It’s the day after returning from our ten day adventure over fall break, and I’m both relieved and sad to be back home in Paris. I went with my roommate Kelsey and our friends Leo and Pedro (Kelsey and Pedro are students at University of Florida, and Leo is in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, where, fun fact, I almost went to college). All four of us are semester exchange students at Sciences Po, and we’re all political science and international relations nerds, so, of course, we had to fit in as many awesome cities as possible in our trip.
We began with Ghent, which is a cute little town in Belgium. Because we had gotten Interrail passes (available to us, because as study abroad students, we are European Union residents under the age of 26), we were able to travel by train with just our passes for the entirety of the trip—except for the trips out and back to France. Instead, we took a three hour bus ride to Ghent on Friday evening, and began our adventure on Saturday morning. We followed Ghent with Bruges, another Belgian town which is almost perfectly preserved in the medieval era. I loved Bruges. I got to experience the coolest history museum ever, which took you back in time to the 1400’s by leading you through several rooms decorated to look like the era and following the story of a young apprentice named Jacob. We also ate at one of the yummiest, cheapest shops I’ve been to, which was known mainly for its soup.
We finished the Belgian part of our journey with Brussels, where we ate delicious Belgian waffles, visited the European Union headquarters, and admired the Grand Masters at its wonderful art museum. From there, we passed onto The Hague, which was mainly Kelsey’s idea. The Hague is the home of the Netherlands’ government (extremely unusual considering its capital is Amsterdam), the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and is known as the “City of Peace” to many. Of course, as an international relations nerd, Kelsey pushed us to visit the Peace Palace, home of the ICJ. It was pretty cool, but at that point, I was ready to move on to the final leg of our journey, Amsterdam and Berlin.
Amsterdam was amazing. It is a beautiful city, and I loved wandering along its winding streets, exploring the parks and museums that make up the town. We took a boat tour, ate at a delicious Italian restaurant, and visited the “Amsterdam Dungeon,” an interactive guided tour through several sets that were meant to imitate the scariest part of Amsterdam’s history (I also went to the same attraction in Berlin). We spent two wonderful days there, and I am definitely coming back one day.
Finally, we finished off our break in Berlin. I didn’t expect to love Berlin as much as I did, but it was a great city. Although not as walkable as Amsterdam or Paris, it was (for the most part) easy to get around with the subway system. My favorite thing about Berlin was the massive numbers of awesome museums and attractions there. Pedro and I went to the DDR Museum, an interactive museum on East Germany during its communist period, which was really cool.
We also went to the Pergamon, a museum that holds artifacts from the Near East and the Islamic World, and where the Ishtar Gate (which guarded the city of Babylon) is located. The Pergamon had a pretty long line, but was one of the coolest museums that I have ever been to. Unfortunately, I missed the rest of the museums on “Museum Island,” but I made a list of all the attractions in Berlin to visit the next time I was there.
There were a few ups and downs (like the bedbugs that bit my roommate and I), but all in all, it was an amazing ten days, and well worth every penny.