Amsterdam

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I realized pretty much any Volkswagen Bus for sale right now is located in either Germany or the Netherlands, so I made a move up this way. The first thing I did was a book an appointment to see a van that looked decent online, then I booked a flight for about $200, which is pretty pricey, but the best I could find last minute. Next I started searching online for a place to stay in Amsterdam, one of the busiest backpacker cities in the world, during the height of the backpacker season and the World Cup.

Oops.

Obviously nothing was available. I found one hostel at $60/night for a DORM bed! Plus they required I book five full nights and pay the $300 total up front.


Plan B: I found this campsite about fifteen minutes outside the city center. No bookings needed and they always space. I spent my last morning in Granada at the aid of my new German penta-lingual friend Desiree’ (pronounced Daisy Lay and the L sound in Lay is like how the Spanish roll their r’s but further back in your throat, which if you weren’t born in Germany or France then like me you probably can’t do, but I’m working on it) shopping for a camping necessities.

Tent: $12
Sleeping Bag: $12
Dry Bag for Keeping Electronics Safe: $12
PowerAde & Snickers as a Reward For Saving Money: $3
Waterfront Campsite w/ Locker and Showers: $8/day
TOTAL FOR FIVE NIGHTS: $89

I swore I’d never book an early flight again, but the morning flight was $30 cheaper. I got up at six am today, walked about twenty minutes uphill with an overweight backpack towards the bus station, realized I wasn’t going to make it and jumped in a taxi, which took me about 1000 feet for $6 with plenty of time to have walked. Then I got on the bus and read for the one and a half hour drive to Malaga, where I had to take an inner city bus from platform 30, not bus number 30 mind you, to the airport. The line at the airport was long, but I was really into my book so it went by fast and I got checked in rather smoothly.

At the gate, just like in parking lots, only one of the four handicapped seats was taken. I figured nobody was giving tickets and went for it. It was a good seat near the entrance where I could watch everyone line up and stand with their luggage then slowly and anxiously file onto the plane to sit in assigned seats that not move until a pre-scheduled time. When the line was gone and after finishing another chapter, I stood and walked straight to my seat, buckled up and the plane taxied away. This would have been a nice example of patience if after the flight I hadn’t stepped on a small Dutch child and knocked over an elderly French woman during my sprint to baggage claim. But at least I’m working on it.

From the airport I bought a train ticket to the city center.

Platform 1 leaves in ten minutes, the ticket salesman said.

Heading straight down the stairs I saw a train parked with its doors open on Platform 1, so I boarded and kept my head in my book. Almost immediately the doors shut and we started rolling. Hmm, maybe it’s been ten minutes and I didn’t notice since I’d just rolled through the climax of the story, I thought.

A woman on the Train strikes up a conversation with me. She’s dark skinned, Dutch and tells me that next week she’s heading to Indonesia to go diving.

Are you here on holiday, she asked.

Sort of, I said. I’m trying to buy van. I’m heading to the city center now.

This train doesn’t go to the center, it goes to southern Amsterdam, she tells me.

Oh. Thanks. I want to go back to my book again, but I have a hunch it might be the reading thing that got me on this train.

At the first stop I get off and hike down the stairs into the station where I tell the information desk man that I got on the wrong train. I was pretty sure I had just gotten on too early, but he told me I needed to go back to the airport and take the train on Platform 2.

Hah, I knew I followed directions correctly! The guy who sold me the ticket gave me the wrong platform!

Back at the airport, I see the sign over Platform 1 reads “Central Amsterdam”.

Damnit. Well at least someone else was wrong besides me. Twenty minutes later I’m outside central station getting excited about how fun of a city this is going to be. There were clean, quiet, blue and white trams criss-crossing each other, all sorts of young and old, hip and normal people walking and cycling about and huge renaissance buildings shooting up from behind a very modern looking cityscape. I kept noticing trams stopping about 100 feet before the little covered vestibule that I waited alone in. It wasn’t until twenty minutes had passed that I noticed I was watching these trams through a wire fence, which was evidently marking a construction zone surrounding me. No wonder I was the only one waiting for the tram.

After figuring out I was actually on the wrong side of the tracks anyway, I boarded and rolled away standing at the front of tram #26. When I tried to pay the driver, he pointed to the back of the tram and said something in Dutch. I stretched to look over all the heads in the packed car and in the back I could see another booth. I had my backpack on with my fancy $12 tent strapped to the bottom which made me about a foot wider than usual, but I didn’t want to risk getting fined $40 for a $0.50 ride like I did on my first day in Paris, so I fought my way back for ten minutes and through three fist fights to get to where I could pay. When I finally reached the guy, he looked at me and my bag and the blood all over my shirt and said, Ah…don’t worry about it. I tried to thank him, but my mouth wouldn’t work, so I just nodded and held my position in front of his window.

I was sure the directions to the campsite had said take the tram to the last stop, so I went back into my book until I was shaken awake by the tram attendant shouting at me; the only person on the tram.

Last stop!

Thanks, I blurted snapping shut my book and jumping off.

The tram hummed away and I looked around at all the new commercial buildings being erected. This didn’t look much like a campsite and I didn’t see any “walk bridge”. I made my way down the dirt road until my lack of a yellow hard hat made it obvious I was in the wrong place.

Back on Tram 26 I went and since the tram had just turned around, I had the same attendant.

Going to kumpaye debird, he asked?

Huh?

Kumpaye debird!?!

Ummm…?

Kumpaye, kumpaye?

Oh camping! Camping Zeeburg. Yes, I proclaimed!

I said Kumpaye debird at the stop, he notes kindly. You were not listening?

Yea. I guess not, I said partially excepting the blame for my seventeenth setback of the day.

The walk from the correct stop took me onto a bridge, over a river, down a stairway, under a highway overpass and into a long line for check-in at the campsite. There was a beast of a wind whipping off the bay and over the tall grass and it made a sail out of my twelve dollar tent. By the time I got the flimsy thing nailed into the soft, and damp Amsterdamn-dirt, it was 7 o’clock.

Eleven hours later I had finally arrived at my bed in Amsterdam. I was beat, but at least I finished my book.

4 Thoughts on “Amsterdam”

  1. kevin Says:

    whoa…so many questions. what happened to the dutch kid you stepped on? and if you need to make up a story about him that will work too. were there for real fights on the ride? or did your tent cut people? i love how you flowed with everything that was going on….missing stops and instead of bugging out you went back….good deal. that is a clean tent for only 12 dollars. be safe.

    lates

  2. Estelle Says:

    What a good story!

    What did you just finish reading?

  3. Jeff Says:

    Good to get another update! Hope you have fun camping and that you have good weather!

  4. Suzy Says:

    Amsterdam sounds like the place to be! clean, quiet and free to be / do whatever you want.

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