I felt that the possibilities were endless. If I could see a brightly lit world at midnight, the world surely had to be a magical place.__I came to Bremen in August 2014 as an exchange student from India, with little money and too much hope. And I left 5 months later feeling like a burned out matchstick - dazed over the loss of fire and hugging the leftover heat. It changed my life. Traveling is supposed to do that. But perhaps this trip broke something that defined me. Crushed my soul. Let me take this blogpost to explain why.__I grew up loving maps and atlases. I never felt at home amongst the coconut trees and sunny skies of Kerala. I fantasized of running away. Spent hours every night at my window wishing I could fly out through the gap in the bars. I read and reread all my Enid Blyton novels, imagining myself shuffling through the snow, sipping ginger beer and fitting in. You might have felt this too. This yearning to escape. It is beyond curiosity, it becomes the reason to live. And as I grew older and the fantasies became marred by the logic of physics, I went into claustrophobic panic attacks looking at the iron bars on that window. I had to escape.I found my way soon enough and my dream came true. Perhaps too soon.__As I boarded the flight to Bremen, my heart pounded and I wept. And as I was shown my quaint hostel room with it’s white walls and gigantic window, I couldn’t contain myself.We (my co-exchange students) soon set out to explore. From long supermarket aisles to the dew-grazed flowers on the roadsides to the ancient streets of Schnoor (more on Schnoor later). The air smelt like buns, not smoke. The buses came sharp on time and my co-passengers were all excitingly unique. I bought ginger beer and relished the wait for the first snow. And as summer wound to a slow close, we got bicycles, frequented a lonely park and enjoyed the bright nights from my window sill. Bremen, you see, was perfect. It was small, exciting and full of ancient wonders in it’s city centre.
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449 Kms from Bremen
I have always been in awe of wooden windmills, from the first time I, as a child, attempted to paint a Dutch country side with a windmills-dotted skyline to the time when I visited a windmill-turned-brewery (Browerij’t IJ) in Amsterdam on my student trip in 2011. My short time in Amsterdam had not given me the scope to visit any other windmills around the area and my awe persisted. In my recent Euro-trip, I decided to get a closure on my infatuation and visit the Dutch countryside teeming with these imposing wooden structures. The visit turned out to be much more than windmills and alas, my love for the Dutch countryside continues…In Netherlands, there are two very popular neighborhoods which have been protected and preserved to display the Dutch way of living and trades and crafts from rural Netherlands. One is Kinderdijk (near Rotterdam) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other is Zaanse Schans (near Amsterdam). We decided on Zaanse Schans because it was easier for us travel-wise. We took a bus from Stuttgart to Amsterdam and then bought an Amsterdam & Region Travel Pass, which covers a lot of neighborhoods around Amsterdam including the famous Keukenhof tulip gardens and Zaanse Schans. Zaanse Schans is a short 45 mins trip from Amsterdam Central by bus.We had booked an Airbnb accommodation in Zaandijk, very close to the site of Zaanse Schaans. After freshening up, we took our bicycles and made our way to the site. It was very windy and our hair was windswept. As we neared the place, a strong odour accosted us. We were to find out later that it was the emissions from the chocolate and starch factories in the region.We had a preconceived picture of a few windmills and wooden houses that we would get to see at the site. But the scene that welcomed us transported us immediately to the industrial age in Netherlands. It is like an open-air museum with bakery, cheese factory, clog-making warehouse and wooden houses with barns and working-windmills on the banks of river Zaan that flows in the area. It indeed looked like a painting.
441 Kms from Bremen
The next morning we did a tour of the Amsterdam canal by the cruise followed by the Heineken Experience. The rest of the day went much about walking around the city and shopping for some souvenirs. We had dinner at Het Karbeel - one the best restaurents known for serving Cheese Fondue.
144 Kms from Bremen
Germany's second largest city has a sophisticated demeanour, behind which lurks mischief and abandon. Hamburg is considerably smaller than Berlin, more tight-night and connected, and yet thoroughly eclectic when it comes to art and music.Getting around in HamburgThe U-Bahn is the best way to explore most of Hamburg's sights. A lot of walking will inevitably be involved. A single day pass for unlimited use of all public transport costs €6.20 a day for adults, €2.30 for children aged 6 to 14. Bike rentals are available, but not as accessible or widely advertised as in Berlin