Day 24 –- Netherlands Observations and HOME!

We are flying back to PDX today and are pretty excited to be going home to home cooked food and our own beds.


Netherlands Observations:

1. Tap water is practically impossible to find. We brought our water bottles with us because that’s what we do, and there wasn’t anywhere to fill them up except in public restrooms. Water was also really expensive to purchase in restaurants. A 16 oz (.5 L) bottle was over 2 euro, which is like $2.60 in USD. Crazy. At basically all restaurants, we didn’t order drinks and instead drank from our water bottles and filled them when we could.

2. People are much better drivers than in Turkey or Rome. Very few cars have dents, unlike the other places we visited.

3. Everyone bikes everywhere and the locks are built into the bikes. There is a ring that goes around the back tire with a chain that can be attached to a pole or railing. The key stays in the bike lock when in use. Much more convenient than our typical U-locks.

4. The canals are below sea level and are pretty dirty. If you don’t look at the water, everything is really pretty.

5. Food costs were higher than Rome (also on the Euro), but lower than Norway (Kroner). We tried to eat at non-touristy places and didn’t really buy drinks.

6. All of the cities we visited (Maastricht, Roermond, Tilburg, and Amsterdam) were spotless! Everything was really clean (except for the canals in Amsterdam).

7. Dutch breakfast consists of breads, cheese, spreads, and chocolate sprinkles (for toast). Check our our blog post about Roermond for a picture.

8. In the south Netherlands, the neighborhoods looked like they were near Privet Drive in Harry Potter. The houses were all brick with small roofs and tiny front lawns.

9. Travel by train was easy, but expensive. The trains were clean, had wifi and air conditioning, but a 2 1/2 hour trip was about $45. Expensive, but worth it.

10. We fit into the Netherlands population better than anywhere else. People tend to wear brighter colors and more casual clothing. If we entered a restaurant without speaking English, we were always addressed in Dutch first. Apparently we really could fit in there.


Other comments:

1. Gas is ridiculously expensive in Europe.

Norway: $10/gallon

Turkey: $8/gallon

Italy: $8/gallon

Netherlands: $8/gallon

Apparently we really shouldn’t complain about paying $4/gallon at home!


2. Except in the Netherlands, we were immediately addressed in English because it was pretty obvious that we were tourists. It helped that I spoke a little bit of Turkish in Turkey.


3. Splitting a bill in the US is generally called “going Dutch”. In Turkey, this is apparently called the German way, in Rome, the Roman way and in Holland, the Dutch way. Interesting that they all have different names for it.

See everyone soon!

Day 22-23 – Tilburg and Amsterdam, Netherlands

We visited Audrey’s friend Rumeysa in Tilburg for the day and headed to Amsterdam for our last day an a half. The trip went by so quickly!


Big thanks to Guus for hosting us in Roermond!


Me, Audrey, and Rumeysa at Kermis in Tillburg. It’s basically a carnival, but much larger and can last up to two weeks.


Audrey and Me in Tillburg.


Rumeysa, Audrey, and me at the train station before we left for Amsterdam.


Our Sorority mascot “Little P” the Penguin in front of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. We were not allowed to take any photos inside. It was also raining so this is the only picture we took as we rushed to catch the tram.


Me in front of the “I amsterdam” letters. There are multiple sets of letters throughout the city.


Audrey in front of the letters.


The Night Watch by Rembrandt in the Rijks Museum. The Museum recently reopened after ten years of restoration and it was absolutely fantastic! It’s a must see in Amsterdam.


The Night Watch from afar. This was surprisingly the only part of the museum that was very crowed, but nothing compared to the Vatican Museum.


The Rijks Museum.


Me in front of one of Amsterdam’s infamous “coffeeshops.”


Audrey on one of the canal bridges. Canals are ubiquitous throughout Amsterdam and the city itself is below sea level. The city’s lock system is the best in the world and is most prepared for future rises in sea level.


The sky decided to open up and pour on us in Amsterdam. We were drenched to the skin.


The Red Light District. There is a beautiful church right in the middle of the district that we visited. On the right of this photo is a sex shop (glowing white sign) and behind it is another “coffeeshop.”


That’s all folks! We are headed back from Amsterdam today and are looking forward to seeing everyone and sharing even more of our experiences.

Day 20-21 – Maastricht and Roermond, Netherlands

We are visiting family friends in the Netherlands and have been quite lucky to be hosted and shown around by them.


The view of the river Maas from an old farm south of Maastricht. Germany is in the distance and Belgium is about a mile behind me taking this picture.


We biked all over the city, but thought this bridge was the coolest because the steps at each end of the bridge have a bike trough to make rolling your bike quite easy.


Our rental bikes. All Dutch bikes are this style and common US road bikes are considered sport bikes and only for racing and enthusiasts.


This is a book store and cafe inside of an old church.



This is the typical dish of Maastricht called Zuurvlees (translated as sour meat), but is most like a thick pot roast stew and not sour at all.



Vincent was a great host and tour guide! We took the train 30 mins northeast to Roermond to see Guus next.



For breakfast in he morning the Dutch often put sprinkles on their toast/rolls. Chocolate sprinkles are the most common, but a variety of other flavors are also available.


Guus took us sailing! It was nearly 100 F (33 C) today and we all enjoyed cooling off in the lake.


Chelsea and Guus.


Audrey and I on the sailboat which was oddly named the Funky Duck.


The city center of Roermond. We climbed to the top of the steeple of the church in the distance. It was not nearly as bad as the St. Peter’s Bascilica steps: only about 300 spiral steps to the top this time


The view from the top of the church. We’re looking out towards Belgium.


Audrey and I sunbathing after cooling off in the lake.


The Arresthuis (Jail house) hotel in Roermond. It is an old jail converted to a hotel. The cells are connected so that a hotel room is 3-4 cells with most of the walls inside still intact.


Audrey and I near the city center of Roermond.

Next adventure: Amsterdam!

Day 19 – Rome Observations

We concluded our trip to Rome and travelled to the Netherlands on Thursday.

Observations of Rome:

1) All cars are tiny hatchbacks. We saw about 5 total sedans while in the city. Many people also drive smart cars which can navigate the tiny streets and alleys.

IMG_1629 2) Though the cars are much more pedestrian friendly, parking is quite interesting as there seem to be no rules. This picture shows cars parked on the median of a very busy street.

IMG_16303) Chelsea can’t eat dairy (cheese, butter, milk etc) and got a lot of funny looks when ordering. But, it is possible to visit Italy and not eat dairy!

4) Espresso is relatively cheap, but comes in the smallest portion you can imagine. Americans apparently drink HUGE coffee drinks.

5) Dinner starts around 8-9pm. We tried to eat around 6pm and were told that they were only serving drinks and appetizers.

6) A typically Italian dinner consists of appetizers, a first course (generally pasta or fish), and a second course (generally meat or pizza). Veggies must be ordered on the side.

7) Public transit was not as good as Istanbul. The metro line was closed the second day we were there due to a crash and getting around was really difficult.

8) All the streets are cobblestones. Our guide at the Vatican told us that the square stones are called mini St. Peters (St. Peters Bascilica) and so the entire town is a church because you are walking on mini St. Peters.

9) There isn’t a grid system in Rome, so the streets are highly confusing. Trying to find our way to the Vatican after the metro was shut down was really interesting. Even maps are hard to follow without the grid.

10) Italian breakfast includes a lot of bread, not a lot of protein and of course coffee/espresso. Very different than Turkey!

Days 16-18 — Rome, Italy

We’ve spent an amazing three days in Rome!


Living the high life with a balcony in our hotel room!


First meal in Rome. We were starving after getting off the plane.


This picture was taken in the basement of a restaurant and is not the greatest but it is actually the last remaining ruins of the theater where Julius Caesar was lured and killed.


The biggest optical illusion in Rome is in the Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola. The roof is completely flat but was painted to look like a traditional dome is present. Galileo made most of his discoveries on this roof because it used to be the highest yet flat observation point in Rome.


The Colosseum.


The Arch of Constantine.


The Pantheon.


The distance from the floor to roof of the Pantheon is taller than a football field. The domes of many churches are modeled after the Pantheon. The top of the dome is open and water drains through small holes in the middle of the floor.


St. Peter’s Basilica.


The view of St. Peter’s square from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. We paid the extra 2 Euro to take the elevator halfway up but still had to climb up and go back down 320 spiral steps.


The view looking down inside of St. Peter’s Basilica from about halfway up.


The famed best espresso in world confirmed by the New York Times and The New Yorker.


The best gelato in Rome. They had 10 dairy free flavors for Chelsea.


Michelangelo’s Moses (1515) inside the St. Peter-In-Chains Church.



Two of Bernini’s sculptures in the Borghese Gallery. He is debated as a better sculptor than Michelangelo.

Side note: we were not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel because it was recently restored in the 1980s and the copyright laws are still in effect. We also visited the Trevi Fountain but it is currently under restoration for TWO years! All the water is drained and you can only see a few of the statues plus a lot of scaffolding.

Next adventure: the Netherlands!

Day 15 – Istanbul and Observations


Our last breakfast in Turkey. Turkish breakfast (kavaltı) is very different from the US. Normal selections include cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, white cheese (not meltable), yellow cheese (meltable), bread, butter, jam, honey, olives, salami, and tea (çay). It really is my favorite!



At the Ataturk airport we saw these cigarettes in the duty free area. If you look closely, you can make out the packaging which has “smoking kills” and “smokers die younger” printed on it.


Turkey observations:

1. Cars don’t stop for pedestrians (vehicles have the right of way). If you go when there isn’t a walk sign, you will likely be hit and injured.

2. You can’t drink tap water. Everyone buys bottled water much like the rest of the world outside of North America and Europe.

3. Tea (çay) is an any time of the day drink, while coffee (specifically turkish coffee (türk kahvesi)) is an afternoon drink.

4. Public transport (metro, tramway, train, funicular, ferry, dolmuş) are very readily available and easy to use. One combo transportation card works on all of these except the dolmuş (meaning stuffed bus, like stuffed grape leaves-dolma).

5. Turkish cuisine is based around meat. Common meats are chicken, beef and lamb. Muslims don’t eat pork, so it’s very hard to find pork products in Turkey. Döner is one of the most common street foods, which is bread (pita, wrap, or hoagie) stuffed with shaved meat from a large roasting vertical spit, salad, french fries, mayo, and ketchup.

6. According to Selen, splitting a bill is called the German way (Aleman way) in Turkey, instead of the Dutch way (going Dutch).

7. Istanbul is truly the city that never sleeps. We stayed near Taksim square where Istiklal street is located. Our first night we were up until 3am meeting friends and getting them to their hostel. The street was just as packed as at 10pm when we arrived. The next morning at 8am, it was still full of people and the shops were open. Other areas of the city are quieter, but the main districts definitely have the never sleeping vibe.

8. Chelsea loved the fresh juice stands on every street. Vendors will make fresh squeezed orange, pomegranate, carrot, grapefruit, and apple juice for under $2. Most carts have orange (portakal) juice for 1 lira (about 50 cents).

9. Though every restaurant has an abundance of waiters, it is not necessary to tip in Turkey. The wait staff do not depend on tips to supplement their salary.

10. Though about 97% of the Turkish population is Muslim, very few women wear the headscarf (hijab). Selen told me that about 70% of the population is devout and only a portion of that 70% chooses to dress very conservatively. The headscarf and conservative dress are completely by choice. Turkey is also the only secular Muslim country.


Days 11-14 — Izmir, Selçuk, Ephesus, Pamukkale and Istanbul

Izmir is on Turkey’s southwestern coast and is the same place as the ancient city of Smyrna. We visited my roommate from Koç and walked around the city. This is the famous clock tower.

A meat shop in Izmir. Lane Porth, this is for you!

This is kumru, a sausage and cheese sandwich which is famous in Izmir.

We bought ridiculous, matching brimmed hats because it was so hot in Izmir and Ephesus. They helped a bit. The temps were well over 100 with humidity. Gross.

The Celsus library in Ephesus. This is probably the most famous ruin at Ephesus. It was also the third largest library in the world behind Alexandria in Egypt and Pergamum in Turkey.

We found Phi Sigma Rho on the ruins at Ephesus! PhiRhoLove

The next day we took the train to Pamukkale (cotton castle) to see the white travertine terraces. They are similar to the ones at Yellowstone, except you get to walk on them here!! Hierapolis is a major city that is now in ruins but sits at the same site as the travertines. This is a view from the theater.


Tourists get to walk all over the reconstructed travertines and get great views of the real ones. There are shallow pools filled with water pumped in from the hot springs that you can walk through and soak in. We wore our swim suits and had a great time sitting in the water which was much cooler than the outside temp.

After getting back to Istanbul, we decided to take the new metro line that goes under the Bosphorus (Marmaray) just so that we could say we had done it. It took us to Uskudar where we took a ferry back across to Europe. This mosaic mural was in the metro station underground.

The view from the ferry.

After crossing back to Europe, we walked to Ortaköy, a trendy neighborhood where you can get kumpir (baked potatoes with everything imaginable on them) and waffles (also stuffed with everything). This is the mosque at Ortaköy which is a famous site from Istanbul.

I was able to get my favorite dessert (well one of my favorites) tonight before we leave for Rome in the morning. Künefe, shredded phyllo dough filled with melts cheese and drenched in rose water syrup. Served with pistachios on top!

Days 8-10 — Istanbul, Turkey


The Basilica Cistern used to hold water for the city. A long time ago Istanbul experienced a drought and only the rich still had running water. They discovered the cistern when they traced the source of the water.

Süleymaniye Mosque sits at the top of the hill in the tourist district. It’s a hike, but worth it for the beautiful mosaics inside and out.

Outside Süleymaniye Mosque

The Spice Bazaar was built in the 1660s and houses shops that sell spices, Turkish delight (lokum), dried fruit, and nuts.

The famous stairs leading to Galata Tower.

Galata Tower was built initially in 1348 with 2 meter (that’s 6 feet!) thick walls at the base. It was been rebuilt several times due to fire damage and attacks.

The view from Galata Tower.


Chora Church, similarly to Hagia Sophia, was first a church, then a mosque, and now a museum. The interior mosaics date from 1312 and most tiles are less than 1/8 inch.

The genealogy of Mary.

The genealogy of Jesus.


Asian side of Istanbul with Anna and Chelsea

Riding the ferry to Asia on our last day in Istanbul.

We rode the ferry to Anadolu Kavağı and hiked to Yoros Castle. It was a steep, hot hike, but the breeze and view were totally worth it.

After returning from Asian Istanbul, we rode the minibus (dolmuş) up to Koç University where I studied abroad during our sophomore year. Selen got us through the gate (full security) and we got a tour of her lab and the campus. It was sooooo nice to see her again!!!

Days 6 and 7 — Istanbul, Turkey


Audrey’s friend Selen met us in Taksim to help us get to our hostel and go out for dinner. Selen just graduated from Koç University with a degree in Chemical Engineering too!


Taksim is the new district in Istanbul and includes Istiklal street which is pedestrian only and houses many of the major shops that are available in Istanbul. This is also where the nightclubs and bars are. We were out until 3am getting Audrey’s friend Aida to her hotel and the street was still packed.


The serpentine column at the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome is the Roman chariot racetrack. The column dates to 300 AD.


This is Hagia Sophia which was originally a church, then a mosque, and now a museum.


Audrey, Anna and me in front of the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet.


Aida, Anna, me, and Audrey in front of the Blue Mosque.


Inside Hagia Sofia.


The pulpit is where the imam (Muslim Priest) calls the prayers from inside Hagia Sophia.


Christian mosaics in Hagia Sophia.


The view from Topkapı palace. This is the Bosphorus and the bridge connects Europe (left) and Asia (right).


The center of the world according to the Byzantine empire!

Day 5 — Bergen, Norway


We took the overnight train to Bergen and arrived at 7 AM this morning.


Audrey and I riding on the train before our 7 hr overnight journey.


These are temporary office buildings used in construction sites. Just like Oregon, it’s construction season in both Oslo and Bergen.


The stairs on our hike to Fløyen.


Bergen is known for its fictitious tales of trolls.


The view from Fløyen. We did the 3 mile round trip hike first thing in the morning. We gained about 1000 ft of elevation and had a great view of the city.




The gardens in Festplassen.


The really awesome recycling system in the train station.


The Church of Norway (a Lutheran church).


The organ in the church.

Observations from Norway:
1) People don’t wear jeans. We’ve seen mostly solid colored pants.

2) Elevator doors open outwards instead of sliding into the wall.


3) Norwegian coins have a lot of value and many have holes in the center. You can easily pay for a meal with 3-4 coins.


4) All beverages are quite expensive. A house coffee at Starbucks costs ~$5.

5) The public transportation system works well and many people use it.

6) Roads are very narrow and there are hardly any stop signs. There are many traffic circles and lights though.

7) No one is obese. Even the other European tourists from the cruise ships are relatively fit.

8) Cars are small (no SUVs) and are painted neutral colors. We haven’t seen any red, yellow, or other bright colors yet.

9) People stare when we speak because of our American accents.

10) Many people are walking around with babies in full bassinets on wheels instead of the typical car seat and stroller combo you see in the US.