Wednesday, February 7

When in Holland...

...DO as the Dutch!
This means:
  • DO leave your apartment at 11:30PM on a Tuesday night to begin the weekly happy hour.
  • DO wear somewhat fashionable clothes, to keep up with the Europeans, but DON'T wear anything that you don't want completely saturated with cigarette smoke.
  • DO drink beer out of intolerably small glasses and DON'T complain about standing in line at the bar for refills much of the night.
  • Not sure about tipping the bartenders, doesn't seem to make a difference either way, but it's a tough habit to break, so I vote DO leave 50 Eurocents or so with every glass.
  • DO practice the alternating-leaning-in-to-shout-then-listen game with the other barhoppers and DON'T be afraid to get pretty close when doing this.
  • DO watch out for the Europeans waving lit cigarettes all over the place, they might very well nail you in the arm (thankfully, not speaking from experience, just imagination!)
  • DO dance: the Europeans aren't any more groovy than we Americans are.
  • DON'T expect that staying until 3AM will impress anyone, the place is packed until at least 5 (yes, with school the next day!)
  • DO go for a stroll around the canals before you go home-- the fog gently hovers above the water and beneath the curved walking bridges making for an extraordinary sight, with white Christmas lights on the trees than line the canals, and warm light emanating from bars and restaurants, I DON'T think I ever want to come home.
  • DO attempt to speak French to the cabdriver who gives you a choice only between French and Dutch. The locals are infinitely patient when you attempt anything other than English.
  • DO take the dogs for a walk when getting home at 4AM, and bribe them with peanut butter so they let you sleep in until noon.
  • DON'T be afraid to look like you just got out of bed and are hungover when you do finally see the light again at noon, they love this look no matter what time of day (sometimes I think the later the better!)
  • DO sleep whenever you can because you never know what the next night will bring.
  • DO break old habits to experience new cultures!!
:) Signing Off
Happily yours, Euro-Abigail

Tuesday, February 6


No, not me...Carrie!! You MUST enlarge this photo for the full effect!

I had intended to merely snap a couple shots of the local "dog park," seen here:And a train going by:
But flying Dachshunds and pink European cars are simply too enticing!

Could you ever imagine a law school so lovely and romantic?

On Monday, I joined the incoming law school contingent for our specific orientation. The European study system is significantly different from home: I am taking two courses, for a full 15 credits, but I'm only in class two days a week, Wednesday and Friday, and only for about 6 hours total. I have heard that the assigned reading is quite long, because the workload is supposed to be 30 hours per week (per class? not sure yet). Not sure how this will work out in reality but I like the idea of many long weekends.

To enjoy my newly discovered time schedule, I have decided to lease, for a short-term, a little Renault from Paris. It is some funny deal arranged by the Renault company, and supported by the French government, where US citizens spending time in Europe may lease a brand-new Renault for $22 a day and without ANY of the traditional insurance fees from rental companies. The car company benefits because they can sell the cars as slightly-used, and therefore avoid some French government new-car fees, and the French people get to buy essentially-new cars at slightly-discounted cost.

I hope to have the car in a couple of weeks and the first destination shall be nearby Belgium!

Now, I am finishing my analytic this week and you shall all hear from me (and Joe and Carrie) again soon. I hope all is well for everyone Stateside!!

The Dom Tower

I made it downtown eventually, missed my assigned "social" group, but was able to join another for a climb of the beautiful Dom Tower. This tower is 112 meters tall, the highest church tower in Holland. I didn't take this photo, it is from wikipedia:

For some more information see:

It has a fascinating story. Begun in 1321 by the Catholic Church, the upper part of the church and the Tower were built using the best materials and architectural design, in traditional Gothic. But the main part of the nave was the last part built, and by the end of the 14th Century the Catholics had apparently run out of the money and built it out of WOOD and WITHOUT the ever-necessary flying buttresses.

This church, when whole, must have been monstrous. But in 1674, a tornado ripped through Utrecht and left the tower and the upper part of the church standing tall but shredded the nave. The space left behind by the nave is a good-sized square and the Dom stands separate from its magestic church.

Here are some photos from inside and some views from the top:
The bell tower:
Because of my delay in arriving downtown, due the the unfortunate bicycle wheel incident, the late afternoon sun made the climb to the top even more beautiful:

I am TERRIFIED of heights; can you see the fear??
Another church amidst the city buildings:
One of many canals that ring, and go through, Utrecht:
Notice how flat the countryside is, heading into the distance:
This pillar:
Contains these stairs:
And that is how you get above the bell tower to the very top!

900,000 bicycles...

...are stolen every year in The Netherlands. For a nation of only 16 million people, that seems like a high percentage! So I guess I should be content that this was all that happened to my little clunker:
But let me back up...

On Friday last week, I had my first meeting with other students. I've been in Europe for over 3 weeks now and had just about forgotten why I'd come so far away. Ah yes, some law school.

The Friday meeting was an orientation for all the incoming international students. Utrecht University is the largest university in The Netherlands, about 30,000 students, so roughly the size of UW. The orientation included undergraduates as well as masters and PhD students. Among the people I met the first day were some kids (yes, I would guess age 19 or so) from Oklahoma State, University of Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But there are students from Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Singapore, a significant Australian contingent, and others.

On Saturday, the adventures began..."social" orientation for the internationals:

I was supposed to join my assigned group at 2pm for a climb of the Dom Tower and a city tour. I left my apartment around 1:45 and was greeted with the above sad photograph of the bicycle. Plans foiled.

I've been all around Utrecht and didn't need the city tour, but I was very eager to climb the Dom as it was a gorgeous clear sunny day and I had not yet scaled it magnificent Gothic heights.

Mustering courage to look like a very sad non-local, I unlocked the wheel-challenged bicycle and walked up the street to the nearest bike shop.

The used clunker that initially cost Euro 110., had already a new seat for Euro 47 and was about to get a new front wheel for another Euro 47. Awesome. I now understand why two locks, that are worth more than the bike itself, are used by the natives. It is not the VALUE of the bike that it protected, it is the fact that there IS a bike that is protected with the elaborate locking systems!