely dinner of Sopa Tal Armla and chicken, enjoying the views by the lake. We headed in for an early night and got packed up for the early trip the following morning.
Last dinner in Iseltwald
Me and the River Seine
Wednesday morning, we departed for Paris! We took two trains with just a quick stop in Basel, and arrived in Paris in the early afternoon. I ate one of the best pastries I’ve ever had in the train station, and we headed off to our Airbnb. It was the quaintest, cutest place I’ve ever seen. Since we had time to actually do things, we set off on a walking adventure. We walked by some government buildings, along the Seine, and near Notre Dame! All of it was surreal. We grabbed a quick dinner and headed back to the Airbnb to chill out a little bit, before heading back out for the night. We spent our first Parisian night sitting outside a cafe watching everyone go about their activities. I couldn’t help but feel as if this was pure bliss.
The next morning, our lovely friend Hannah arrived to spend the day with us for her birthday!! We made a breakfast of potatoes, eggs, bacon, and fruit, and sat down to enjoy each other’s company. After our other friend Zack arrived, we all set off to enjoy the day. We first went to the Eiffel Tower (it was as impressive as it seemed, and then walked to Hannah’s favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.
Celebrating Hannah’s bday with crepes and the Tour Eiffel!
The museum contained all of the impressionistic art I’ve only seen in pictures: it was surreal to see a Georges Seurat painting in person when I had done an 8th grade art project about him. After the museum, we walked
A day at the Musee D’Orsay
back towards our hostel and found a place to eat. We had what Hannah considered to be a French classic–steak and chips. It was all wonderful, and then we had to decide how to finish off the night. We ended up walking around for a bit, before finally deciding to just head back to the Airbnb to play some cards and enjoy the fact that we were in Paris.
Friday morning, I awoke to another surreal experience: there was someone playing the violin out the window. In Paris. Hannah had to get up sort of early to leave for her study abroad trip, and we all got up to wish her well. We had to check out of the Airbnb at 11, so we found the nearest City Locker (those things are a lifesaver), stashed our stuff, and went to enjoy the day. Cesar and I walked to the Louvre, the only other major Paris thing I hadn’t gotten to see. I spent the entire afternoon looking at more art I had only seen in pictures, and it was better than I could have ever imagined.
As the end of the day neared, we all met up for dinner at a pizza place, headed to get our stuff, and then headed to the bus station to begin our next adventure. After a somewhat stressful ticket debacle, we boarded our overnight bus to Amsterdam!
Saturday morning, we arrived in Amsterdam. It was rainy, and we didn’t quite know how to call a cab from the train station, so we decided to walk. For an hour.
This was not necessarily the best plan, what with me and my gigantic suitcase. However, we finally made it to city center and stored our items in city lockers (again, bless up for those city lockers), and set off to do some exploring. We walked around the city for a while, found a burger place that looked good, and sat down to finally have a good meal.
Chilling in Amsterdam
After we had eaten, it was time to check into the hotel. Our one room, which was supposed to fit two people, had to accommodate all six of us, which was quite a task. At any rate, we spent the afternoon relaxing before heading out to enjoy the Saturday night festivities. We walked around for a while before sitting down at a restaurant patio to eat. I had croquettes, which were one of the most interesting and delicious dishes I’ve ever tried.
Walking around the city
After dinner, we headed toward the infamous red light district. We walked around for a while, mostly observing the wild sights and inebriated individuals. At some point, we all got tired and headed in for the night.
The entrance to Anne Frank’s secret annex
The next morning, we woke up late and had brunch at a cute little restaurant that was shaped like a carousel. I had authentic dutch pancakes with stroop, which was incredibly tasty. In the afternoon, we did more exploring, and finally made our way to the Anne Frank House. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. After reading the book, truly experiencing the place where the family was hidden was both awe inspiring and utterly sickening.
The last night in Amsterdam, we stayed in to pack and talk and prepare for our flight the following morning. We woke up early on Monday morning, booked a taxi, and headed to the airport.
We arrived in Stockholm in the early afternoon, and luckily had enough time to do quite a bit of exploring (and shopping–there’s an H&M on just about every corner!). The downtown area was incredibly nice and modern, and we spent most of our day strolling around and enjoying the sights.
Exploring Norrmalm at night
The next morning, we got a semi-late start and grabbed a quick lunch at Max (a Swedish fast food chain) before attempting to use the public transit to get to a little island called Skansen. However, we quickly became frustrated when we bought bus tickets and discovered that the trams weren’t even running! When we asked someone why everything seemed to be out of whack, he simply stared at us and said “the Queen is having a parade!”
The Nordic museum after the queen’s parade
Evidently, we just so happened to be in town on the Swedish national holiday, and the queen of Sweden just so happened to be having a parade in Stockholm. We asked around a little more and found out that it was nearly a 30 minute walk to Skansen. We headed east and started our journey to the little island, where we would be able to observe the parade. We eventually made it to a pretty good viewing spot, where we sat and watched the festivities take place, and got to see the queen! What an odd day.
Fun at the park with flowers!!
After the parade, I got a cinnamon bun from a vendor and we all sat down at an extremely cute little park for the evening. We watched families play and took pictures with the flowers and just generally enjoyed the atmosphere. We headed back towards the center of town and our hostel and stopped on the way for food. I finally got the real Swedish meatballs (I’ve only had the IKEA ones) I had been hoping for, complete with potatoes and lingonberries.
It was a great way to end the night, as it was my last night of backpacking. The next morning, I would set off for my second study abroad program….completely and 100% alone.