North America, Europe · 52 Days · 38 Moments · April 2017

Ashley's adventure in Amsterdam, Netherlands

20 June 2017

So, Naples. I stayed at Giovanni's Home (it's a hostel that Giovanni owns and runs). It was...interesting. When I got to Naples it was storming outside, so it took a while to get to the hostel. Once there, covered in sweat, Giovanni gave a very intense and unexpected history lesson on Italy and Naples. It lasted over an hour. Just me, too, because he does it separately for EACH person when they arrive. You can tell he's done it a million times by the way he has this whole routine. It's a long lesson on the history of Italy and Naples, what there is to do in Naples, shoulds and shouldnts, and anything else you can think of. It involved books, pictures, websites, maps, highlighters, and even videos. He has a pretty thick Italian accent so it took a lot of focus to get what he was saying.

17 June 2017

After I showered, I actually got really anxious at the thought of going down to the bar by myself. I only made it down for a brief glance while I went to get a coke from next door. Didn't see subway guy. It's a shame I can't remember his name...we spent the whole day together and he was decently cool!
We were going to see St Peters Basilica next. We turned the wrong way out of the museum and ended up walking the perimeter of Vatican City, but now I can say I walked around a whole country! The line was crazy long but moved pretty fast so it wasn't really that bad. St Peters Basilica was AWESOME. I can definitely say that that was my favorite thing in Rome. It is massive and beautiful. The day before happened to be a Catholic holiday so some kind of ceremony took place while we were there which just made it even more special. Pictures can't do this place justice. Gorgeous. Then we climbed the 551 steps to the top of the dome, which was literally and figuratively breathtaking! By this point it was almost 6 pm so we started walking back, got dinner, and stopped by the Spanish steps so subway guy could see them. I felt absolutely disgusting after sweating all day, so when we got back to the hostel we went our separate ways but said we'd probably see each other at the bar later.
The next day I wanted to see Vatican City. I was going to go alone, but when I got to the train station, I found out that there was a strike that day for all public transportation. As I was deciding what to do, another guy saw that the trains weren't running and asked if I spoke English. He said he was going to the Vatican, too, so we decided to get there together. We ended up having to walk for over an hour to get there but it wasn't so bad since I wasn't alone. I missed my tour so I hung out with subway guy for the day. We went through the Vatican museum which was cool but exhausting! The Sistine chapel was really cool to see. We weren't allowed to take pictures but it was another one of those moments where I had to keep reminding myself that the famous things I was looking at were the real things!
Day 4 in Rome I was starting to feel better but decided to go hang out at a beach for a few hours. I went to Anvia, about an hour away, and laid out, listening to music. It was nice, although a couple of leering guys came over and kept looking at me so I had to tell them to leave me alone! They tried saying a few d-bag-ish things but when I started to pack up and move somewhere else they decided to actually leave me alone. When I got back, I scarfed down a spaghetti dinner by myself and went on a night walking tour of the Vatican. Walking back to the hostel by myself after that was a bit sketchy but I made it!
Second day in Rome continued... I got back to the hostel around 3 pm and met a girl who had just arrived - Lauren from England. She ended up going on a walking tour with me in the evening and we got dinner. She's nice and classically British! The next morning, Lauren and I went to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill together. The Colosseum was awesome, although it was kind of hard to imagine what it would have looked like when it was intact. Their "games" were brutal. A lot of times they were used as punishment for slaves or criminals. The Roman Forum would have been more interesting with a guide. It was cool to see the ancient ruins but I didn't really know what anything was! By 2:30 I was exhausted (still sick) and decided to go back and take a nap. I was planning on doing another walking tour with Lauren but ended up sleeping through till the next day!
My first night in Rome was pretty nice. The hostel here, The Yellow, has been the friendliest one so far. I've had the easiest time meeting people to actually hang out with. They have their own bar across the street and I went down their with a couple of my roommates and had a really fun time hanging out, drinking, dancing, and going to McDonald's! My second day, I had gotten another one of those hop on hop off bus tours, so I rode around on that for a while. Stopped at the colosseum and walked around outside it. Had an interesting time trying to convince a guy selling selfie sticks that I wasn't going to pay €20 for it. That was a ridiculous price and I literally only had 5 on me anyways. I don't think he believed me... He only went down to 10 but ended up giving it to me for 5, which is probably still more than it was worth! A guy selling parasols had been shading us and then tried to sell one of those to me and I was like you just saw me hand my last few euros to this guy, lol
Florence continued... The next day, my bus to Rome was leaving at 1:20 pm. A nice lady drove me down to the bus stop and it took forever but I somehow made it to where my bus was supposed to leave with only about 10 minutes to spare. When I got there, there was a note on the pole in Italian saying that the bus was actually only going to be stopping at a different place in Florence. No warning email or anything. So me and 3 other people rushed to catch a tram to ride about 10 stops across town. Before our last stop, we saw our bus leaving, passing by us on the road, so we had to buy tickets for the next bus which wouldn't be there for a couple of hours. Of course, my phone was dead so I was barely able to get it turned on to do this. LUCKILY, there was a mall near the stop with an electronics store and I was able to get a new phone! Had to pay €80 for it, but it has been worth it. Made it back and caught the bus in time. :)
Florence continued... The one full day I had in Florence, I had booked a hop on hop off bus tour of the city, so I tried going down to the city in the morning. I had been having trouble with my phone for a didn't want to charge or stay charged. I walked down the steep hill almost to where the bus stop was, but my phone was at 1%, wouldn't charge, and I knew I wouldn't be able to navigate the city without my maps. I was also feeling pretty sick at this point. I gave up and made the hard decision to essentially give up my time in Florence and go back to the hostel to try to get my phone working and rest. I watched Netflix and napped and really just wasted my day. In the evening I did go out to the garden and I talked to some of the other people staying there. I also went to the pasta dinner with them, which was nice. Considering how icky my body felt, I had a pretty good time. Unfortunately, I had another restless and frustrating night trying to sleep.
So my time in Florence kind of sucks, but it had nothing to do with the actual city. My hostel, Ostello del Bigallo, was really cool. It is a former monastery on a mountain by Florence with a really nice view of the city. They have "pasta time" every night for €7 where you get an awesome homemade pasta dinner and some wine. Around 8 people would be at these dinners and talking to them was really interesting. It was a small enough group that you could actually have some good conversations. That was the good thing about my weekend in Florence. Here is the negative...the hostel was really hard to get to. You have to take a couple of different busses and then hike up a pretty steep hill for about a mile. I took a taxi when I got there but it was a scary €38. My first night there I started getting sick, so I had a pretty rough time trying to sleep because I had a bad sore throat and I was getting stopped up. There was barely any service on the hill and the wifi barely reached my room.

7 June 2017

Saw a couple who just got married taking a gondola ride. MY HEART MELTED A LITTLE.
More pics!
More pics from today!
More pics from today
So I took that walking tour. Most of the people in my group were in the same family and then there was just one other couple. The family had the grandparents, mother, father, two kids, and aunt. They were really friendly! The tour was decent, but not as helpful as I'd hoped. Free though, so didn't LOSE anything. And I still got to walk around Venice and see a few small things I probably wouldn't have otherwise. Afterwards that family invited me to go sit and have drinks with them (there was a seating area that served food near where we stopped.) So I did that and we talked some more. I REALLY like that family! They are all super sweet. The daughter is 8 and her NAME is Venice! They had a 2 yr old boy named Aidan who was just so cute. The aunt seems like that fun aunt. Very sweet but her ears perk up when she hears the word "party" lol. Love her. She added me on Facebook! The grandparents and aunt are from Michigan and the rest live in California. I think they (the small fam) are rich.
Jewish museum of venice Jew's only allowed to have three jobs. Doctor (had white mask and stick, doctor of the plague). Jew's only allowed to sell used clothes but they wanted to sell new, so they started adding scuffs, rips, stains.other jobs were money trader, rag trader
We're Jew's, but we're CATholics
Spoke too started raining, haha
On my way to the city to do a free walking tour. It's kind of cloudy outside today but it's not raining or cold so I'll take it.
I went to the office and told them. They gave me a new keycard thinking that would let me back in. I knew that wasn't going to fix it but I played along. It didn't work. Went back and they said they would ask a technician to come. I had to wait around for 20-ish minutes before a guy came who spoke very little English. He tried to use my card to open the door (didn't work), tried to use his card to own the door (didn't work), so he went to go get an actual key. Meanwhile, a girl with housekeeping came by and opened it. They tried to tell me, once inside the room, that I just needed to change or my keycard for a new one. I tried to tell them I had already done that but they insisted. Guy walks with me towards the office before he thinks to check the braker box. That's all that was wrong. Got back in the room. Phew.
So I got to my hostel in Venice last night close to midnight. It's kind of like a campground -they rent out tents and bungalows. I'm staying in a 3 bed bungalow, and luckily one of my roommates last night was still awake with the lights on. I would've felt bad for waking them both up that late. The only bed was the top bunk over a desk. That thing is gonna kill someone. It felt like it was going to fall to pieces anytime I put weight on the ladder or side. Getting down this morning was even more difficult. Since both roommates checked out this morning I switched to one of their beds. I'm not getting in that top bunk ever again, lol. So then I was trying to get unpacked and I heard the air conditioner make a little pop and shut off...I had put laundry in so I went to go switch it out but when I went back even the keycard reader wouldn't work. The electricity for the whole room has gotten switched off. Tbc...

6 June 2017

More bad weather today. There's not a whole lot to do in Lucerne when it's raining. I'm not really interested in going to any of the museums they have, so I kind of just hung out in the main areas of the hostel. Now I'm at the train station waiting to get on my way to Venice. The bad weather has sucked but at least I got some good days in too. :)

5 June 2017

The weather has been bad again today. Sadly, the forecast has been right so far and it's been pretty dreary out all day. I was able to go to the big souvenir shop I tried to go to yesterday and get a Swiss army knife with free engraving :) I walked around quite a bit after that, but most shops were closed (I think it was a holiday). I didn't know what to do with myself after that. O.o

4 June 2017

I had several things I wanted to do today (see chapel bridge, chocolate world, a souvenir shop, the lion monument, go paddle boarding, and go to the Sunset Bar), but unfortunately the weather kept me from doing some of them. The forecast said it was supposed to rain all day, but it actually cleared up around 1 pm. I was excited so I went to go do all these things. Saw the chapel bridge and chocolate world (wall of flowing chocolate that I just wanted to stick my face in). The souvenir shop was closed. Saw the lion monument which was actually really cool. It's a dying lion carved in rock as a memorial to those who died in a war. It was really detailed and beautiful. My last two places were "closed due to weather" even though it was nice out by this point. :( That was disappointing, as it's also supposed to be rainy the next two days as well. At least I was able to do some of the things I wanted!

3 June 2017

I've been laying on the beach for almost 4 hours and it's been glorious. It's starting to get chilly because I think it's going to rain soon,so I might pack up in a few minutes. Not sure what i want to do the rest of the night...
The swans outside the hostel. :)
Just went paragliding. IT WAS AWESOME. The views were amazing and it was so relaxing. Paragliding gives such a smooth ride that you can really sit back and just enjoy it. So glad that I did that. :D
More differences between cities: Lucerne is amazing. It might challenge Amsterdam in beauty. It seems to be a smaller town, possibly a little smaller than Amsterdam but probably not by much. I feel very safe so far.
Right now I am at the top of a mountain waiting to go PARAGLIDING IN THE SWISS ALPS. But really...IS this real?? The view is amazing. I can't wait to fly through this. At the same time, I could sit up here and take all this in for hours.

2 June 2017

Yesterday I got to Lucerne around 2:00 pm after an 8.5 he train ride split into 3 sections from Berlin. I walked to my hostel and got settled, then went and laid on the beach for a while. There is a beach on Lake Lucerne right across the street from the hostel and the view is just GORGEOUS. Even from my bed, I can look out and see a grassy area with some trees and some of the lake. Swans and their little baby swans just walk across the grassy area, hanging out. It's so cool how you can be laying on the beach in the summer-y sun with perfect summer-y weather and look off into the distance and see snow-capped mountains. It's unreal. This whole thing is unreal. I can't believe I actually made it here. I made it.

1 June 2017

I did a 4.5 hr walking tour in Berlin today. I wish I had done it yesterday! We saw the Berlin wall, which comes with an interesting story about the rivalry between eastern and western Germany as well as eastern and western Berlin. The guide told us about the ways in which people tried to escape from the east to the west. We also saw the Brandenburg gate, the Berlin Cathedral, Museum Island, the TV Tower, and several places that were significant in World War II. We saw where Hitler's office would have been and where his bunkers used to be, which is where he committed suicide. After the tour I went to lunch with a very nice Irish couple who were both my age. They were both very sweet and very cute together. Their names were Kieva and David. Then we split off and I checked out the Topography of Terror, which is just a photographic exhibition with descriptions of life in the time of World War II. By that point I was exhausted and my feet hurt from walking all day, so I went back "home".

31 May 2017

Somehow I'm getting myself around. I'm impressing myself. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was interesting. I did the audio tour for €3 which in and of itself was NOT that interesting. I wish I could visit Auschwitz but at least I was able to see something similar.
Differences between cities: Amsterdam is a beautiful and clean city. I always felt very safe. You barely see any homeless people because they have programs to keep them busy and productive, thus off the streets. Paris is a huge city with a lot of nice things but it is dirtier and you could pass several homeless people just sprawled out on the sidewalks. Nobody seemed to bother them though. Brussels reminded me a bit of Paris but it is much smaller. I did not feel very safe there. Men were much more forward. We got lingering glances from men multiple times that made me feel uncomfortable. Berlin was pretty interesting in a historical sense. Lots of history in that city. For me, that was really it's only highlight. FOR ME. I am extremely interested by everything from World War II, so I am still very glad I went. It's a pretty big city. Not as clean as Amsterdam. I felt pretty safe but I didn't try to go out after dark.
Cultural differences: buttons on the toilets; you have to pay for your shopping bags; everyone else in the world knows at least 2 languages; Pandora doesn't work in Europe; floors in buildings start at 0
There is a lot of walking involved when you have very little idea what you're doing.
I didn't use this app to keep track of my time in Amsterdam, although I probably should have. I'll try to go back over some of it as I have time. I'm on a subway right now going to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. I got a day pass for the metro for €7.70. Just using Google maps to get around. Some guy just walked through the subway car and put a pack of tissues with a note by everyone. The note was in German so I don't know what it said. He came back around expecting something and took them all back from everyone. Not sure what that was.

30 May 2017

It's my last day in Amsterdam! Everybody else in the group left by around 9 am this morning, so it's just me and Paige left. Aline came to eat breakfast with us, Cristin, and Anna before they left. I really am going to miss her. I meant to stop by the CIEE office to say bye to her again but I wasn't gonna be able to. :( After breakfast and getting all of our stuff, Paige and I went to a place near central station so she could store some of her luggage (she's staying in the Netherlands a few more days). Then we checked out the tattoo shop I was wanting to use to get my tattoo. Made an appointment for an hour or so later, so Paige and I went to lunch. She sat downstairs while they did my tattoo, which I am very happy with. It says "ik heb het gehaald," which means "I made it" in Dutch. :) After this, we proceeded to go sit by a canal and get high on weed and mushrooms. I knew I was high but I couldn't tell if I was feeling the mushrooms. Made getting through the airport VERY DIFFICULT.

29 April 2017

Blah balh