Tales from the Other Half: Back to Europe

A way long time ago in 2010, the Other Half had another opportunity to head to Europe to present his research. This is the daring story of his adventure:

This time, my ultimate destination was Belgium, but first we had the chance to meet up with some colleagues in the Netherlands. (Edit from Batscapades: To, you know, party and stuff. You know those wild grad students.) Landing in Amsterdam, we took the train to Eindhoven to go to the university there. The scenery in the countryside was quite beautiful, including numerous windmills. This one was near the city of Culemborg:

Look! Snow! And a windmill!

Look! Snow! And a windmill!

Alas, no tulip fields, as this was December, and it’s too cold for that sort of thing. Returning to Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to explore the inner workings of the city. Of course, being well-known for its canals, I had to go find them while I was there.

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Along the way, I found Freddy Kreuger, or at least his lesser-known Dutch cousin.

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Because of the time of year, there wasn’t a lot of wildlife to look at (pigeons aside).

Best. Pigeon. Ever.

I did, however, get to see the Rijksmuseum, home of a great many paintings by the Dutch masters, including (most notably) Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s Milkmaid. Sorry guys, no pictures here. Even if it were allowed, taking pictures of museum art just doesn’t appeal to me—you have to see it in person to really appreciate the art. The Rijksmuseum, though, is absolutely awesome, and a must-see if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam.

Rijksmuseum

The second leg of the trip involved time in two Belgian cities: Leuven and Liège, where my colleagues tried to explain to me what their local cabbages were called. They were flabbergasted that in the US, they are what we know as ‘Brussels sprouts.’ After meeting up with some more colleagues and touring the university facilities in Leuven (and eating a tasty authentic Belgian waffle!), we got to take in some of the sights during the Christmas market in Liège. The market’s many vendors gave me a chance to dust off my few French-language skills that haven’t eroded away since high school.

New game: Name that fruit!

Liège is a bit of an interesting city, historically. It became one of the first democratic localities in the Low Countries (what is today Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, roughly) when the guilds took over in the 14th century. Each of the city’s 32 guilds had an equal voice, and every guild member had a say. Perfect? No, but you have to start somewhere. That also tends to tick people off in the Middle Ages—the Duke of Burgundy (who technically controlled the land around Liège) burned the city to the ground twice in the 1460s. Talk about angry.

Anyway, my trip was all in all a fun experience, and there’s plenty I’d want to see more of if I ever have the chance to return.

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