Friday, February 20, 2009

In Delft, The Netherlands

And so, after having some coffee in Frankfurt’s airport, I made my way to the Frankfurt Flughafen train station. The station is located right at the airport, and it takes about 25 seconds to walk the tunnel that leads to it from the terminal.

I had to take a train from the airport to Düsseldorf, then a train to Venlo (already in the Netherlands), and then a train to Delft, where Jeroen lives. There were other, more simple routes I could have taken, but this route was perfect from scheduling perspective so I took it.

My North American friends, here is some sad reality: we have got it all wrong when it comes to public transportation. What’s going on here in western Europe, when it comes to public transportation (especially trains), is, in one word, amazing. There is very little reason for people to own cars here.

The train was scheduled to leave at 11:24am, which is exactly when it departed. The first train I took was the ICE (Inter-City Express); it is an amazing train, so nice to sit in and man is it fast.

We arrived in Düsseldorf at 12:37 exactly. I had 11 minutes to kill before the next train departs on a different platform.

It turns out that, this weekend, there is some crazy carnival going on in parts of Germany, so on my way to the other platform I could see people with extremely bizarre costumes walking around, most of them having at least one can of beer in their hands.

I reached the platform and started reading the posted trains’ schedule, to ensure that it corresponds with the itinerary I printed. I came across something suspicious; apparently my hesitant look was really “out there”, as it prompted a nice woman to ask me if I feel a bit lost. I shared my concern with her, she replied I have nothing to worry about and we left it at that.

The train left exactly on time, with the last station scheduled to be in Venlo, The Netherlands. One stop before Venlo, the train appeared to refuse to continue its journey. I waited for a couple of minutes, and then the announcer announced something in either German or Dutch – didn’t matter exactly because they both sound total gibberish to me. No one was around to explain it to me, though. I just noticed people gradually leaving the train.

After about 10 minutes, I decided to approach this guy who was on the next car. Turns out he’s from Montreal and appears a bit lost too. Seconds later, a couple enters the train and asks us if we know whether this train is going back to Düsseldorf. It turns out that there’s some power outage and the train can’t continue, and the reason people are gathering outside is that people decided to call taxi cabs to pick them up and drive them to Venlo, the next station.

(Some people said later that there’s power outage in all of southern Holland, which freaked us out; at the end, it turned out that the entire ordeal was due to a suicide attempt on the tracks just out of Venlo)

We rushed outside and looked for people who knew what the hell was going on. The Montreal guy asked some young lady what’s going on. It turned out that she was going the same direction as I was. We chit-chatted a little bit, and then I informed her that I have decided to attach myself to her until one of us reaches his / her destination, because (a) she speaks German and (b) well, I’m traveling alone and it’s a bit boring. She agreed.

A bus came by to pick us up, and dropped us in Venlo. Funny how we drove from Germany to The Netherlands and I haven’t even seen a “Welcome to The Netherlands” sign anywhere.

As it happened, Corrina and I missed our connecting train; but no worries – this is Europe! The next train was scheduled 30 minutes after the one we missed, so we only had to wait 15 minutes or so for the next train. Corrina was going to Rotterdam, and I was supposed to get off the train one stop after, in the city of Delft.

It’s been a two hours easy train ride, during which Corrina and I spoke about all bunch of stuff. It’s been great – very nice girl with a great sense of humour. Two hours went by very quickly.

In Rotterdam I bid Corrina farewell, thanking her for “saving my life”. Within 15 minutes, the train arrived at the station of Delft.

Took about 10 seconds to find Jeroen, waiting for me in the station. Was great seeing him again after more than six months. We walked to his apartment, about 10 minutes walk from the train station.

The first thing I noticed in Delft is the astounding number of bikes. There are bikes everywhere; hundreds of them are parked near the train station, and more people ride bikes than cars. I remember learning, back in school days, that The Netherlands is well-known for its impressive bike usage; you can say that again. Got almost run over by a bicycle. Wouldn’t that be a great way to terminate a good trip…

We arrived at Jeroen’s place. We originally intended to go out for a drink, but I was exhausted. Instead, we (well, OK. Jeroen) made dinner, we ate and then spaced out for a couple of hours in the living room, to the sounds of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits music.

Jeroen boasts an impressive collection of Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler material, owning virtually any CD / DVD / VHS that has ever been released by the band, plus an impressive collection of bootlegs.

Quite the fan.

At around 22:00 I realized that I’m devastated and it’s time to sleep. Within minutes the living room became a very convenient guest room, and I believe it took me less than 20 seconds to fall asleep.

Friday morning now… Time for some Amsterdam!



1 comment:

Laurenzia said...

...and then posts like this boost your wanderlust (=need to be on the road). Meeting new people and good old friends is without a doubt best part of traveling.

World is small when you realise there's a friendly face just around the corner :)