Hey everyone! It’s Marcos and Andrew here again to talk a little bit about our experience in and around the Netherlands. Every week, we’ve been exploring must-sees and having incredible experiences. This one has been no different. Sneak peek for this week’s blog: soccer games and Belgium chocolate!
As I woke up last Saturday, I saw the sun. It was calling my name on a sunny Sun-Day. It was PSV day, and I was going to go see a game for the first time. PSV is the local team here in Eindhoven and is considered one of the country’s best teams. I have always been a huge soccer fan, but have never paid much attention to the Dutch league (Eredivisie), except Ajax. The team that I am a fan of is FC Barcelona in Spain. However, I can easily say that going to this game was one of the highlights of my time here in the Netherlands.
“The second I stepped into the stadium I could feel the emotion.”
This was the first time that I have ever been to a European football game. In the United States, football is not very popular yet. Although the sport is rapidly gaining popularity, the premier American league, MLS, is underdeveloped and does not have as much talent as the European ones. Therefore, when I was able to get tickets, it was a dream come true. While the game was a friendly match between PSV and Villareal, the atmosphere was fierce. Villareal is a very good team that played in last year’s Champions League Semi-finals. I was expecting that since it was friendly, most of the seats would be empty. And boy was I wrong. The fans chanting, the players warming up, the whole nine yards. It was truly a surreal experience.
As a Barcelona fan, it was a treat to see some ex-players. Luuk De Jong has just joined the club after ending his loan spell in Barcelona from Sevilla. During his time in Barcelona, I got to know him pretty well and it was very exciting to recognize a player on the pitch. Besides De Jong, there was also ex-Barcelona academy player Xavi Simons. From PSV, these were the only two players that I can genuinely say I recognized. From Villareal, I recognized a lot more since they play against Barcelona every year. Before the game started, I headed over to the fan store and bought a jersey. Now, this wasn’t the 2022-2023 season jersey. I bought a retro-looking kit that looked super cool. As a result, I wore this kit to the game.
Once the game started, PSV struggled in the initial minutes. Villareal dominated possession and was pressing very high. However, in a moment of shock, both ex-Barcelona players and new PSV players connected for the first goal of the game! Xavi Simons assisted and Luuk De Jong scored. The stadium erupted! I do not think that I have experienced anything remotely close to that in the states. The fact that this was a friendly match and that the people were so emotional was incredible to me.
Although the game ultimately ended 2-1 in favor of the visitors, the experience was unforgettable. Fans stayed long after the final whistle to cheer on their team even in defeat. From that experience, it felt as though the team had won. Now I have a souvenir jersey from PSV to take back to Miami. I can say that PSV has won my heart.
It’s been another week in the Netherlands, and something I’ve come to realize is that cash is a necessity when traveling throughout the country. My credit cards tend not to be accepted at most places, such as some grocery stores, restaurants, and clothing outlets. I’m lucky to have brought cash with me prior to arriving in Eindhoven because it seems finding an ATM that isn’t broken and accepts my card is somewhat of a hassle. Back in Miami, I rarely use cash or carry it with me other than a few dollars, given I’m never really in a situation where cash is my only means of payment.
“No words can truly describe the architecture…”
This weekend, I traveled outside the Netherlands and headed over to Antwerp, which was extraordinary. I woke up early in the morning and caught a train that arrived in Antwerp at around 9:30. I was in awe when I first stepped into the station, which is definitely a must-see if you ever travel to Antwerp. The station is a stone building built in an eclectic style with a steel platform covering that transports you back in time. Be careful with the tourist traps though! While the station is beautiful, stores and restaurants located inside are known for charging higher prices, especially on souvenirs.
My first activity on my itinerary for the day was a free walking tour, and I can honestly say that it was the best walking tour I’ve been on so far during my time here. One of my favorite parts of the tour was learning about the history of the city’s name. There’s a myth that relates to the Brabo Fountain involving a mythical Roman soldier named Silvius Brabo who killed a giant that would ask for money when people attempted to pass through the Scheldt River. The giant would cut off the hand of anyone who couldn’t pay and then throw it in the river. Brabo was able to defeat the giant, cutting off the giant’s hand and throwing it into the river. ‘Handwerpen’ translates into hand throwing, which is the supposed reason the city was given the name of ‘Antwerpen’.
After the tour, which lasted around two hours, I went to see the Plantin-Moretus Museum. Since I like to read, I thought it was super cool! The museum showcases the printing office and house of the Plantin-Moretus family who lived and worked there for 300 years. Known as one of the best printing houses in Antwerp, if not the world, their company printed a variety of books ranging from topics such as botany, religion, and medicine. Some of the books that were displayed were over hundreds of years old, but they were so well printed and preserved that I would’ve believed you if you had told me they were printed last week. It was also super cool because I was able to actually use a movable type printing press!
I ended my day in Antwerp by eating chocolate, and I must say…Belgium chocolate really is that good. Apparently, they use cocoa butter instead of palm oil in their chocolate, which is one of the reasons as to why its quality is superior compared to other parts of the world where palm oil is more heavily relied on. The chocolate I’m used to back in Miami is more sugary and not as flavorful. Belgium chocolate is much smoother and easier to eat, but that also means it’s more tempting. It’s a good thing I walked and biked a lot that day hahahaha. What better way to have ended my day in Belgium with chocolate?