March 17, 2013
Spring Break for our team started on Friday morning at 11 a.m., when we all dragged our heavy bags to Bartow and boarded the bus for Atlanta. The bus conversation was full of anticipation for Europe, checkered with a few questions regarding how many pairs of shoes or nice shirts each of us packed for the trip.
We arrived at the Atlanta airport at around 2:30, so we had plenty time before our 5:40 flight. It all felt pretty surreal at first; hard to grasp that our much-awaited trip to Europe was finally here.
The plane was massive (larger than any plane many of us had ever been on), and each seat had its own television screen loaded with tons of movies, TV shows, music, and games to entertain us during the eight-hour flight. At about six hours in, when "stir-crazy" became an understatement, we had to make an unexpected stop in Shannon, Ireland because the lavatories were full. This added roughly another hour to our trip, and we got back in the air with another two hours left of flying.
We finally landed in Brussels, Belgium at around 9 a.m. local time- making it 3 a.m. Birmingham time. It was a strange feeling for it to be light and "daytime" when our minds thought it was the middle of the night. Our tour guide from Harvard Sports Management, Hub, who is Dutch, picked us up at the airport.
Upon leaving the airport, Hub gave us a tour of Brussels. We saw a few different monuments and some royal buildings, and we got out at Market Square and had some time on our own to walk around, see shops, and get food.
The most interesting thing was the waffle shops. There were tons of tiny shops where you could buy Waffles for 1 Euro; you could also add toppings like fruit, Nutella, and whipped cream. It was really interesting seeing everyone walking around eating waffles. It was similar to a hot dog or ice cream stand you would see in the United States.
After a few hours in Market Square, we got back on the bus and transferred to Valkenburg, Netherlands. Everyone took advantage of the hour and a half bus trip to catch up on a little sleep.
Once we got back to the hotel, we had a bit of down time before dinner. The hotel is very different than hotels in the United States- the keys look like something you would find in a medieval castle or Harry Potter movie.
Saturday night we went as a team to walk around town in Valkenburg. It is a smaller town, but everything is close and there is a lot going on. The people were very friendly, everyone we ran into spoke English. Some even helped us order food since we couldn't read the Dutch menus.
On Sunday, we left the Hotel at 10 a.m. to drive to Rotterdam to watch a men's professional soccer game. Feyenoord (the home team) was playing against FC Utrecht.
It is amazing how prominent soccer is in Europe. The huge stadium was packed with people and the crowd was extremely involved in the game. They cheer for every single play- good defensive tackles, quality passes, you name it. You can really feel the love for the game.
All the away team fans were contained in one area of the stadium surrounded by barriers, and Hub was telling us how police have to escort the away team fans out of the stadium. The craziest (and often most violent) soccer fans are called "hooligans"- each team has its own hooligans and they are notorious for fighting.
Feyenoord won the game 2-1. It was awesome to get to see them score twice; the whole stadium literally shook with the roar of Feyenoord fans. It was just incredible to see such huge support and enthusiasm for a sport that we have all grown up loving and playing.
Thanks for reading; we'll have more stories of our adventures to you soon,
Kirsten Ebert #9 and Paige Hanks #21