Trent left this weekend free for self-directed exploration, so a lot of people from the group here decided to go to Brugge, Belgium. A few of us stayed in Rotterdam to explore the surrounding area, though, and I am one of them. Today was kind of rainy, so I ditched my bike in favor of the train and went to Utrecht with Poppy and Jonathan. Trent has told us it is one of his favorite cities, and we could see why. The city isn’t too big, but there are a lot of interesting things to see and do. We actually ran out of time, so I’ll have to go back someday.

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to climb towers, so I was delighted to discover that the tallest tower in the Netherlands is the Domtoren in Utrecht. The tower used to be part of a church, but during a huge windstorm in the 17th century, the middle section of the church collapsed, separating the tower and the part of the church that remained standing. After climbing hundreds of stairs, we got to see the carillon bells playing. The Domtoren’s bells play every hour via an automated mechanism. Basically, it’s a gigantic music box: A huge metal drum with posts sticking out of it rotates, moving levers that make the clappers strike the bells. Our tour guide said the tune is changed about four times a year. Twice a week, a man plays the bells for about an hour by pounding on levers with his fists. Here’s a video of the bells. It’s kind of hard to see the drum moving and the clappers hitting the bells, but hopefully you get the idea.

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When we got back to Rotterdam, we were feeling super hungry (we did a lot of walking and climbed a lot of stairs), so we went to an eethuis near our hotel. According to Trent, eethuises serve Dutch comfort food. It was indeed comforting; the wiener schnitzel was just what I needed. To top off the meal, while the owner of the place was making our dessert, he came out and asked us, “Who has the biggest mouth?” Everyone pointed at Poppy, and while she was laughing, the owner popped a spoonful of amaretto sauce into her mouth and left it there. Good food, good times, great day.

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