Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

I don’t know where to start. Amsterdam is my new favorite city. Molly and I got the train from Belgium this morning (Brussels was just a one-day thing) and arrived here around ten. We went on a walking tour as soon as we got here and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city.
Tonight, Molly and I went to the Anne Frank House, where the Frank family hid during the war. It was incredibly emotional (yes, I cried), and having read Anne’s diary made it seem all the more real. The house where the Franks and four of their friends stayed was actually where Anne’s father worked. They converted the upper levels of the tall canal house into a living space, where they stayed for almost two and a half years. The non-Jewish, Dutch employees who worked in the building helped the families upstairs in the Secret Annexe.
Anne kept her diary during the time they stayed there and hoped it would be published after the war. Her dream was to become a writer. Unfortunately, someone reported them, and the families were taken to concentration camps. Anne and her sister died of cholera a month before the liberation, and her father, Otto, was the only member of the family who survived the war. He found her diary and published it, giving a face to the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust.
That’s just a brief summary, but I would recommend that everyone read Anne’s diary.
Will just arrived, so we’re going out for a drink and then coming back to bed so we can start off early in the morning.
Love, Elizabeth

I don’t know where to start. Amsterdam is my new favorite city. Molly and I got the train from Belgium this morning (Brussels was just a one-day thing) and arrived here around ten. We went on a walking tour as soon as we got here and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city.

Tonight, Molly and I went to the Anne Frank House, where the Frank family hid during the war. It was incredibly emotional (yes, I cried), and having read Anne’s diary made it seem all the more real. The house where the Franks and four of their friends stayed was actually where Anne’s father worked. They converted the upper levels of the tall canal house into a living space, where they stayed for almost two and a half years. The non-Jewish, Dutch employees who worked in the building helped the families upstairs in the Secret Annexe.

Anne kept her diary during the time they stayed there and hoped it would be published after the war. Her dream was to become a writer. Unfortunately, someone reported them, and the families were taken to concentration camps. Anne and her sister died of cholera a month before the liberation, and her father, Otto, was the only member of the family who survived the war. He found her diary and published it, giving a face to the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust.

That’s just a brief summary, but I would recommend that everyone read Anne’s diary.

Will just arrived, so we’re going out for a drink and then coming back to bed so we can start off early in the morning.

Love, Elizabeth

Architecture of Bratislava

The thing I like about a lot of the buildings is that some of them look like building-shaped cakes. Just look at the Church of St. Elisabeth in the first photo! It looks delicious, doesn’t it? Sadly, I was told that the incredible architecture that remains in the historic city centre of Bratislava is nothing compared to what it was before the Communist era, during which a lot of the old buildings were taken down. Even so, there’s a lot of history in Bratislava to admire, and I had fun taking a walking tour through the city to learn more about its heritage.

Love, Elizabeth

Glasgow

On Sunday morning, Molly, Dom, and I piled on a bus to Glasgow, which was just over an hour away from Edinburgh (giving me some time to nap!). It’s not much of a tourist place, so we just walked around, exploring parks and window shopping on the numerous pedestrian shopping streets. Then we went to a coffee shop for hot chocolates and ended up squeezing onto a couch there to solve a crossword puzzle on my iPod. It was a lot of fun because usually I travel on my own and make friends as I go, but this time I was with really good friends and it was great to be in a new place with them.

Love, Elizabeth

Liverpool: Churches and Chinatown

Adventure: Liverpool

"A World Heritage city, Liverpool is renowned for its passion and commitment to music, the arts, culture, and sport. Steeped in history and rich cultural heritage, Liverpool is a thriving, stylish, cosmopolitan and vibrant city break destination. Liverpool is the heart of Liverpool City Region and is known the world over for its strong maritime history, well-documented musical heritage and sporting heroes. So many reasons for you to flock to our exciting city, experiencing its charm and resurgence for yourself." ~From my city map

… I arrived at Liverpool just after noon on Wednesday. I bought a map of the town right away, but I ended up not using it much because there were plenty of signs all around the city, so I just followed them in the direction of what sounded most interesting. That led me through the bustling city centre to Albert Dock, which is where I spent most of my time, looking through the Tate Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, and a ton of little souvenir shops selling mostly Beatles memorabilia. I picnicked next to the river Mersey, which was really beautiful. I explored the nearby area, looking at a lot of the older architecture and churches and popping into the Walker Art Gallery.

I passed St. Luke’s Church, which was hit by a bomb in 1941; the only part that remains of the church is the outer shell. I wandered farther and walked through Chinatown. Then I made my way to the largest cathedral in the UK (and the fifth largest in the world): Liverpool Cathedral. I walked into it and was greeted with the low rumble of organ practice—I was completely awestruck. I learned a little bit about the history of it: It’s actually a really new cathedral. The Foundation Stone was laid by King Edward VII in 1904, and there was a service in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to mark the completion of the cathedral in 1978. I would have stayed for the evensong service, but Wednesday was the only day they didn’t have one. So I found my way back to the train station and came home.

I really loved Liverpool and want to go back sometime to see the museums more and walk farther along the river.

Love, Elizabeth

Another Day in Stratford

Some of my friends were a little bit envious of my last trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, so we decided to take advantage again of the 4-for-2 deal of train tickets and I got to spend another Saturday in Shakespeare’s hometown. Once more, I didn’t get to do everything there is to do, but it was still a very enjoyable day spent with wonderful friends!

We arrived around noon, so we went to the river to have a picnic for lunch. It was another beautiful, sunny day, though a little bit colder than last week (I think it was about 50 degrees for most of the day). The river was still gorgeous and full of swans, geese, ducks, and sea gulls. We sat in the grass near a musician playing Beatles music. (It seems to be a common theme among any street performer here, regardless of the instrument—violin, guitar, accordion, drums—they always have a full repertoire of Beatles songs!)

We then went to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see a musical. The only show that was on yesterday was Marat/Sade, which wasn’t a Shakespeare play, but it was still very interesting and I’ll talk about it in a different post later this week. I’ve realized that I’ve never actually seen a Shakespeare play: I’ve seen dozens of film adaptations and I’ve even been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I haven’t actually seen a staged Shakespeare performance—add that to the bucket list!

Afterward, we went to Trinity Church, which was where Shakespeare was baptized and buried. I can’t begin to describe what I felt when I saw his grave inside the church. I was hit by such a morbid finality that I honestly couldn’t hold back tears. I know his legacy lives on in his work and in his monumental contributions to the English language, but I just felt like the importance of his entire life hit me all at once; I was standing in the place where Shakespeare’s life began and ended. At the same time, it was inspiring for me as a writer: the English language is almost a religion for me, and Shakespeare had a huge part in making English what it is today. I do think that maybe, just maybe, if I have even a fraction of the creative energy that Shakespeare had, I can someday make a difference as a writer.

By this time, all of the Shakespeare sights were closed, so we just wandered through the town for a little bit and stopped at a really cute tea shop. I had a proper scone—fresh out of the oven and slathered with strawberry jam and clotted cream. On our way back to the train station, we walked by Shakespeare’s house of birth and also explored a little magic shop (it was called the “Creaky Cauldron,” as a spoof of the “Leaky Cauldron” from Harry Potter!) where we found wands, love potions, and spells.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a gorgeous town, and I’m actually glad that I still didn’t get to go inside any of the Shakespeare sights, because it gives me a reason to go back there!

Within the next few days, I’ll be posting more pictures from this weekend and also a review of the play we saw.

In the meantime, stay beautiful, everyone!

Love, Elizabeth