Poking around Europe

I haven’t posted for several weeks and the reason is…TRAVEL! Ang and I have been planning her visit since I found out about Whitaker last year. Back in January, she bought her plane ticket and we started planning our trip. Now, since it’s Ang, I knew it was bound to be a whirlwind tour, and yes it was. Before I give the recap, I want to introduce a verb Ang’s mom uses:

to poke – the act of aimlessly doing something and nothing simultaneously

For example, if Ang knows she has an hour to get ready before her family has to leave the house, she will poke around her room until she has T-10 minutes. This is normally when her mother walks into her room, realizes Ang is still in her PJs, and says, “Angela, stop poking around and get ready. We are leaving in 10 minutes!!” If you ask Ang what she spent the past 50 minutes doing, she wouldn’t know.

That’s the thing about poking. You don’t know where the time goes.


So, if you wish to stop reading now, the tl;dr version is this: our Europe trip was a mix between tourist-ing and poking. Mostly poking though.

March 28: Amsterdam

Ang took a direct flight to Amsterdam. We miraculously found each other in the airport! Thanks to Ang’s generosity and her thriftiness in saving SPG points, she booked us a room at Hotel Pulitzer, a hotel full of character as it is composed of restored canal houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. We walked around the city–to Van Stapele (so I could get cookies…Ang doesn’t really like sweets), to the Rijks museum, and around the Jordaan district. It was cold, windy, and rainy, so we tried to stay close to the hotel.

Hello from Amsterdam! Start of the trip!
An interior of one of the restored canal houses that comprised the hotel. Each canal house had a distinct flavor.

March 29: Amsterdam to Brussels

We poked around the hotel in the morning and left for the train station in the early afternoon. Since we couldn’t take the hotel’s umbrellas with us, we had to improvise. Ang’s solution was a shower cap and a towel…IMG_3214We hopped on a train to Brussels and arrived around 6 pm. I wanted to eat waffles and french fries so we ventured out into the cold, windy city. We somehow navigated ourselves in the opposite direction of old town (where the touristy waffles and fries are to be found), however we stumbled upon an outlook of the city. Because the slight drizzle started getting heavier and heavier, we returned to the hostel before we ever obtained waffles and fries. Thank goodness Ang packed Odwalla bars.

IMG_3220March 30 – 31: Berlin

Our flight from Brussels to Berlin was quite turbulent. May or may not have started bargaining with God…”if you let this flight land, I promise I’ll do…” Well, we made it and after some trouble of not validating our train tickets (ticket officer was nice and let us slide), we made it to the hostel. I absolutely loved Berlin. The city is (obviously) brimming with history. We walked to the Brandenburg Gate, sat in a silence room, saw the Reichstag, and visited the Holocaust memorial. The Holocaust memorial is composed of granite rectangles of all different heights. The deeper you walked into the memorial, the taller the monuments grew. As the monuments grew taller, I felt like I was becoming enclosed–trapped–within the memorial. We saw an incredible sunset and walked through parts of Tiergarten.




The following day, we went on a tour, which was offered by our hostel, of the forced labor camp Schöeneweide. Something our tour guide emphasized was that the pictures of the camp displayed in the exhibits came from records that survived the war. There was a person on the flip side of the camera recording these images and that person was German. The records and pictures present a biased view–the German view. Our tour guide did not mince words either. At one point he said, “these people were murdered by Germans,” which at once emphasized that deaths in forced labor camps were not simply casualties of war. They too were murder. Another thing the guide said that stuck with me was, “Terror is not harm. It’s fear.” Terror isn’t terror until it is publicized. An unknown crime isn’t terrorizing. How much of a role does the media play in creating terror?

Well, after the tour, we went to Warschauer Straße and saw some incredible graffiti. Next up: the Pergamon museum. I wasn’t too interested in the museum’s exhibits, but I was grateful for the respite from the wind and rain.

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April 1: Prague

Although we took an early train from Berlin (the 6:46 train!), we didn’t arrive in Prague until noon-ish due to train delays. When we got to the hotel, we poked around before walking around the city center and across the Charles Bridge. It started to hail, which sent us back to the hotel where we poked for the rest of the evening. I’m going back to Prague in 4 weeks, so I’ll hopefully have more interesting things to report!

Charles Bridge, before the hail
hail and smiles
poking around

April 2: Vienna

When we got to Vienna, we regrouped (aka poked). In the afternoon, we walked to Hotel Sacher so I could pick up a cake for my tandem partner (and eat a slice too!). Then we saw St. Stephen’s cathedral and the Hofburg palace. We went back to the hotel due to the, you guessed it, rain and wind. We did get to work out and try a device that is supposed to train your balance and coordination. I also got to swim while Ang used the sauna. The Floridian in me has really missed swimming!



April 3: Budapest

In Budapest, we finally had some sunshine!! Budapest is a marriage of two cities (Buda and Pest) that were joined sometime during the 1800s. Buda lies to the west of the Danube while Pest lies to the east. We spent the whole afternoon on the Buda side. In the evening, on the way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon an Easter market. It was quite cozy and cute.

The Chain bridge connecting Buda and Pest
Looming clouds, Matthias Church

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April 4-5: Hvar & Split

We left Budapest in the morning for Split, Croatia. From there, we took a ferry directly to Hvar town. It was way colder and windier than we anticipated (nothing new here). We originally planned to stay in Hvar town for two nights and leave the island on the morning of our flight. Due to strong winds, we decided to leave one night early. We thought it would be easy to find a hostel on the mainland. When we arrived in Split, we visited 5 hostels before finding one that had an availability for the night. Thank goodness. Croatia wasn’t quite the relaxing end to our vacation we imagined, but the coast is truly beautiful. I’m tired so I’m just going to put pictures here.

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April 6: Lausanne

Home. That is all. I woke up at 3 am to watch THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS WIN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP. GO DUKE. I’m proud and thankful to be a part of a community that is much, much greater than myself: the Duke family.


That is all.

Whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot,

We’ll weather the weather, whatever the whether,

Whether we like it or not!


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