Friday, January 29, 2016

Holland 2015: Where Memory Fails Me

Holland- Stop 2 of our solo sojourn (after Belgium) before trampling through France. Yet another country that I knew practically next to nothing about. I'm not entirely sure if 'knew' is the right word, though- especially since I still have trouble figuring out what to call their citizens- Danes, Dutch, Hollandaise, Hollanders... the last of which is also real, though I thought that I'd just made it up. Dutch is the correct noun, in case you were hoping for an answer.

Oddly enough, I seem to recall even less of what less I recalled of Belgium, despite liking our second stop more. We took the Thalys high-speed train from Bruxelles Nord and arrived in Amsterdam Centraal sometime around- or was it just after- noon. Just in time for lunch. There were quite a few options available to us, but nursing a little sniffle, I was hankering for something with hot soup- and there's nothing better than hot ramen for  that. We settled on Wagamama- hot indeed, though unfortunately not up to par.

It was quite a long walk to our hotel- one that we took twice on every day of our stay there. We passed by red brick buildings, through narrow. single-lane streets, and over greenish canals of varying sizes. We occasionally came across street musicians at the bridges spanning the canals- one Oriental looking chap making music from pots and pans. One particularly amusing busker- brightly dressed old chap with a colorful boat, playing a horn, whistling, accompanied by sort of sheet music consuming musical box contraption. When the performance was over he held up a clog with a fishing rod, for viewers to put coins in- being a budget conscious backpacker (and what with the painful exchange rate), I decided to take our leave immediately. Only later on did I find out that my sister was looking forward to putting a coin in- so running off at that point is one (minor) decision that I still regret to this day.

We found our hotel- the "Budget Hotel Barbacan". I'd picked it mainly for it's location and price- within the city, though after actually walking there it felt rather far out. As for price- well it cost more than our hotel in Brussels, despite being worth a lot less. Our room- or cell- came with a small double bed, a sink and mirror, closet, a tiny safe welded to the floor, and a a small blockish TV that must have been made in the early 80s (at least it had color). There was no air-conditioning unit either, so we slept with the window open to stay cool, and also to chill the drinks (usually chocolate milk) that we'd bought, though each night upon returning to the room we found the window closed. The proprietress wasn't the cheerful type either- the only saving grace of the place was the big fat kitty that had the unique ability to negate all negativity around it.

Anyhow. We ran around town after that, checking out various spots- the 'flower market', the main square, and other (free) attractions.There was some trouble when we bought our tickets to France, however. Never mind that the price for two momentarily addled my mind. The station staff swiped my debit card twice, but nothing happened- she said that the transaction didn't go through, so I paid cash instead. Now after taking the free ferry to the EYE Film Institute, a quick supermarket sushi dinner by the riverside, and a run through the EYE, I received a notification on my phone saying "thank you for using your card at Amsterdam Centraal... Please call xxxxxx if you didn't use it". Fearing that I'd paid double, we headed back to the train station to sort things out- but they couldn't do much about it. Filed a complaint/request for assistance and left, and dropped by first thing in the morning. It wasn't much help- only after emailing my bank and waiting a few days did I get to feel relief- the bank did get a debit request, but the request came too late and was ignored. Nevertheless I have ended up with a phobia towards the use of debit cards when overseas.

Now for the rest of our stay in Holland. To be quite frank- I don't remember if we had another two days, or just one. We went to two places- Zaanse Schans, an open-air historical park; and the municipality of Waterland. It had to be two days- and I'm only feeling certain because Google Maps says that they are in different areas. The incessant rain interfered too much with our trip to Zaanse Schans, but Waterland was... well, a peaceful romp through the countryside./seaside. The rest of our time- before and after each day trip was spent wandering through the streets of Amsterdam... and the aisles of HEMA. Did we have another day in Holland? Memory fails me completely here. I can only recall taking our (expensive) Thalys train ride to Paris, passing through Bruxelles Nord along the way (why hello again!), and arriving in bustling Paris du Nord sometime in the afternoon. Oh, and the news of that very train route being attacked just a few weeks later. Lost my chance to be a hero of the day- but probably kept my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment