Location: Gent!, Belgium
I AM ALMOST FINISHED!!! The last few days I have been a little neurotic, as I'm sure my friends everywhere and family can tell you - or you probably know yourself, because my life as I know it is ending! Everything is the 'last' of everything - even as I write I am taking a short break from studying for my LAST LAW EXAM EVER. In retrospect, this whole degree has been much more of a struggle than I have allowed myself to admit, for more reasons than just the fact that I've been studying law full time year round for far longer than is sane. Anyway - I am excited to go to Greece, I am sad to leave Gent, I am relieved to go home, I am overjoyed to be finishing studying and I am upset that I am saying goodbye to friends I have only just come to know... maybe this helps explain the neurosis??!!!
Anyway, now that I just have this exam to go I can finally start to get excited about Greece!! I leave Gent at 4am Saturday and my cousins are coming into Athens to pick me up! It's going to be so great - they are taking me on a whirlwind tour of Greece, somewhere I have wanted to go to forever and we will be spending Christmas on the island of Corfu! Then, after Corfu, we'll be hitting up Thessaloniki, Trikala, Meteora and then back to Athens. It's going to be soo great, and I am really looking forward to this as a holiday to celebrate the end of my time in Europe and my degree.
SOOO in the past few days I have still managed to do a lot of things, including going out to dinner on Tuesday night with my 3 Belgian housemates :) Then we all went and had 'hot chocolade' and watched everyone at the ice skating rink - willing someone to fall down! Some distant relatives of my Grandpa on my Dad's family also kindly came to Gent yesterday and took me out to lunch at a gorgeous Brasserie I didn't even know existed! It was sooo interesting meeting Mark and Marion because although we have never met, they told me all sorts of fascinating stories about members of my family and the life of my Grandpa who died when Nikki and I were only a few weeks old. It was really fabulous meeting them and such a unique experience, considering something like that would never have happened had I been just travelling through Europe. Plus it was refreshing to hear some of their views on Belgium as a nation - things I thought only I was thinking!
Ok - back to studying for my FINAL EXAM IN LAW EVER!!!! Hopefully I'll be adding a few quick entries here and there, but if I don't get a chance PRETTIGE KERSTDAGEN! (Merry Christmas in Flemish), HAPPY HANNUKAH AND HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!!!! All of my love from just a website away... April xoxoxox
Location: Germany and Gent, Belgium
Hello! Hopefully just a short entry... if I can do that... sorry, I have a tendency to keep writing when I do these things, but don't worry - you won't have to put up with it much longer because I'm coming back to Oz!!! I have to be short though, because I HAVE to STUDY!!! AAHH
Ok - so I went to Krefeld in Germany last weekend to visit Valerie, and it was soo fun! It was really cool to see her after so long, and it was like no time had passed at all :). Valerie and her boyfriend Marion picked me up from the train station and we ended up going to a friend of their's 21st that night - a REAL German house party! (I talked to a few of their friends... later found out they had no idea what I was saying because they didn't understand my accent!)Then on Sunday Valerie and I went into Dusseldorf to the Christmas markets - they were AMAZING! The atmosphere everywhere was so cool. I don't have time or space to write everything down, but these markets were HUGE and everyone was drinking Gluwhein and eating crepes and Bratworst!! Sausages were everywhere! I tried one on Monday (yes, they are pretty good) and we got pretzels at the market and sugared almonds. Time went SO fast. Oh - and it was FREEZING cold! It was -3 degrees, and I had on 7 layers of clothes and two pairs of gloves. It's so cold that Valerie uses the balcony as a spare fridge - they just leave everything covered up outside!
It's funny because I never had any desire to actually travel in Germany (despite seeing Valerie!) but I have changed my mind! I want t come back and see more of it - everything is so detailed and interesting because it is unique to Germany. It was a great weekend, and I can't wait to see Valerie in Australia SOON!
Other than that I stressed out a bit because the uni gave me 4 days notice for an exam I had Wednesday, and three of those days I was in Germany.. but I did it, and I can't believe now I only have 2 exams and I have completed my degree!!! You have no idea how relieving that will be :)
Francesca and Guiseppe had a Christmas party last night, and it was sooo fun! I made scones to take (!) I know.. not exactly Australian, but easy to pre-prepare and carry over there. We just had a great night - there were people from all over the place there - but everyone is leaving! I am going to miss them all sooo much - but I am planning to go to Italy and Germany now in the European summer of 2007 - anyone want to join me?!
After the party (where somehow everyone ended up in the bath tub at one point, I blow-dried a couple of people's hair(no matter what country I am in - I always end up doing people's hair?!), we perfected a cheerleader pyramid and took a ton of photos), we went into 'Overpoort' the going out area, to a bar called Tequilla. I have never experienced 'dancing' like that of my Italian friends... apparently 'dancing' is jumping up and down and on top of people - not like moshing, more like when you are in a jumping castle and you can't help landing on people as you come down from the air... only this is on purpose!!!! hahahahahaha. SOO funny.
SO now, I have only ONE WEEK LEFT IN GENT. It is sooo scary! I am trying to do everything, and study for my final exams (that part really isn't going so great.. especially when you don't come home until 5am). I am hoping to go to a music gallery in Brussels this weekend, but I really don't know if I will get time now - I just can't believe the end is soo near!!! Well, hope you are all well - if you don't hear from me for a while - it is because I am trying not to procrastinate by writing on here... but you never know :) Hope all is good!! See you soon!!
Location: Gent, Belgium
There is sooo much more happening here now that it's Christmas! It's amazing! They have a Christmas market opening in the centre of Gent tomorrow, they have show rides and stalls all over the city, and an ice skating rink is being set up! Plus they have turned on all of the Christmas lights and have already had St Nicholas day - yes, the children of Belgium get double the presents. So unfair!! lol.
Laurent my housemate took me to the 'Candy Shop' yesterday! I felt like a little kid, he pointed out the traditional Belgian candy and we went crazy buying just about everything in the shop... and then eating it... ALL!! And the most sour lollies I have ever tasted... thanks Laurent.. my jaw is still sore. It was really nice just walking around the centre yesterday, because it was warm (well.. 7degrees! I was happy!) and there was a good vibe about the place. Somebody filmed us walking down the street (maybe I'm starting to look like a local..?) and Laurent showed me around his faculty (he's studying Architecture right next door to where we live) and they had a party going on (ALWAYS parties...!) where they had a rodeo bull!! Only in Belgium... That is going to be my new saying - anything crazy or weird, or just not quite right - you will probably find it is normal in Belgium! anyway...!
So this weekend I am going to visit Valerie! Valerie came to Trinity (my old High School) as an exchange student in Year 12, and I was looking for somewhere to go this weekend so I called her up! She lives near Dusseldorf (which is near Cologne) in Germany, which is actually SO close to me! I couldn't believe it. Only about 4 hours by train. So, it will be fantastic to catch up with her, and see some more of Germany. Apparently the Christmas markets there are amazing (it was hard to get a train ticket for this reason!) and I'm really excited to just go there. Even though I am getting a little concerned about studying for exams... ahhh well... I don't need to graduate do I? haha
And on that note - I know when I am coming home :) Just so that you all know, I will be home at the start of January! It was the only flight I could get until the end of February (which would mean I would miss my graduation and freeze my butt off in the mean time!). My flight arrives in Brisbane at 6:45am January 2nd - I fly through New Years! Scary... Just two more weeks in Belgium then I am going to Greece for a week before flying to London/Singapore/Bris. AARRGGHHH!!! Can't wait to see everyone at home (although now I'm not too sure how I will deal with the HOT weather! I think I've acclimatised!), and decide what to do with my life now... but I will miss all of my friends here and the craziness and history that is Belgium! I've had such an amazing experience for so many reasons :) See you soon!!!
Location: Gent, Belgium
I have had a cool week. I am trying to do the interesting things that are here in Belgium before all of my time runs out! So on Thursday night, Gina, a friend of hers from Sweden and I all went to the 'Vooruit', which is the cultural heart of Gent - they show a lot of really intersting Artsy things. We saw 'Dom No Troubnoi, Alexei Aigui & Ensemble 4'33'. It was a silent Russian film from the 60's I think - so in black and white, with some French words popping up on the screen here and there, and accompanied by live music! The ensemble was incredible - they played all the music through the entire film, creating all the atmosphere and tension/suspense etc and then did a small concert at the end. The lead instrumentalist played the Viola and also conducted the Cello, piano, Bass, trumpet, trombone, and drum kit. They played the coolest music using all different modern contemporary and percussive techniques (how I like to play!) and they reallly added to the comedy of the film. The film itself was hysterical - the camera work and the editing techniques they used were soo good, and it was in black and white! haha. Sorry, I didn't mean to go on about that for so long!
Anyway, after we went and got a warm drink (becuase it was freezing cold, and I was having issues dealing with the layering and un-layering and re-layering of all of my clothes, gloves, mittens, scarves and hats... AAAHH) then we went our separate ways. As I was walking home, all of the Italians were riding their bikes past me, and Giuseppe kidnapped me on the back of his bike to go to this Spanish party!!!! I had no idea WHERE we were going, and neither did they... I would have loved a photo of Giuseppe trying to ride that bike with me on the back (I still had a whole ream of paper that I had to take to uni that day) wearing a little pink hat with a pompom on the top (thanks to Nikki's bf Jack's mum)!! It's the funniest image - I kept catching glimpses of us in shop windows and cracking up.
Anyway, the party was fun - Belgian's, Spaniard's, Italians and one Australian. lol.
THEN my cousin Paloma (hailing from California) came to visit me on Saturday! She is working in Trikkala in Greece at the moment. I met her in Brussels and showed her around. They had these great parades and stuff on in Grand Place (the main square in Brussels) and they were throwing lollies, and they had people walking on stilts and big decorations in Grand Place for Christmas! IT was amazing! They also had a whole heap of stalls set up along the street selling food and 'Gluwhein' - which is hot sweet wine. So we did some touristy walking around, then jumped on the train back to Gent, and talked the whole way. SO good to catch up. We went in to get some Asian food from the Centre here, because Paloma was craving Asian(!) then tried to find somewhere to get desert or something... BUT Gent was dead. So, (Paloma was a little sketchy on this idea at first) we went and bought some waffles at the night shop, and brought them home and toasted them and had some tea! It was soo fun, and the waffles are SO good! Seriously - it is soo hard to explain. You eat them plain or with chocolate or cream, but plain they are sweet and sticky and really doughy - they are just the best invention ever! We spent the rest of the night reminising about spending time all together (Nikki, Yosefa, Paloma and I) when we were younger and the stupid things we used to do, like wearing all the same outfit (double twins right?!) and sleeping in our clothes the night before we went to Disneyland so we could be the first one ready!
Then Sunday we struggled to get up, and went to the 'Second-hand-Sunday' market that's on here. It was a pretty big antique market and had some interesting things. The frustrating thing about Belgium is that NOTHING is open on Sunday. I had planned to take Paloma to Brugge - but the second most frustrating thing about Belgium (or possible the first depending on your mood) is the weather. Of course it rained most of yesterday, so going to Brugge would have been miserable.
Anyway, we ended up going to the Folk Museum - which had little rooms displaying different scenes from the start of the 20th century. It was really cool! Then we went and got some GREAT soup from the 'souplounge', and wandered around Gent looking at all the different shops that were actuallly OPEN! Then we went to get a REAL waffle - a hot fresh delicious waffle from the shop, and it was just SO good. If there's only one thing I will miss from Belgium, it will be the waffles.
We came back to my place to chill out for awhile, then went to have dinner at the American Mexican Restaurant because paloma was also craving Mexican! It was REALLY good, but Paloma was amused that is cost 17 euros for a burrito - thats about $30 Australian! mmm. We went to see the movie 'Match Point' and after laughing at the design of the cinema (all of the seats were sloping upwards, instead of the usual stadium-type seating!) laughed at ourselves for thinking the movie was going to be a comedy...! Paloma left at 4 this morning, and we had such a good time! It was so great having company over the weekend and doing touristy things! Now I'm going to book my flights to Greece!
Location: Gent, Belgium
Ok - this is just a quick update on what's been happening in the last week or so....
Well, after I got back from Italy I spent two fabulous days with Ida in Brussels. My grandparents met Ida on a holiday in Tasmania, and Ida offered to show me around Brussels. What a historian! I learnt SO much, and (despite the 2 degree touring weather) saw every inch of Brussels in a way I doubt anyone else could! Ida took me to a beautiful restaurant, and kindly translated every item on the menu from French to English, and even took me on the 'hop on hop off' bus tour around Brussels. It was such a great experience that I will never forget, thanks to an amazing lady.
Since then I have kind of overcome my excitement about the snow - seeing as it has almost all melted, and I am grateful everyday for my giant pink uggboots that yes - even though it is a fashion faux-pas to wear them outside - are my best friends! Sooo warm. AND the Italians have finally accepted my 'snow boots' now that it has actually snowed :)
Speaking of my bella Italiano amici's, I went over there the other day and some of Francesca's friends had come over from Rome to visit and brought me a coffee maker!! I am SO excited to make coffee like they do - it is so good. Thanks guys! Francesca also made delicious butterfly pasta and then the Romans came over and we played drinking games with WINE! Note the difference between Romans and Sicilians... It was sooo funny - 8 Italians and me. Guess who was the odd one out? I still held my own...
Gina and I also spent the day in Antwerp on Sunday which was cool. We went out for a nice lunch then wandered into the Jewish quarters in search of bagels. We found some only to discover they were bread rolls after we'd bought them :( We spent the afternoon in the (freezing) Fine Art museum, filled with Belgium's most famous artists Rubens, Van Dyck, Rene Margritte, Jordaens and Brueghel and some other less important artists like Van Gogh. It was very cool to see those works close up, but unfortunately we had to run through the galleries that weren't heated!! It was FREEZING!!
Other than that, my week has been rather frustrating, because the semester is coming to a close and anyone who has known me at University, knows how annoyed I become waiting to do exams! I don't even know when they are scheduled yet either-my poor housemates! I just can't wait til I am finished! I can't believe this is the final semester of my law degree....
Location: My House - Gent, Belgium
IT'S SNOWING!!!! LIKE - REALLY SNOWING!!! This is sooo amazing - and completely unexpected for this time of year!! My windowsill is covered in snow, the road is covered in snow, the cars are covered in snow, and if I stick my hand out the window I CAN EAT THE SNOW!!!
I was told it would only snow a couple of days while I was here for winter. It started snowing really lightly when I was walking back from uni this afternoon, and I was thinking THAT was cool... but now it is these HUGE snowflakes just floating down the street... I have never been in a city where I could watch the weather change over a few months to snow... aaahhhh!!!! p.s Gina and my housemate Marieken think I am crazy because I am so amazed that its snowing....hhmmm...