Katie visited me this weekend from Madrid. Unfortunately, it was only for two days, but we had fantastic plans for those two days. The first: the ICTY and Amsterdam. The second: Groningen and rock-climbing. However, things do not always work out as planned, a fact that I can confidentally say 99.9% of the people in the world know. Our first day was a blast, and so was the second (despite zero of our plans working out).
Thursday night around 10:30pm, Katie arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. I love waiting at airport arrivals gates. You see so much love and happiness around as friends and family reunite. It had been a very long day at work and then out shopping with a friend, so Starbucks being closed when I got to the airport shortly after 10pm was a bummer. However, my friend was coming! Nothing else mattered. I checked the monitor at least three dozen times to make sure I was standing by the right arrivals gate. I stood and waited. Waited and stood. Over a hundred people must have come out, but no Katie. Until I felt a tap on my shoulder. There she was! Those darn computer screens lied to me and she had arrived at a different area. No matter th0ugh. Katie was here! On the train back to Den Haag, we ate Dutch peanut butter and rice cakes, talking and laughing, catching up on the last month since I had seen her in Madrid. As it was late, we called it an early night after arriving back to my apartment.
On Friday, I needed to work for the first half of the day. Interns at the ICTY get 2.5 annual leave days per month, and I had mine scheduled out perfectly. I was fortunately right that Katie would want to sleep a bit after her first week of classes at the W&M Law Madrid Program. So I went to work an hour early and left her a detailed, albeit very poorly drawn "map" of how to get from my apartment to the ICTY. Around 11am, I was having a team meeting on the sun terrace of the ICTY second floor, and I saw a blonde girl approach the building. Success! My map skills must not have been too bad because Katie managed to make it. :-)
On my way back to my office, I stopped by the courtroom quickly to say hi to her. She was watching the Mladic trial, and I pointed out who he was and quietly explained a few things about the courtroom and proceedings to her, as well as suggested that she visit the other trial before we head to Amsterdam. In the other courtroom, the Hadzic trial defense had started just a few days before. In a completely unusual defence (yup, the British spelling), Hadzic decided to testify on behalf of himself. So after the defence opening statements, thirty hours were allocated to his own statement. Out of the more than 100 accused who have come through the ICTY, less than 1/5 testify in their own trials. Similar to the US Constitution and Fifth Amendment, the ICTY Rules allows defendants to not incriminate themselves. As a very novel situation, I thought Katie would enjoy seeing Hadzic speak for himself. I was able to watch most of his statement from my desk that week.
We left at noon from the ICTY for Amsterdam. The trams and trains were not in our favor, so it took until around 1:30pm to get to the docks from where canal cruises depart. It had been four years since I had cruised the Amsterdam canals, and it was a beautiful day to do so. We saw tons of gorgeous buildings and got to hear some history in Dutch, German, and English.
After the canal cruise, we headed into the district of Jordaan to go to a vegan restaurant I had found online. It was tiny and adorable, right on a canal with incredibly delicious food.
We had 6pm entrance tickets to the Van Gogh museum, so we decided to walk in order to see as much as we could of Jordaan. From our canal cruise, we had seen that we liked that area the best, so it worked out well that we were there for lunch. Amsterdam is such a busy and touristy city that I had never thought I could live there (like I think of most places), but this area changed my mind. Yes, right near Anne Frank's House is ridiculous with huge lines of tourists. But the other areas are neighborhoods and sweet streets of real people. I loved it.
The Van Gogh Museum was really interesting. I had gone four years ago, but didn't remember a lot about the building or the specific pieces of art. Amsterdam Fashion Week had just started that day, and the museum was one of the locations for music and fashion shows, so it was loud and dark in the lobby. A very interesting museum experience. We made our way through all the exhibits in less than two hours, which was great because we were starving.
As this Friday was the Fourth of July, Katie and I wanted to celebrate our country as best as possible in the Netherlands. Our celebration: The Hard Rock Cafe. :-) It was perfect. We had drinks and fries and onion rings, sat right by a canal (but inside luckily because it started pouring), and enjoyed the music and company. It was a perfect day.
I woke up at 5am on Saturday morning to get ready for our three hour train ride to Groningen and the world's tallest rock-climbing wall. Luckily I thought to check the weather because it turned out that the entire country was going to have rain throughout most of the day. That's not difficult when the country is so small. I woke up Katie to verify what I suspected: she can't climb in the rain. Especially not an almost 200 foot tall free-standing rock wall. Our plans were forced to change to spending the day in Den Haag. Luckily, that meant we got a few extra hours of sleep before having to get up.
Our first stop on our newly "planned" day in The Hague was the Mauritshuis. It had been closed for months, but opened a week or two before Katie arrived. The paintings were more realistic, dark, and passionate than those we saw at the Van Gogh museum. It was a bit more my style, and a great refuge from the torrential downpour that was happening outside.
The rest of the afternoon, we spent walking around Centrum, exploring shops, and eating delicious tiny Dutch pancakes (as well as other things). It was a really nice, relaxing day. With all the traveling I have been doing, I haven't spent much time in The Hague since my first weeks here, so it was really nice to fall in love with the city again.
Even though our plans were forced to change, our weekend was beautiful. I am so lucky to be in Europe this summer, and even luckier to spend time with friends.