Leaving Berlin with a somewhat bad taste in our mouths to how they treat those who do not live in Berlin, we hopped the train to Amsterdam. On this train we would have our perception of German people shattered by a very sweet older German woman who detailed her whole life to us along this 6 hour train trip. She discussed her time avoiding the Nazis in Germany, hiding out in Poland and running from shelter to shelter among the Russian battlefields all while under the age of 10. She told us about her first interactions with Americans and how thankful she was to them because they gave her and her family copious amounts of food and protection. It was then that I realized that my perception of Berlin and its people might have been off base. In a previous blog "Ambassadors" I discussed the concept of every meeting you have could potentially be the first time someone has met someone of your ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc. While the vibe I got from the streets of Berlin was cold and guarded, the first at length conversation that we had with someone from Germany could not have been more warm and genuine. It's funny how perceptions are formed and changed and I would say that it's always a good idea to have a fluid idea of people because if you want to you can form a concrete opinion and then just search for ways to support that opinion. In fact that is a large part of the issues we are seeing around the world, people forming an opinion on a small bit of information than closing off their mind. If my time in Berlin taught me anything, it is to keep an open mind and do not form concrete opinions without a large sample size.
As for the people of Holland, immediately I could tell they were open and accepting. I was fortunate enough to live with two people from the Netherlands this year in Ireland who are great people, so I was coming in with positive notions of the Dutch. Our previous accommodation throughout the trip had been more about saving money than being comfortable, our reason behind this was that we wanted to splurge a bit on a place in Amsterdam. Our Airbnb was on the top floor of an apartment building with a modern design (including a suspended fireplace) and a loft. This gorgeous space had a view overlooking the city and could have not been a better place to spend a few days at the end of a logistical nightmare of a trip. I had spent some time in Venice earlier in the year and fell in love with the floating city and its beautiful canals. To my surprise Amsterdam too was filled with many canals and beautiful waterways but had a bit more of an infrastructure set up for a bustling city.
After soaking in all we could of the city for a few days, we decided to venture out of the cities and into the famed tulip fields. Something unbeknownst to me before the trip was that the Netherlands is known for its Easter time tulips. Not being quite the green thumb that one might expect I was definitely a bit apprehensive when we were talking about spending an afternoon exploring fields of flowers. However to my surprise these fields were an breathtaking arrangement of colors just as diverse as those who were visiting them. After we got our fill of flowers we headed back into the city and met up with Ziggy's cousins who had been living in the city for a few years. Thy took us to their favorite Indonesian food spot, which if you have not experienced Indonesian food I would highly recommend it. This time it was Ziggy's turn to have his worlds collide, we spent two hours asking and answering one another's questions while enjoying a wide variety of Indonesian delicacies. After dinner we would take their recommendation and check out a few local bars no clubs before calling it a night one last time in this beautiful city. I awoke the next morning, said my goodbyes and thank yous to my friends who had taken time off work and spent a lot of money to come visit me(but mostly Europe) and went to the airport. Upon arriving in Dublin, exhausted but content, I felt like I gained a valuable understanding of the world around me. Which when it really boils down to it, is the most valuable part about this year abroad. So for now it's time to close down my year in Ireland, but maybe I'll sneak one more trip in before I head back to the states. Just not to Berlin.