After being here a couple of days, finally getting some sleep and adjusting to everything, I can say that I have fallen in love with absolutely that surrounds me. I feel like I am living in a dream and with one pinch it will all be over. I wake up every morning and look out my window and cannot believe that I live in such a fairy tale.
My room feels like home already. I live in a building right across the street from my school. I have unpacked everything and I am making it as comfortable as possible. Although, it is not hard when you have the view I have. I have grown fond of all windows here, especially the ones in our room. They are big antique windows and I could stare out of them for hours, just gazing at the view of Leiden below.
During our days before school starts we have just been exploring Leiden. We have got lost so many times, but those times we have stumbled upon some of the most breathtaking things. When I walk down the streets, I look at all the people riding on their bikes or just walking up and down the canals, and I wonder how they are not in awe of everything around them? I step outside my door and feel as if I waked into a storybook. I have to remind myself everyday that this is reality. When I realize where I am, I can’t help but smile.
Our first full day here, Sophia and I woke up and, like normal, we looked out our window and we saw our first dutch rainbow. They obviously are a lot better than your average American rainbow (insert sarcasm). Everyday I wake up and find something that makes this place even more beautiful than the day before.
A big group of us decided that we would experience the nightlife of Leiden. We went to a bar called Einsteins. I had my first legal beer in Europe, Heineken of course. It takes some time getting used to all the dutch customs. Its always a battle of whether or not you tip, or if you seat yourself, or can you pay separately, or with a credit card. But like everything that is new, it is a learning process. For once, this is a learning process that I will not complain about.
The next day we explored the town again, trying to figure out the train system. First stop, coffee. It has become a mandatory morning ritual.
As we were walking past the train station, we found a street cart that sold fresh fish. We decided that we would take a risk and try some, and it was one of the best decisions. The fish was out of this world. It was covered in grease and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
After we had the fish, we then experienced our first rain storm in Leiden. We walked around with our umbrellas blowing in the wind. When we looked around we were the only ones that were using umbrellas. You could say we felt semi out of place. At that point everyone could tell that we were not Dutch. Unless it is in an extreme downpour, the rain seems to effect no one. When it rains in Leiden the town becomes even more beautiful then before (which I thought would be impossible). The streets glimmer and the lights reflect off the street creating this majestic feeling I really can’t explain.
On our way back, we decided to try a Leiden staple, a donor kebab. It was recommended by a student who studied abroad the previous spring. I was a little worried at first, but it did not disappoint.
Later that night, we met more people that live in the dorms and go to Webster. They invited us all to go out with them. They showed us around town a little and told us more about the night life and the great places to go. We went to a place called Keizers. I could tell just from the first meeting that the Webster community was very welcoming.
Today we heard about a market on one of the streets that comes every Wednesday and Saturday. Everyone told us that it was one of the best places to get fresh fruit, vegetables and other groceries. I bought Stroopwafels, a Dutch delicacy made of a waffle cookie and filled with honey/caramel sauce. Probably one of the best things I have tried since I have been here.
While there, we tried fresh grapes and fresh cured ham. The amount of fresh vegetables and other foods was indescribable. Today was chance for me to step outside my food comfort zone and really dive into the dutch life style and I enjoyed every bit of it.
After the market, we went on the hunt to buy bikes. You would think in a town that predominately rides bikes, it would be easy to find a bike shop, not likely. Right next to the bike shop, we walked into an antique shop. Some of the stuff had to be hundred of years old.
We walked around for an hour or so and we found the DeBurchtCastle . The views from this castle are stunning. You can see pretty much all of Leiden from the top. And for a small city, it looks huge from up above.
As you walk across the top, it tells you about all the churches in Leiden. One of the churches that we walked pass many times has been in construction since the 1400’s. It’s crazy to think that the buildings and streets that I am walking pass are over hundreds and thousands of years old. It gives me an incredible feeling to know that I am living here for 5 months. I get to walk these streets everyday and I feel so grateful for that.
When I talk to people from home, and hear about the amount of snow and outrageously cold temperatures in St. Louis, I can’t help but boast of the 50 degree weather here.
The week is coming to end and it feels like the days are already going by so fast. I want to cherish everyday that I have here because I know it will go by fast. I catch myself taking so many pictures everyday because I don’t want to forget one moment that I have while I am here.