Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Karl's European Vacation: Soggy Amsterdam

I was always envious of those people that bragged at dinner parties that they had backpacked through Europe when they finished high school.  I never did that.  I went straight to university.  I am boring.  Although, I am proud to announce that I did buy a backpack with my own money.  I backpacked all the way to the donut store to work the night shift.

Of couse, if you push for more information, these Europe-hiking braggadocios will sometimes reveal that it was not always so glamorous (they will sometimes mention sleeping in tents, blizzards, getting mugged, hitch hiking, getting arrested, overpaying for bananas at the market, etc).  I am proud to say that my day started terribly and now I feel like I joined the "bad story" club.  Did I overpay for fruit?  I wish.  No, I woke up in Amsterdam at 5:00 am to a torrential downpour with lightning.  And I had to go to the train station.  Right then.

Using the handy dandy internet, I quickly looked at the bus schedule.  The buses didn't start running until 6:00 am.  Hmm.  I needed to get to the train station now.  Then I looked up some pictures of cats.  Get focused!  I donned my rain slick and decided to walk to Centraal Station, which was ridiculously far away.  

A little into the walk, I realized that this sucked.  (It was about 5 seconds into the walk, give or take 5 seconds).  I was immediately soaked, and the winds were howling.  "Winds" as plural is never good.  I marched along with my suitcase on two rinky-dink rollers.  This would have been okay, except everything in Holland was built in the middle ages, so the walking paths are these cobblestone roads.  Great for Napoleon, not great for me.  It is amazing to think that 200 years from now, someone will stand at the corner of Haagendaas and Dokken where Wiebes had his meltdown and yelled at the inanimate suitcase.

That's actually one of the neat things about travelling solo - with no one around to listen to me complain, I kind of just got on with it.  It was what it was.  I snuck onto the bike bath (futuristic rubber) and booked it.  After about an hour of quick marching, I made it to the central downdown canals, the rain cascading down.  It was beautiful and quiet-- except for my suitcase, which sounded like I was dragging a dead animal with chains through the centre of town.  I took a breather on a deserted road, parked cars everywhere.  It was silent except for the rain.  I checked the iPad-- thanks Google Maps--I was almost there!

Suddenly a car alarm went off about five feet from me.  It was raining hard so no one would know if I peed my pants.  WAH WAH WAH BOOOOOP BOOOOP.  And suddenly the moment was over-- I was half-jogging, trying to look non chalant.  "No, officer, I wasn't trying to break into the car, honest!  No, actually I don't have a car, and I'm the only one out here.   Why, yes, I do look like a hobo.  I admit this looks bad."  This conversation was all running through my head as I scuttled down the street, a soggy traveller looking for a train.

I made it to the Centraal station, dried off as best I could and found my train.  I stood there for a moment, letting it all sink in.  I hiked silent Amsterdam, and it was terrible and cool at the same time.  I was going to take a picture and give myself a pat on the back, when the train guy walked over and asked me where I was headed.  He then pointed to the train about 40 yards down the track and said it was leaving in one minute.

There was no one else on the platform, but had there been elderly ladies in my way I would have bodychecked them onto the tracks below.  I was NOT missing this train.  Out of breath, wet, tired, and mentally exhausted, I got on, and 15 seconds later the train chugged away.  

Had I pushed the imaginary ladies onto the tracks, it wouldn't have been so bad--they would have had a memory that, had they survived, they would have treasured forever.