Thursday, September 11, 2008
Amsterdam - Last Day
Before we start we need to say a few things. We undoubtedly know we are two of the luckiest people in the world. We are on a journey that so few people have a chance to experience. But with all good journeys will come some hard times. So we hope to all who read this we don't sound negative when we talk about some of the funny things that go wrong because they are insurmountably miniscule next to the joy we feel waking up everyday here in Europe.
We probably stayed here in Amsterdam about a day too long. By the last day today we had really run out of things to see. But because we bought the 21 day eurail pass saving us big $ we couldn't use it for the first time till the 10th of Sept in order for it to get us to our final destination on time.
We made it up for the free breakfast today, not bad really. They promised eggs which sounded like heaven because we haven't had a hot breakfast in a long time, but turned out to be hard boiled eggs which we both in turn stuck or noses up at.
We stored our packs in the hostel lobby while we went for one last walk about the city. Just up and down the canals, to Dam Square which we are pretty sure EVERY road leads to.
One thing funny about Amsterdam is when you ask directions it's either measured in minutes or canals. "it's just 5 minutes up there... just cross 2 canals."
While trying to find some free internet we ran into a tour group that we listened to for about minutes. Found out some funning things about Dutch last names like no one had one till about 100 years ago and no one wanted them so they picked really funny and sometimes nasty ones. I guess it's a good way to start a conversation in Holland to ask what someone's last name means.
One more lunch of pasta and a pizza... we've already stated our feelings clearly about those. And of course one more stop back at De Saloon to sit on the canal and have a Palm. We were greeted with "welcome back!" I guess that made us regulars. We will miss our favorite Holland pub.
One hot walk with our packs onto the train station to use our Eurail pass for the first time. Not by choice at all but we are traveling 1st class, it's very nice. We would have welcome the price cut of 2nd class but if you are over 26 in Europe you can hardly get any deals. So here we are on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels. We both wish it was spring time to see the amazing fields full of flowers.
We are couch surfing in this city with a guy named Phil. We had to take a later train I hope he waits for us because we will be late.
Hope Phil understands the joy of trains. We truly do now. What should have been a less than a three hour train ride (in first class I should add) to Brussels from Amsterdam turned into a honest nightmare.
The smallest thing to complain about would be the fact it was stuffy and very very hot on the train, something must have been wrong with our compartment. We were about an hour out of Brussels when the train just stopped. And of course we have to hear in German, French (?) then English what was going on. So before we knew - we saw the reaction out of everyone else: it's not good! Due to "something" wrong with the track ahead we have to go back to the last station. Around 300+ people now sat at the platform waiting to hear what was happening next. All we would hear is, "the track is completely..... keep waiting... when we know we'll tell you something."
We made the most of what we thought might be a 20 minute delay by playing cards. 31 was our game of choice. One of us had to stay with the bags at all times while the other went off for information or to find WiFi to tell our host Phil that we were running late and we couldn't do anything but wait. I really friendly german man offered Heather his seat and she actually picked up enough to figure out what he said.
Next they announced that we all are taking a bus to the next station. So we all gathered up our things, went down the stairs, through the tunnel, up the stairs through the station and watched as two buses were already full of people and ready to pull out.
After awhile outside it was "get back on the train." After doing the stairs and tunnel again we RUSHED back to get our good seats in 1st class. That being at the very front of the train we were the farthest away. Then we sat on the train for 10 minutes before hearing: "so sorry (in two languages before we could understand) back on the buses." Again, stairs, tunnel, stairs.
Mob mentality took over.
One bus had already pulled out, the second bus clearly would not hold all of us. We crammed and squeezed on the bus like it was our life on the line. Our packs were heavy as ever and taking up the space of an extra person so the "4" of us stood with 3 times what the bus should have held.
This bus ride was only about 20 minutes but it could have been 4 hours. No air in this bus, everyone smelled INCLUDING us and were sweating so much. Our hands where so wet we could hardly hang on around the corners.
Off to the next station only to be informed it was not a direct train to Brussels and we'd need to switch over again.
Long story short we made it to Brussels, at 11:15 at night we have not found internet so poor Phil probably thinks we stood him up.
Then we did the unthinkable...
WE GOT A HOTEL ROOM!!! Oh sweat Lord this is HEAVEN!!! A real shower?! Fresh bed?! I'm not going to lie it was a lot more than we wanted to spend but it was the only one in walking distance that wasn't booked up. Heather used some haggling skills and got the front desk to knock off 30 euros.
Ok so after two very long hot showers I think we are feeling like humans again. It's a very good thing we ate a huge meal in Amsterdam because we probably wouldn't have made it this far.
Tomorrow we find the internet and hopefully Phil :)
H & C
PS from the few blocks we walked in the pitch dark here Brussels is pretty nice. Our spirits are still high... how could they not be?