Sophomore Emily Pachta of Wichita is studying abroad at Newman University’s sister school in Birmingham, England, and continues her latest adventures in blog No. 6.
Follow along with Pachta’s blog posts on the Newman Today news site as she explores the British university also named for St. John Henry Newman, as well as Birmingham and other cities and sites in England and Europe.
Read blog No. 1 — Getting acquainted
Read blog No. 2 — A day in the life
Read blog No. 3 — A trip to Scotland
Read blog No. 5 – A U.S.-themed night abroad
Hallo! (“Hello” in Dutch because I am so worldly.) I hope everyone is doing well and their spring is off to a good start. I didn’t take spring break when all you Americans did so our break was an Easter break. I had the week before and the week after Easter off of school so some of my family came up to travel.
My sister, Elyse, brother-in-law, Damian, and brother, Aaron, came to Birmingham on March 31, and on April 1 we got on a flight to Amsterdam, Netherlands. A few days later we took a train to Cologne, Germany. It was a super fun trip and I decided to rate the things we did on the trip on a scale of 1 (super lame, never do it) to 10 (incredible, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same).
These were recommended by my Dutch friend (shout out to Loes) but honestly, you won’t get very far in Amsterdam without seeing a shop or two full of stroopwafels. They are incredible. It is basically a flat waffle cone with caramel in the middle. The true Dutch way is to put the stroopwafel on your cup of coffee so the caramel gets all melted and warm. SO GOOD. There are lots of really expensive ones (We kinda got sucked into a tourist trap and got a huge one for like €8 but that’s ok) but you can also find normal-sized ones for €3 for a pack of 10.
Bus tour around the Netherlands: 7/10
This was PEAK tourism but it was a nice way to see more of the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. We saw some windmills and clog makers and cheese factories. The only reason I deducted points — it was too touristy. Most places we visited were like little theme parks with overpriced food and knick-knacks. But I did get to try on a pair of clogs so that was pretty sick.
World War II Resistance Museum: 4/10
Listen, I am not a museum person but this museum was probably my least favorite of the many museums I have visited. For some reason, walking around just made me so sleepy. It had a lot of information in a small area and although it was interesting, it was very similar to other World War II museums so it’s not too special. It was hard to enjoy it because I knew there were so many other things in Amsterdam to do. The only reason it got a “4” rating is because it was next to an ice cream store that sold stroopwafel ice cream. Incredible, truly. I loved the ice cream.
Bloemendaal aan Zee Beach: 9/10
Obviously, it was not bikini weather. I actually wore jeans and a sweater to the beach but it was beautiful. We went early in the morning (like 9:30 a.m. but that seems early for Europeans) and it was empty. We were able to walk around and enjoy the view without interruption. The beach was also very clean and there were so many sea shells to admire. There were a few restaurants on the beach so we ate brunch. The food was good but the vibes were great. My sister did try to order a mimosa and got a very confused look from the waitress so that was a little disappointing.
I know, I literally just said I don’t like museums but I enjoy a good art museum. This one is huge. We got told a few times that we would need a couple of days at the museum to see it all (that was a lie). There is no earthly way I could spend two whole days in any museum, even if it is an art museum. There were a lot of famous paintings here, including two popular Dutch artists, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. There is a Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam that I have heard wonderful things about but both museums cost to enter so we choose one. I would have liked to go to the Van Gogh Museum but the Rijks definitely offers more variety. And there was a Monet there and I love Monet.
Biggest tips for Amsterdam
- Everything is expensive! Even cheap food is expensive, so budget accordingly.
- Book tickets way in advance if going during peak vacation time. We were unable to go to the Anne Frank House because it booked up so quickly!
- No, that smell is not skunk. They don’t really have skunks in Amsterdam.
Stolzenfels Castle: 6/10
This was about a 30-minute train ride from Cologne. It is a castle for some German royalty I think. (Editor’s note: Stolzenfels was a ruined 13th-century castle, gifted to the Prussian Crownprince, Frederick William in 1823.) I would know more about it but the entire tour was in German and I don’t speak German. It only cost €5 for entry so it wasn’t expensive and the views were beautiful but the castle aspect wasn’t too exciting. I’ve seen better castles in my day (Edinburgh Castle). Definitely pretty views and a nice view of the Rhine but don’t go for the exciting castle (haha).
Cologne Cathedral: 11/10
This cathedral is massive. Even if you aren’t Catholic or religious, you’ll enjoy it. Entry is free, which is right up my alley, but we paid around €10 for a tour of some artifacts and entry to the top. The artifacts included the remains of the Three Kings (yes, those Three Kings from the Christmas song) and tons of other interesting items. Walking up the top is a bit intense. There is no elevator, so it’s 500 steps in a crowded thin stairway. I took a few breaks but we finally made it and the view was gorgeous! Honestly, the cathedral itself has so much information and artifacts that you don’t need to get the extra ticket to enjoy it. This is the main attraction of Cologne so if you go, you have to go there.
Schokoladenmuseum Köln (Chocolate Museum): 7/10
You can tell my sister planned this. Of all the museums. I actually enjoyed this one, mostly for the free chocolate. It has a cute cafe at the bottom and the information is interesting. There is a Cadbury World in Birmingham that is like a Cadbury museum but I thought the Cologne Museum was superior. More refined, if you will. It is also on a little “island” situation on the Rhine so that was pretty cool.
German food: 3/10
Now I am half German so I feel like I can say this, German food is just lacking. We only got one German meal so I don’t have much room to talk but it was meh. They know that tourists will come so it was very over-priced. I ordered sausage and sauerkraut soup, which is pretty good, but my sister got a subpar sausage and my brother and brother-in-law got schnitzel. The reason I rated this so poorly is that it was expensive and nothing special.
Ice Cream: 15/10
This was so random but they had a few ice cream shops that were only €1.40 for a cone and a huge scoop. Much better than the €4 I paid in Amsterdam. And the ice cream was pretty incredible. I regret not getting more. I love ice cream.
- There are not as many English speakers here as there are in Amsterdam, so be aware of that and maybe use Google translate before you order just so they have a better idea.
- They also don’t take cards as much as Amsterdam, so be sure you have some euros for meals or snacks.
- Cologne was beautiful and I think the two-and-a-half days we spent was a great amount of time. I don’t think you need much more than that.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed another great (hopefully) read! I am excited for my next one so keep an eye out. As the semester is ending, I have accumulated so many tips so as always, reach out with any questions [email protected]
Study abroad opportunities at Newman University
Students are encouraged to participate in Newman University’s overseas study and exchange programs, which contribute to individual and intercultural development.