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“We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange.”

Switzerland gets its own post because it deserves it. My trip to Switzerland was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t have asked for more.

This weekend, I (Easy) jetted off to Geneva, Switzerland to hang out with my wonderful friend Terri Scott. I want to start off acknowledging the fact that although I had a free weekend, I didn’t want to be traveling every weekend for 3 weekends straight. It gets a little hectic, as I’ve previously stated in one of my earlier posts. I am so thankful she did convince me to go somewhere with her this weekend despite finals coming up, because it has been one of my absolute favorite moments in life. It was so overwhelmingly great, I even wrote most of this blog post while laying out on Lake Geneva.

Our first night together consisted of sitting by the lake, admiring the Jet d’Eau, the world’s tallest water fountain, and landmark of Geneva. We caught up with each other’s lives since we last saw each other in Prague, Czech Republic, where Terri studied this semester. Traveling with Terri was incredibly easy. We were always on the same page and spontaneity of things just made it that much more exciting!

Knowing that everything is more expensive here in Switzerland (although way better than the British pound), we decided to look for fun things that didn’t require spending too much money. I suggested a hike along the Rhone River, a trail I found online. The trail starts in Geneva and goes 12 miles to the train station in La Plaine, several cities over. I warned her about the length of the hike however she said she was up for it if I was. I jumped at the opportunity and was ready for the challenge. I’ve always enjoyed nature and the outdoors but have never gotten a chance to do a long hike, such as this one.

That morning, we woke up for breakfast, headed to Lidl to fill my backpack up with snacks, and got started with our hike at 10:20AM. The website suggested taking a detour to St. Peter’s Cathedral for a panoramic view of Geneva. We unknowingly ventured into Old Town Geneva to find this hidden view of Geneva. After several struggles, we found the tower in which we had to climb for this view. It was a short climb and well worth it.

After that, we headed off to the start of our hike at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices. Apparently we didn’t start the hike off correctly, no thanks to the instructions on the website.  This led us to take so many detours throughout the hike. We even trespassed a bit to finally get on the trail. Our first attempt to get on the trail led us to a location in the middle of the Rhone River meeting the Arve River. This is where the two drastic colors in each river meet and join together. We laughed at a cycler as he made it to the end of the path, taking a photo in the middle of the river. We questioned his reasoning behind going all the way out, even knowing it was a dead end and even taking a photo. Little did we know… After getting on the actual trail, we realized he had the greatest view of both rivers connecting, blending the two colors together. If you look in the middle of where the colors meet where the trees are, that’s where we were standing, but didn’t walk out to the view. We decided to go off the trail once again and down to a bridge where we had an amazing view of this.
FullSizeRender (13)I’ll try to keep the rest of the hike update somewhat short (it was anything but that) although it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. We hiked until we couldn’t feel the pain in our feet, even though they continued to pulse for the rest of the night. Half way through our hike, we thought it would be a great idea to walk to France, with the border being pretty close. We sang to Taylor Swift, took more detours, and finally after trekking through forests, villages, and the countryside, we finally made it to La Plaine but we couldn’t just stop there. We had to walk to France and that is exactly what we did. 20 miles and 9 hours later, we ended up taking the train only six stops to end up back in Geneva to grab dinner and refuel our bodies. We didn’t think to bring anything else but 20 CHF (which we spent mostly on snacks and going up the Cathedral tower) and Terri’s credit card so after walking into a Lebanese restaurant, ordering and eating our food, we find out that their credit card machine was down. After trying for several minutes, the restaurant let us go for free! We laughed at our luck especially while trying to save money and happily went to find some ice cream at a market. Trying our luck again with the credit card and witnessing a shady drug deal of some sort from the cashier, he told us there was a 10CHF minimum for credit cards (ice cream was 6 total) but he would waive it for us. We also had around 4 CHF in coins so we decided to see what he would do. I handed him the change to see if he would take it instead of getting hit with credit card fees, and he did! We got dinner and ice cream for only 2 CHF each. It was a miracle! Okay, not really but we skipped out happily and returned to our hostel rest our bodies.

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The next day, we tried to take a train to see the Alps and ultimately decided against it because it really wasn’t worth all the money. Instead, we decided to take a cable car up to Mont Saleve, which was Geneva’s own mountain! …But it was located in France. We got a recommendation to ‘walk’ 20 minutes to go see a panoramic view of the Alps, so we decided to do it. Without feet still sore from the previous day and after swearing off hikes (because 20 miles wasn’t enough?), we ended up hiking up the mountain once again. Unfortunately for us, the clouds were blocking our view of the Alps.

Terri left the next morning so after that, I spent two days in Geneva alone, exploring the city on my own. This weekend was an absolute blast and I loved every moment of it. Through our snoring roommates (cheers to you, naked lady and singing bald lady) and meeting Indiana Dad, I know for a fact that I will never forget this trip. I was in awe with just how big the world was and completely amazed by life and what it has to offer. We saw some amazing views and the pictures I managed to take don’t even do it justice. While sitting by Lake Geneva, meditating and pondering life, I peacefully listened to the musicians drumming away in one ear, and behind me, the calming sounds of water splashing onto the shore all while enjoying the chatter of the rest of the people spending their night out on the lake. Geneva, you were perfection and Switzerland, I’ll be coming back for more of you!FullSizeRender (16)

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Hi world! I’m back!

My blog posts have been a mess for the past two months and I am actually really sad that I could not keep up with it! I know for a fact that I am not an amazing writer, mediocre at best but writing was and has been always good for me. It helps me untangle the mess of thoughts crammed tightly into my brain, especially since life is a little crazy being abroad. It allows me to document my thoughts and feelings while studying in Amsterdam all while travelling throughout Europe. I am going to look back in a couple months, several years even, to find that I have only managed to save snippets of these missing two months here in the form of jumbled thoughts that I have forced myself to publish regardless.

So, going forward, I have made it a goal of publishing a weekly blog post from here on out. I urge whoever is reading this, friends, family, or even complete strangers, to keep me accountable! Send me a message, comment on my blog post, it doesn’t matter! Help me make sure I write something!

Now, to try to pick up the pieces and give a recap of my life for the past two months… Here I go!

Paris
I didn’t have any travel plans in April but really wanted to do something before Kings Day weekend, so out of a whim, I decided to join ISN on a trip to Paris! None of my friends were going on this trip with me so I was tasked with the challenge of making new friends. We left Friday morning on April 17th and returned to Amsterdam on April 19th around 10:00PM. Marleena, one of the girls I had met in the beginning of my semester here also went on the trip and we ended up hanging out for most of the weekend. People often have mixed thoughts about Paris– they either love it or they don’t. I’ve heard it both ways plenty of times so I made sure I went into the trip without any real expectations, except for getting some macarons from Laduree (typical, right?). For most of the trip, I had a blast! I hung out with some of the girls in my building and saw most, if not all, the touristy things. It was fun putting myself out there but it was well worth it.
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Carnival in Dam Square
One day Jamie and I were out and about in the city, running errands of some sort and probably eating fries together. We came across the carnival getting set up in Dam Square and immediately wondered: did we miss the carnival or are they just getting set up? Everything looked incredibly fun, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out they were just getting started. We came back for Emily’s 21st birthday dinner at Majestic and afterwards decided to ride a couple of rides. Good idea, right? Nope, not really! We decided to go on this incredibly spin-y ride. You really got what you paid for because the ride lasted about 5-7 minutes. The first couple of spins were thrilling. We saw the skyline of Amsterdam while the sun was setting, while completely upside down, strapped in. In those first few rounds, I felt completely alive. Who can say they’ve seen the beauty of Amsterdam like how we did? It was amazing. Unfortunately, the rest of the ride wasn’t. It went faster and faster, until my body was actually aching and just when I thought it was over, we went the other direction– slower, then faster. And finally, it was all over. Then, being our crazy selves, Emily and I decided to go on the sling shot, maybe only a minute or two after our first ride was over. Good idea? Nope, not at all.

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Kings Day
Kings Day is one of the biggest national holidays in the Netherlands, celebrated on April 27th, marking the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. The Dutch go absolutely crazy this holiday, dressed from head to toe in the color orange. Amsterdam gets a ton of visitors during this weekend, so on top of the 1 million people who actually live in the city, another 1 million come into the city for Kings Day!

On Kings Night (the night before), we decided to venture into the city to celebrate. We ended up in Rembrantplein, our typical going out location. There were people everywhere, beer and other fun drinks in hand, celebrating this holiday. We decided to go into Club Nasty (I know, poor choice) where we danced for a little bit and headed to one of the outside stages. On our way, Emily and I got bombarded by a group of really drunk Bachelors dressed in really creative Hangover shirts. That was interesting. We decided to have a relaxing night out, as I always say because of our shenanigans on actual Kings Day.

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For Kings Day, we decided to run around the city in the morning/early afternoon with Jamie’s family who was visiting and in the afternoon, we made our way over to the Olympic Stadium for Kings Day Festival. The festival itself was absolutely insane. Somehow, we ended up right in the front of Diplo’s stage, finding the rest of our friends and when the crazy Yellowclaw fans came through for his upcoming set, we were completely thrown around in the mosh pits. Keep this in mind: little ol’ me, getting pushed and shoved around in the front of Yellowclaw, barely managing to hang on to Jamie. Once she saw the horror on my face, she pulled me and booked it out of there. For the rest of the night, we ended up sitting around, eating pizza, and making new friends! We even busted a mission to steal Mario’s jacket and managed to leave him a note. The whole night turned out perfectly, from magically remembering the code to Mario’s locker to finding a writing utensil to write him a note and even using up all our tokens exactly. It was a great time. Oh, and shout out to Mario for throwing me on your shoulders!

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London
I’m not going to say much about London, except for the fact that it was a really, really frustrating weekend. I had one of the worst days of my study abroad adventures in England. Overall, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I think I need to come back to London and give it another shot, maybe when I’m older and money isn’t really an issue. Here’s a picture of me with a phone booth though!
FullSizeRender (12)So that’s it! If you’ve stuck around for this long, I applaud you and thank you! I also went to Switzerland recently but that post will be coming shortly. 🙂 Thanks all!

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Country #4 – Czech Republic

** I wrote this a month ago and just left it in my drafts ever since. It needed to be posted, so here it is.

This weekend, I boarded a bus and 12 hours later, I was in Prague. We left Thursday night and after dreading the incredibly long ride, we finally made it. The seats were uncomfortable and I can never sleep sitting up at all, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. We stopped every three hours for a short break while passing through Germany so it really wasn’t that bad! After feasting on some goulash, we met up with Dani, a sorority sister of mine and she gave us a tour around the city. Our hostel was right off the Charles Bridge so getting around was fairly easy! I was able to use my Konica Pop quite a bit, so it’ll be interesting to see how the shots came out after I get the film developed. After running around that section of Prague, we all went back and took a nap. YES Trips and ISN planned for a Pub Crawl that night with unlimited everything, basically. I didn’t feel like going crazy, so I ended up opting out of this one. I had dinner with one of my good friends and also sorority sister, Terri Scott from Chapman and went back to her apartment to hang out and catch up. We even got boba but because I was so frightened by the Czech lady working, we ended up with horrible drinks. That night, we went to Lucerna, a club that had an 80’s and 90’s night. We didn’t stay there too long, grabbed and ended up going back to Terri’s. Some other unfortunate events occurred but what else can you do other than continue on! Life goes on– and so do the trams.IMG_7386

We didn’t really have plans for the weekend so the next day, we just kind of went with it. After spending some time trying to figure out what we wanted to do, we ended up going to eat a delicious and incredibly hearty Czech meal and then heading over to the Prague Zoo. Yup, the zoo! The Prague Zoo is the 7th best zoo in the world, so we had to go. The San Diego Zoo is actually the 2nd best, so overall it was just a silly adventure of ours. We ended up seeing a ton of animals like the elephants and giraffes, but we really fell in love with the ocelot. Such a cute animal! We took the chair lift up the mountain, because why not and even caught sight of the backside of a polar bear. After the zoo, we got kebab for dinner rightby Terri’s apartment, grabbed snacks and watched The Prince and Me. Finally, we decided to meet her roommates at a Czech pub where we enjoyed a nice drink and a power outage. I decided to just stay over again because it was easiest, not using my hostel for a second night in a row.
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The next morning, I decided I was brave enough to take the Metro back to Old Town Square to meet up with the rest of my program. I ate some more Czech street food and we ended up going to the Jewish Quarters, where all the Jewish people ended up living after they were ordered to vacate their homes. We saw a ton of old artifacts that were going to be preserved as Hitler’s “Museum of an Extinct Race”. The history behind the Jewish Quarters is insane. We also entered the Jewish Cemetery; there are over 12,000 tombstones visible, but so many more burials underneath it. When they ran out of space, more soil would be thrown on top and more bodies would be buried. After, we climbed the Astronomical Clock after and saw a great view of all of Prague.
IMG_7397I loved how different Prague was, but there were so many tourists! It was great to see Terri and hang out with her; it is a wonderful feeling when you get to see one of your favorite people from school in a completely different country.

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It’s not up to you how you fall. It’s up to you how far you let yourself fall and how long it takes you to get back up and stand on your own two feet.

This week, I spent a lot of time catching up my life in Amsterdam. Since I have been traveling almost every weekend, I haven’t really had the chance to stop and enjoy myself here. I have come to the realization this weekend that traveling and being a tourist is incredibly draining. When you are traveling to a different city or a different country every weekend, you are literally trying to do everything in less than three days. I now know that that is completely not my thing. How can you really enjoy a place and get a feel for it if you’re constantly moving from attraction to attraction? Although it is so easy to get caught up in all the travel and closeness of all the countries in Europe, it has always been my goal to really get to know my own city, Amsterdam. Thus, after a weekend in Belgium and a whole week in Italy, I was completely exhausted from traveling, not to mention, sick. When I came back to Amsterdam, I decided that I just want to stay here forever. Of course, that is me being slightly dramatic as I have a trip to Prague planned for next weekend and I have made plans to see a Manchester United game in England in early May. I think that is all I will do and see, until school is officially over on May 22nd. After that, I can backpack around Europe or hang out in Amsterdam until I fly home on June 30th, so long as my wallet permits it.

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This weekend, two of Sara’s friends from Florence, Marie and Thalia came to visit as well as my sorority sister and friend Allegra. I have been running around all weekend around the city, showing these kids around. Having friends visit finally gave me a reason to go see all the sights in Amsterdam, see a museum, and do all the touristy things. We saw the I Amsterdam letters, Van Gogh museum, Heineken Experience, and the Red Light District all in two days. It has been a blast, but I am quite worn out.

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IMG_7301I finally feel like I belong in this city, like I am no longer just temporarily visiting. I have been biking everywhere, taking in the fresh, crisp air and watching the canals pass by with every ride. It is the most beautiful and peaceful feeling. It was going to happen sooner or later, but I have also finally had my first bad fall. This was only last night too, so it is all still pretty fresh in my mind. I wish I had battle scars to show you all, but apparently I caught myself pretty well after flying off my bike and skidding onto the other side of the street. The only pain now is in my knee, after smashing that well into the ground. I got back on and we continued on with our night’s adventure. I honestly felt nothing until we got to Melkweg, probably due to all the adrenaline. Nonetheless, I am getting quite acquainted with this city and I’m loving it. It is so weird to think that I have only been here for five weeks, because it feels like I have been here for so much longer.

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**This post deserves a pretty sappy ending, but unfortunately I can’t deliver.

Eva

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