Monday, December 28, 2009
The phrase "I did not see that coming" gets thrown around all to often, especially by me. However, when we were told that we were going to Amsterdam, that was a pretty appropriate response. Here's the story of how that went:
December 27th, 2009, 7:00am Central European Time (midnight December 27th CDT): After a brutal trans-Atlantic flight, which included about 2 hours of sleep, we arrived at Amsterdam Shiphol Airport. If nothing else, I got to see Inglourious Basterds on the flight over, which was quite good. We departed the aircraft being insanely tired, hungry, and quite worse for the wear. Upon walking into the airport our first stop was a Starbucks, which at the very least provided a pick-me-up after such a long flight. We purchased some tickets from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station. We got on the train, quite surprised that at 8am local time, it was still pitch black out. After about 35-40 minutes, we realized that we had apparently missed Amsterdam Centraal Station. This was a combination of several factors, foremost of which was that neither of us speak a word of Dutch. Additionally, they continuously referred to this “Inter-City”, which I misinterpreted as “Inner-City”. Therefore, I continuously said that we were going to the inner-city part of Amsterdam, whereas it was actually an inter-city line between the major Dutch cities, such as Utrect, The Hague, Leewarden, Groningen, etc. Finally, we got off at Amersfoort station, and realized that, yes, we’d gone quite a bit too far. To give one an idea, we’d traveled nearly 30% of the length of the entire country, in about 45 minutes. However, it was probably worth it, as we passed some simply beautiful Dutch countryside, and were able to see a good deal of the country. Also, we were able to kind of wake up a bit once the sun came up. We figured we’d just get a ticket back to Amsterdam Centraal, which we did, but not before exploring the station a bit, and getting a few good pictures of the surrounding area. We took the train back to Centraal, where we finally got off at the correct stop. After departing at Centraal we were quickly introduced to the center of Amsterdam, with canals, cafés, Van Gogh museums, etc. We decided to just walk around a bit, and basically ended up just hanging out around the area for a little while. Some sights we saw were a few museums, the Heineken Brewery (from the outside, anyway), and most of the canal area. We then ended up taking the tram to Museum Square, which is the home of the famous “I Amsterdam” sign, where we got the obligatory picture taken. We mulled around there for a bit, although it was quite difficult to get anywhere, as much of the sidewalks were absolutely covered by a very hazardous layer of ice. We walked about the canals for awhile before heading back to the area near Centraal to get something to eat. It was at this point that it really dawned on us how odd the daylight hours are there. It was about 12:30pm local time, and the sun was very much setting, after having risen fully at about 9:30am. Apparently the Netherlands is much further north than I thought, and therefore they get much less daylight in the winter months. Near Centraal, our food options were relatively limited. We’d walked around a couple of Dutch food areas earlier, and the smell was very much enough to keep us from ever trying anything. That is not an exaggeration. I have never really found the smell of any food to be really bad, but sweet mother of god, was the smell of Dutch food simply unbearable. We settled on an Italian place, figuring how bad could it be, and while it was certainly fine, the “pizza” that we ordered was not, in fact pizza, but simply bread with some seasoning, a bit of cheese, and some salami. For 4 euro each. After eating, we mulled around a bit more near Centraal before deciding to head back to the airport to attempt to find somewhere to sleep (keep in mind, at this point it was about 4:00am CDT, and we hadn’t slept on the flight over). We took the train back to the airport, got off at the wrong stop, but quickly realized it and got back on the same train, before finally getting to the airport and passing out in a rest-type area for about 2.5 hours. We boarded our Boeing 747 to Tokyo, still incredibly tired. Dan’s seat ended up being Business Class, and mine was an exit row, giving me unlimited leg room, so that was quite nice.