Netherlands with the Locals

November 8, 2015 at 8:33 pm (Travel)

In the past week I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting up with and exploring the Netherlands with three people I was lucky enough to meet while travelling.  There was something really special about this week.  You meet so many amazing and wonderful people while backpacking, but it’s not that often that you see them again.  I have this with Debra who was my roomie in Turkey and now, I have it with Stefan, Gonnie and Ellen too.

imageI started in Bunnik with Stefan, who I met on Ilha Grande in Brazil.  He had borrowed his parent’s car and my first day was spent on a road trip.  We went to a cute little fishing village called Marken and drove across a ridiculous long man made land bridge.  Stefan is ridiculously knowledgable about his local area and had lots to explain about draining lakes to make land.  I didn’t realise how much water was part of this country, or the complex systems they use to make sure it doesn’t flood.  Absolutely fascinating.  Stefan also made sure I was well educated about his country and the fact that he doesn’t live in Holland, which actually isn’t a country at all.  It’s pretty complicated… so I would suggest checking out this video.

imageOur road trip finished in Bemmel where Stefan’s parents live and I was extremely lucky to be able to stay with them for two nights.  Both his parents spoke fabulous English and were very welcoming.  At breakfast time I tried Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles on bread) and for dessert I was introduced to vla (type of pudding).  Stefan and I rode bikes to the neighbouring city Nijmegen, where he went to university and I, of course, had no chance in being able to pronounce.  Riding our bikes on the dykes along the river, was simply magical and the pannekoeken (Dutch pancakes) reward for lunch delicious.  The town was also really interesting and I particularly liked the free bike parking in the city center.

imageAfter an amazing two days it was time to leave and I headed to Breda to catch up with Gonnie.  Gonnie and I spent about three days exploring Kuching together during my summer holidays in Borneo.  We caught up over a lovely high tea including countless cups of tea.  Over the two days I was with her, she showed me the highlights of the town.  We even went to a classical music performance in one of the old churches.  We were by far the two youngest people at the performance but Gonnie did manage to make a new Facebook friend, which I thought was quite an achievement.  She introduced me to oilebollen and has made me promise to come back in Summer for a proper boat tour.

Last but not least, I made my way to Hoofddorp to visit Ellen, who I met in the middle of the Amazon while I was in Brazil.  Of course, she was not to be out done by her Dutch counterparts and made sure I experienced poffertjes with lots of butter and icing sugar, broodje kroket from a vending machine and a fresh stroopwafel.  I also became quite obsessed with Chocolade Kruidnoten.  These are special biscuits coated with either white, milk or dark chocolate for imageSinterklaas (St Nicholas).  I managed to get a fair amount of them home in my carry on luggage.  🙂 We also had absolutely delicious Indonesian.  Who said the Dutch don’t have amazing cuisine?

Ellen and I visited a traditional windmill, had drinks in a converted church and spent a morning wandering the beautiful streets of Amsterdam.  We met our goal of finding American red velvet cake and the Lee store, and we chatted heaps.  There seemed to be so much to catch up on!  I really appreciated hearing her take on some the experiences I have had and being able to talk about them with her.  She also made me promise to come back for some tulip loving, bike riding adventures and Anne Frank museum visiting.  Sounds like a good idea to me!

imageI have had a wonderful week off for autumn break and I have so many people to thank for it.  Wallabies, SV Darmstadt 98 and the Netherlands, thank you all so much.  Stefan, Gonnie and Ellen, you’re all welcome in Stuttgart any time and I hope to see you again soon.

xoxo

P.s  More photos? (I actually took some this time!)

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Settling in Stuttgart

November 2, 2015 at 10:35 am (Germany)

IMG_0387It’s been a long haul, but it’s finally autumn break.  🙂  Since coming back after the summer holidays I have really been trying to settle here in Stuttgart and find a comfortable balance between work, hockey and a social life.  No crazy stressful weekends away, just time for me to get things sorted.  It’s been nice having time at home and being able to focus on me for a change.  I’m still spending way to much time working, but I am absolutely loving my job and feel I am starting to find my rhythm.

My new class is wonderful.  They are an absolute joy to work with and we are having lots of fun together.  I am also learning lots and my confidence is growing.  I am really enjoying being part of the school community and being inspired by my amazing colleagues.  Professionally, the school is a great place for me to continue to develop.  I’ve already spent a weekend away being trained as a Duke of Ed supervisor and I will be presenting and attending the AGIS conference in Hannover in January.  My contract runs out at the end of this school year next August.  At the moment I am waiting to see if I get offered anything further, before starting to make any decisions about my future.

IMG_0275Actually being in Stuttgart has also meant that I have been able to explore some of the things that Stuttgart has to offer.  I went to the Weindorf on numerous occasions and I didn’t even know there was one in Stuttgart.  Weindorf literally translated is wine village.  It was all these little huts set up selling different wines from across the region with food stalls sprinkled in the mix.  A great place for testing wine and catching up with friends.

Stuttgart’s version of the ‘Oktoberfest’ was also a lot of fun.  I went twice on the same weekend which was perhaps a little to adventurous.  The table I organised for a group of people at work was a huge success and I have already been put on duty for organising tickets for the Frühlingsfest in spring.

Yesterday I also finally made it to the stadium to see a Bundesliga game, VfB Stuttgarts vs. Sv Darmstadt 98.  Of course I was cheering for Darmstadt!  We had tickets in the Darmstadt fan block and they sang non-stop for the whole game.  Unfortunately they lost 2 – 0 but they were not without their chances.  It was definitely an amazing experience seeing Darmstadt play again, last time I had seen them live they were playing in the third division and that was only two seasons ago!

IMG_0356Sports wise for me has been a bit up and down.  My hockey team won our first game the week I was injured so i am yet to win here in Stuttgart.  It was great watching them though.  I am currently having a couple of weeks off to rest my knee before the indoor seasons starts the weekend after next.  The highpoint was running my 2015 Half-marathon, this year in the beautiful German city of Ulm.  Considering the absolute lack of training and organisation on my behalf, I was stoked with a 2:20 time.  The course was absolutely magnificent and I was so proud of myself for doing it, especially as it involved a 4:30am wake up call and I was all by myself.  I am definitely inspired to beat 2hrs in 2016!

One of the best things about being here in Stuttgart has been getting to know the Australian community.  We have a Facebook page with over 50 members and regularly have meet ups.  It is so good for the soul to be around other Australians and I find it totally brightens up my week.  So far we have met at the Weindorf, had breakfast together and been and watched the Wallabies in the last three finals.  I am looking forward to many more adventures with that crazy bunch.

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That will have to wait though.  It’s holidays, remember?

xoxo

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