A Dutch Day

Holland is not Amsterdam; Amsterdam is not Holland. In fact Amsterdam is probably the least representative Dutch city there is when it comes to the people and places in this lovely land. I took a day recently to explore a few “alternate” Dutch destinations, a day trip on the train for a €16 fare.

I started my day with a full breakfast here at the hotel. It was the usual European buffet and I had a fair mix of food. But I also took the opportunity to collect a couple of apples and buns to take along with me as a snack for the day. Then I hopped on the bus to the airport and bought a train ticket to Delft.

Schipol Airport, Amsterdam
Purchasing a train ticket in Schipol Airport can be a real challenge. There are ticket machines but the line-ups are inevitably long. I waited, and waited. When I finally got up to the machine imagine my distress when I discovered that it only took credit cards that used a PIN. No VISA for me! I then wandered around the airport for a while searching vainly for a help desk or ticket counter. Ultimately I discovered the train ticket counter at the far end of the airport where people were lined up four deep so they could buy a ticket with cash or a non-PIN credit card.

I bought my ticket and went downstairs. The train for Delft left from platform 5/6 and that is where I went. I stood under a sign that said the train was headed to Leiden Centraal. I knew that Leiden is on the way to Delft so I figured I would have to change trains there. Things did not quite work that way.

The train left Schipol Airport and headed towards Leiden and Delft. However after the first stop it shuttled into a train yard and stopped. The cleaner came through the train and cleaned it, so I figured this was just a traffic and cleaning stop. There were other people on the car, and they were waiting, so I waited. After about 30 minutes of waiting I started to wonder what was going on. I walked up the train and found nobody. On the way back to my seat I met another passenger who was also wondering what was going on. He called the emergency number for the train services and we were informed that the train we were on was parked!

The train yard sent a conductor down to our train and he explained that this train was only supposed to go one stop and then head back to the airport after a 45 minute wait, which meant in about five minutes. We asked how this happened and he said there had been an announcement of this at the one and only stop, before the train was parked. We said we hadn’t heard any announcement, either in Dutch or English, and he said “That is possible”. We asked what to do and he said “Stay on the train and go back to the airport”. We asked why the cleaner didn’t say anything and he just shrugged. And I finally asked “Does this happen often?” The conductor said “Yes”, then turned and walked away.

Lunch beside a canal in Delft
We went back to the airport and I changed to another train for Delft, a trip of about 45 minutes. This one almost went there. It was the express train headed south; it bypassed Delft and went straight to Rotterdam so I took the local train back t
he 10 minutes to Delft.

Finally there I went for a walk through this wonderful old Dutch city strung along its canals and narrow streets. Delft is a delightful place in the mid-south of the Netherdlands on the train line between Rotterdam and The Hague.

There have been people living in the Delft area since pre-roman times and the city charter dates to 1246. Famous as the home of the painter Vermeer and the burial place of the Dutch king William of Orange (aka William the Silent – he was known for avoiding controversial conversation topics), this city remains famous for its Delft Blue pottery.

After wandering around, looking at the market stalls and the main church square (where they had trucked in sand for a beach party), I had lunch in a café alongside one of the canals, using a part of my sandwich to feed the ducks.

Church in the Binnenhof, The Hague
Leaving Delft I caught the train to Den Haag (The Hague). If Delft is the epitomy of the old Dutch town, Den Haag is the modern counterpart. Where Delft has narrow streets, small buildings and canals, Den Haag has wide boulevards, modern office towers and a large pedestrian mall for the Grote Markt (literally translated as “Great Market”).

The Hague is the seat of government in the Netherlands, but not the capital city. That role is reserved for Amsterdam. As the center for government The Hague has the usual monuments of steel and glass dedicated to national bureaucracy. It is an old city, founded around 1250, and is home to a rather impressive royal residence rather like a Louvre in miniature.

As a coastal port, The Hague has a number of beach and seafront areas but I didn’t get to them on this visit. Instead I wandered from the outer train station, across the town and through the royal offices and courts, then back to the central train station where I caught the train again.

The train back to Leiden was slow and I was sleepy. I slept right through Leiden where I was supposed to change. This didn’t really bother me since I really wanted to go into Amsterdam and this way I would be able to tell the conductor that I slept through my transfer station. This train stopped at Haarlem where I once again changed trains, catching the local train into Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam I rented a bicycle and pedalled around the city. It was a different way to see things and I really enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I decided to ride all the way back to my hotel, about an hour’s ride.

Pedalling a bike here is very easy; there are no hills. I rented a bike with three speeds, but I only used two of them. The low speed was good for moving slowly down the crowded, narrow streets of old Amsterdam. Second gear was used when I rode out to the outer rim of the city and along the dike road that would eventually take me back to my hotel.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year, Richard. Wishing you the good humour to enjoy each day.