Tuesday, May 19, 2015

(the real) Utrecht

My freshman year, I lived in 'The Netherlands' freshman complex, where all of our dorms were named after Dutch cities. I lived in 'Utrecht' house, so when I came to study in the real Netherlands, I knew I had to visit the real Utrecht.

Only half an hour away from Amsterdam by train, Utrecht is super easy to get to (as almost every Dutch city is). I definitely didn't visit as many little towns and cities as I should have, but that's just another excuse to return here soon!

Right away we realized- Utrecht is adorable. It looks like a typical medieval European city, with a few canals and plenty of beautiful old buildings. 

One of the main attractions in Utrecht is the Dom Tower, or Cathedral Tower. The tower used to be part of the main cathedral in Utrecht, but a storm in the 17th century destroyed the nave of the church, meaning that the main cathedral and the tower were separated, and since they were never rebuilt there is now a large courtyard between the two buildings. 

Since you can climb the tower, of course we had to climb it. If you've been following my adventures this semester you know that pretty much anything that is open for climbing, we'll climb it. If you read my Prague post, you know I hate heights but for some reason I keep climbing things....

The cathedral as seen from the first level of the tower.

We definitely were not supposed to get inside this- underneath this little dumbwaiter was a hole in the floor, which opens down to the street below (there is a tunnel running through the bottom of the tower that you can walk through). When the tower was being built, they built it from the inside out- workers stood inside the tower, while bricks and other building materials were hauled up from the street via the opening in the floor. 

Also definitely not supposed to be climbing all over the bell room...

The view from the first balcony- oh, you thought we were at the top? Nope, keep climbing up the thinnest, most spiraled staircase you've ever seen....

The cathedral down below.

Once we had been freed from the tower, we continued wandering around Utrecht. 

These are little houses underneath the street- all the canals in Amsterdam come up to the street, but in Utrecht they are dug down below street level, so the apartments are located under the road and open out to the canal! They maybe don't have the best natural light, but how cute would it be to live down there?

We ended up having perfect weather and sat in this park for hours enjoying the sunshine. 

I almost forgot to post this little day trip (it was between Paris and Berlin!), so I wanted to sneak it in between my Scandinavia posts. Stay tuned, I'll have Sweden coming up soon!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Throwback to Drøbak

Guys I am really proud of that caption so please humor me. Even though our trip to Norway was only 3 weeks ago (!!!) it feels like forever! This semester is really flying by, I leave in just over 3 weeks! So, I have to bust out a few more posts from all my weekend trips before I head home!

As I mentioned yesterday, we only spent Friday morning in Oslo; since we felt we had exhausted the major tourist sites, we wanted to get out of town and discover a little more of Norway. This makes the best trips- I would not have enjoyed Ireland if we had just done Dublin, but since we made our way to the Cliffs we got to see a large section of the country and drove coast to coast. It's good to get out of the busy, touristy cities and see smaller, more local spots.

That's how we ended up in Drøback, Norway. After scouring the Internet for nearby places, Tori found Drøback, which is most famous for it's Santa house. Yes, they have a Santa/Christmas-themed house and post office open year-round. I thought Tori was going to have a heart attack, so we hopped on a city bus for the hour ride to Drøback, and we were not disappointed!


After stocking up on a few stocking stuffers (it's never too early to shop for Christmas, right??) we headed next door to Santa's Post Office, where you are greeted by this...attendant?

Don't worry, the human attendants are less scary!

At the post office, which doubles as an adorable little shop selling both Christmas and non-Christmas wares, you can send post-cards from Santa's house, and they will even hold the cards until December and then send them out!

Since most of the village started to close down around 5, we wandered around and ended up stumbling upon this amazing view of the Oslo fjord.

Drøback is south of Oslo, and is located on a very narrow section of the fjord, just before it widens out. Therefore, you get these stunning views and you can clearly see to the other side of the fjord. 

Tori you did this to yourself...

Yes, those are raindrops in the photo- it started to pour as we were walking along the fjord but that didn't stop us!

Tori made a few friends at the harbor.

I think it's safe to say that we both fell in love with Drøback, and I would love to return in the summer when it's a little warmer and again at Christmas to visit the Julehuis!

I did not expect our trip to run this way, but I am so glad we got out of Oslo for a few hours (even if we did end up hopelessly lost in a residential part of the village for a few hours in the rain...). We soon hopped back on the bus to head to Stockholm, so stay tuned!