Orienting Ourselves to the Netherlands with Castles and Ice Skating
One of the greatest things about studying abroad with CIEE is the opportunity to go on all sorts of trips throughout the Netherlands! Our first daytrip included our entire program- so 87 students piled on a double decker bus and headed out to a castle in Utrecht.
When we arrived at Kasteel de Haar, the grounds were overwhelmingly beautiful! We had a little bit of time for photo ops before we started our tours of the castle. The castle was not only built, but also entirely furnished by famous architect Pierre Cuypers. (Fun fact, he was also the architect of the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam’s gorgeous Centraal Station.) The design of the castle was a blend of grand and eccentric. Most of the ceilings were decorated with real gold, electricity and central heating were introduced to this castle even before the Queen’s, and beautiful tapestries, stained glass, and wood carvings covered the surfaces of most rooms. On the eccentric side of decorations were a crocodile skin barometer, a casket used for chilling champagne, and depictions of mythical creatures created by Cuypers (think a pig, bat, and cat all in one animal, painted on the ceiling). Our tour guide told us all about the history of the castle, including the celebrities who stayed there and the incredible amount of work it took to maintain.
We had time to explore the grounds before lunch. My group set out to find the hedge maze, passed by the hunting grounds, and stopped by the chapel. Everything looked beautiful with the canals half frozen, and for a city girl- I couldn’t get enough of the trees!
After eating way too many finger sandwiches (everything tastes better when you’re in a castle) we set out to the ice rink! We had the option of ice-skating or curling, both in gorgeous outdoor rinks. I attempted to ice skate for the first time in years, and only fell once, although I was being passed the whole time by Dutch toddlers. We ended the trip thawing our fingers with hot cocoa (or warming up with beers) and came home to Amsterdam very ready for a nap. I can’t wait for our next trip!
Written by Nicole Labadie-Bartz, Spring 2015