Friday, December 3, 2010

Two cities revisited: Krakow and Amsterdam

Krakow Main Square

Monument to Holocaust victims, Amsterdam

Some hilarious street art, Amsterdam
A couple of weeks ago I went on a week-long trip to Krakow and Amsterdam. My second trip to Poland in less than a month had a professional purpose, for a regional ETA training. We (myself and most of the ETAs in Bulgaria) had the opportunity to meet with other teachers from different countries in Eastern and Central Europe. We also attended lectures on creating lesson plans, tips for teaching students of different levels and the like. There was even a mini Hungarian lesson to demonstrate foreign language learning in which I discovered just how little of it I remember from my semester abroad. :) Because of all of these workshops our time in Krakow seemed very short, and we only had time to explore the city after dark. That was fine by me, having been there once before. I did get a chance to visit the amber market in the cloth hall where I picked up some beautiful earrings and a ring. Amber jewelery is a special product of Poland so I'd been planning on buying some for a long time. This trip to Krakow, like my last visit to Warsaw, reminded me of how much I love Poland and I was reluctant to leave.

Several layovers and flights later, I arrived in Amsterdam with Conor and Hillary. This trip was a much-needed break from school and the unfamiliarities I sometimes struggle with here. It was almost like going to New York City for the weekend. Amsterdam was full of so many things that reminded me of home, such as a completely 100% English bookstore (amazing!), not to mention some of the foods I've missed. We're talking bagels, pancakes and hamburgers. I don't remember seeing a single Starbucks, though, which was interesting. Amsterdam is simply one of the most fun, youthful and beautiful cities in the world. We took a free walking tour, visited the Anne Frank museum (I didn't go there the first time I visited and I am so thankful I was able to on this trip), did some shopping and checked out a coffeeshop or two. The only fault I can think of in that city is the extremely high probability of getting run down by a bicyclist, which nearly happened to me. It would appear that bikes always have the right-of-way in Amsterdam. Something that I was really impressed by was the variety of street art all around the city. In some neighborhoods there are entire buildings covered in murals (kind of like the Mission District back in San Francisco). I hope I get to go back there someday because there is so much to do, it's impossible to see everything in one (or two) trips.

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