Good times in Amsterdam and Keukenhof

Alison Kemp and Alison Kemp

SALZBURG, Austria – I’m back to a life of calmness again. My travels were fun, but like the previous trips I took alone, my Holland adventures were also a bit on the strenuous side. My museum-seeing didn’t go like I had planned and the weather took a turn for the worse, as well. I also ended up spending a lot of time at the Amsterdam public library just so I could use free Internet, because my computer wouldn’t accept the wireless at my hostel. Sleeping at my hostel in Amsterdam wasn’t one of the finer moments of my trip, either. There were 12 beds in my room, which meant there were people coming and going at all hours of the night. One night, the cell phone of the girl sleeping below me rang every hour, and she never shut it off because it never woke her up. On another night there was a snoring contest. One of those nights caused me to sleep so awkwardly I woke up with a neck ache that still hasn’t gone away entirely. But that is life in hostels. I did have a couple good moments in Amsterdam, though. At the Rijksmuseum, which is the national art gallery, I was able to see an exhibit with five Johannes Vermeer paintings and ‘The Night Watch,’ which was painted by Rembrandt van Rijn. I learned that painting really isn’t a night watch but a scene taking place in daylight. It was given that title because the painting was so dirty it looked like it was nighttime. The daylight was found during repairs made to the painting after a psychopath stabbed and ripped the painting multiple times. I also toured the Anne Frank House, learning her name is actually pronounced as if it was written ‘Anna’ (we also mispronounce van Gogh, because the G makes an entirely different sound in Dutch). I was able to walk through the passageway hidden by the bookcase, see magazine clippings she had pasted to her bedroom walls and even look at her original, red-plaid diary. Everything that led to Amsterdam was fantastic. I know I wrote about the tulips and gardens in the town of Lisse and at the official garden of Keukenhof, but I want to re-emphasize how much I enjoyed my time there. There were so many flowers in bloom that I didn’t know which ones to look at or take pictures of. I spent about three hours in the garden, with an hour or so of that on a tour (in German, so I did get to practice a bit while I was on vacation) that was very useful. I learned about the history of the garden and also how the planting works. There are three layers of bulbs and each layer is a different plant. These grow at different times, so the gardens are continuously in bloom for the two months Keukenhof is open each year. The beds are designed years in advance, so there are enough bulbs available for the plantings. Some beds are designed to look like something (for instance, water leading up to the Statue of Liberty or the shape of a tulip bulb), and others are just groupings of colors or shapes. Very few beds include different types of bulbs in a mixed group of flowers. Then, with only one morning of sleep in my own bed in Salzburg, I headed to the train station to pick up a friend of mine from BGSU and a friend of hers who are studying abroad in England and touring Europe during their month-long spring break. Katy and Lydia stayed with me for three nights, and I gave them as much of a tour as I could while trying to recover and going to school. On Tuesday we headed to the local salt mine, which is just a couple train stops away. I first visited Salt World in 2006, when I was in Salzburg on a summer program. It was one of those places you never really need to visit more than once, but when you go with the right people, it can be a fantastic time. It can be fantastic, first of all, because you are required to wear a white suit that comes with a hood and doesn’t fit anyone properly on top of your regular clothes. Then you ride a train into the mine. Inside are mildly educational and entertaining videos at stops throughout the mine about the salt trade and Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich of Salzburg. There are also two slides you can slide down and one boat ride that is definitely the trippiest boat ride possible, due to the giant piece of revolving salt, Celtic-like music and light show. We laughed more or less the entire time, and on the way out each guest receives a small container of local salt. It was quite a wonderful experience.