Tegen Wind

Sunday is my lazy day here in Utrecht. I generally don’t have much going on, sometimes my flat makes family dinner together (I always supply the veggies) and my schedule being as spread out as it is during the week makes it not have to be a homework day.

So it is on this Sunday that I have finally stopped, looked back and realized that I have been so busy that five weeks have already slipped by. And I have not too many blog posts to show for it. That’s not to say that I haven’t been doing anything worthy of blogging about, but that I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write about it.

Thus begins a blast of several posts all at once.

In the Netherlands, as I have established, everyone rides bikes. That makes the phrase “tegen wind” or “because of the wind” a valid excuse when coming in late to class or a meeting. It will literally blow wind so hard on my way into town that I can’t peddle my bike. For a very punctual person it kills me to have to walk in late to a class that should be a 20 minute cycle ride away but suddenly turns into a 35 minute ride when the wind factor is added in. Tegen wind!

I finally found my way to Amsterdam. Only 25 minutes by train! I took a lovely trip just by myself to visit the Dutch Masters in the Rijksmuseum for a day. Somehow I had it in my head that if I went on a Tuesday, the most famous museum in the Netherlands would be empty and devoid of people. Not the case. I had to wait in a massive line to buy my museumkaart and there was a mob of people in front of their crown jewel, Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” (“Het Nachwacht”). Speaking of my museumkaart- it’s a nifty little card that I paid 50 euros for to get me into every single museum in the Netherlands for free! That day in Amsterdam it got me into the Rijksmuseum (may have been worth the 15 euros) and the Koninklijke Paleis (not worth the 10 euros, but very pretty!). While I was there, I also ran into one of my favorite American (French?) restaurants Le Pain Quotidien. After a day of being very courageous and Dutch, I decided to hit it up on the way back to Amsterdam Zuid (train station). That was the best quiche of my life. In all, I had a great time with me myself and I in Amsterdam.

That same week, I also took a trip to Den Haag (aka The Hague). While Amsterdam is the capitol of the great country of the Netherlands, it does not house any government buildings. Amsterdam is the cultural capitol in North Holland and Den Haag is the government (and royal!) capitol in South Holland (yes, the Netherlands is split up into states and Holland is the name of two of them). My professor from my Dutch Present Day Society class took us on a tour of the buildings and we even watched a session (albeit a pathetic session) of the Tweede Kamer (Lower House) of Dutch Parliament. Other highlights included: The Mauritshuis (closed for renovations), the Working Palace of the King, Cafe V.I.P. (Very Italian Pizza, lol), Scheveningen (the beach) and many grand equestrian statues of William of Orange. Mr. M and I were happy to just see the ocean after living in Utrecht, away from the coast, for just a couple of weeks.

Just because it was super weird, we also saw this panorama painting by Mesdag that was a huge work that surrounded you as you stood in the center of what was supposed to look like a sand dune. Honestly, it really felt like I was at the beach- there was real sand that led up to the edges of the painting. Very, very cool but also very, very weird. Though it was made to feel like you were at the beach, the beach was in fact five minutes away, so it seemed kind of redundant. But oh well. You do you, Mesdag.

After my initial fears of not being able to provide food for myself, I can report back that I have literally cooked for myself every single day since being here. Some days I’ll pick up a nice roll or croissant from one of the super markets (Jumbo has an unreal baked goods selection for very cheap) to make a broodje (small sandwich) and other days I’ll try and get fancy with my boneless skinless chicken breast. I’ve dipped a little into stir frying and asian foods I love but it’s difficult to cook Japanese and Korean inspired Asian food when the Dutch’s Asian influence comes from their former colonies, namely Indonesia and Suriname. Half of the stuff that calls itself soy sauce is most definitely not soy sauce. APK and Jolly both have giant bottles of “soy sauce,” but it’s thick and tangy in a weird way.

My favorite thing to do is go to the market on Saturdays to buy really good vegetables. I like to buy myself brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Though brussels sprouts are available at the same market from Wednesday until Sunday, the sweet potatoes are only there on Saturdays. I like to buy mine from this guy who also sells olives and hummus and other turkish dishes. He gives good deals. Occasionally I’ll also buy some good parmesan cheese from one of the stands. Though Gouda (pronounced “how-duh” thank you very much) is the only thing deemed “kaas” in this country, you can find other cheeses if you know where to look. Supermarkets like my fave, Albert Heijn, as well as Jumbo and Spar have limited quantities of very select cheeses. For example, you will not find Parmesan most of the time, but you can buy Pecorino Romano. You can’t buy Cheddar but you can buy Gruyere. It’s been an uphill battle for me to find anything to put on a sandwich besides Gouda. Therefore, when I see Parmesan (the King of Cheeses- I think Mario Batali said that, not me) I buy it. My flat thinks I’m the creepy veggie and cheese fanatic. Oh well.

Enjoy some pictures from Amsterdam and Den Haag!

Met vriendlijke groetjes,

Aubrey

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