Goodbye Amsterdam, Hello Berlin
Goodbye Amsterdam, hello Berlin!
We’ve had an amazing stay in Amsterdam. Collectively we feel it was the perfect place to get our feet wet on this round the world (RTW) trip. It was foreign enough not to be home but not so foreign as to freak us all out as we just began. We’ve become accustom to living on the road, finding a little time to fit in schooling and have adjusted to major time changes, sleeping in random beds and finding ways to deal with each other 24/7. We also had our first home exchange which was a great experience. We actually became quite attached to the Netherlands, the old friends we reconnected with and others we met. As a whole we found the people remarkably friendly and helpful. When we ambled along the cobblestoned streets I found myself longing for a traditional (but remodeled) canal house – as long as it came with air conditioning. Liam said it best…”I’m excited to go but really sad also.”
Going in I suspected some of the most anticipated moments of our trip around the would be the boats, trains, planes, buses, tuk-tuks of RTW travel. I was right. The kids elected to travel to Berlin via train (personally I would have chosen air travel – the faster the better in my book), however, as my brother-in-law always says, “it’s about making memories.” So, the kids won – train travel it was!
The journey started out perfectly. We arrived at the train station in plenty of time. Everyone was fed and happy. We excitedly boarded the train and found our reserved compartment in First Class (the kids were thrilled I had spent an additional $5 to get a first class ticket). The kids were bouncing around loving the fact that our compartment had a sliding door where we could shut out the rest of the train. They were amazed by the individual hooks behind each seat, the racks above the seats and mostly … there were real curtains!!! Their excitement was contagious. Everyone was happy. Mission accomplished!
After settling down the announcements began. First in Dutch, then German, eventually English. All the standard – welcome aboard, where we were headed today, collection of tickets, apology that there would be no food service today…good thing we brought sandwiches…then … “oh, and because of problems with the rails in Germany we will be arriving in another town, de-training in city B, taking another train to town B, de-training in village C only to take a bus to another waiting train which would finally get us to Berlin”…?!? What?!?!? But they’ll let us know, step by step, when and how this is all going to happen and thank you for your patience and understanding…RIGHT!?! So, as always happens when you are stranded in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language we hope for the best, try not to be too concerned, remind yourself it’s all part of the experience and smile through it…sort of.
Two hours later there’s an announcement…first in Dutch, then in German, we patiently, painstakingly listen for English…apparently we have arrived (we think they might have said) and we are to take the train to a town (which we didn’t catch the name of), to then catch our bus (in said – but missed town) when we arrive and so on and so forth.
With the four hundred other passengers, everyone’s luggage, backpacks, bags full of food, we de-train in a slightly frenetic way only to do the shuffle walk of cattle being herded in a certain direction. In this case we hustle to the only waiting train…a train with about 6 compartments – ours had 18- in slight confusion along with the herd. As we hesitantly (but frantically) board the train we say silent prayers to the destination gods that this is in fact where we are supposed to be. We also say a silent good bye to our first class tickets which now are meaningless. Miraculously we secured a spot – standing room only and proceeded to wait, bodies pressed against bodies in this stifling, stinky train with a bunch of backpackers. The cacophony of languages (foreign as well as expressive) reminded me we weren’t the only ones unsure of this process nor the only ones following the herd. People outside the train were jockeying for a spot, sure we could make room. Those of us inside couldn’t possibly imagine squeezing one more body in. After a stifling hour of uncertainty the doors slid closed and the train rambled out of the station.[the kids and I talk a lot about karma and what it is…it was they that pointed out that perhaps they shouldn’t have been so excited and braggy about our first class tickets and that karma came right back at us…lesson learned … hopefully!]
So, hot, sweaty, stinky and thirsty we ambled through the countryside, passing through stations to stop, have an insistent person or two – and in one case a mother and her two children insist they could squeeze in, climb over all of us to secure a place among the miserable, grumpy, short on patience passengers already one step away from mutiny that even I stepped in and spoke out when these people just wouldn’t listen. Why I thought they’d have any clue what I was saying when I spoke out was beyond me – something perhaps about having a hard rolling suitcase constantly dig into the heel of the one foot I had on the ground holding my space and keeping me from toppling on top of one of my children perhaps. While I was beyond my patience level, hot, sweaty and miserable the kids kept me grounded as they loved all the drama of the shouting, hot, exasperated people…an argument they weren’t a part of but got to observe up close…the drama! (let’s hope they still love it by the time we make it to India). Eventually the train stopped taking passengers on completely and the doors didn’t even open. An hour later we arrive, de-train again only to finally get some fresh air while we wait 20 minutes for the supposed bus that was supposed to be waiting when we arrived. Well, the bus (singular – remember the 18 train cars…) arrived. We obviously didn’t all fit in that one bus that was taking us to yet another train that was supposedly taking us direct! to Berlin…
So, in finally finding an actual person to talk to we were told they didn’t know when another bus would arrive BUT we could now take the next train to Hamburg where we could then transfer to a direct! train to Berlin…really?! Knowing we had no other choice we went to get some food before our departure. The rest of our journey was uneventful. Three hours longer and 3 transfers more than originally anticipated…ultimately, this is how we said goodbye to Amsterdam and hello to Berlin.