Amsterdam ~ A tale of windmills, canals and tulips

17 04 2008

To avoid the feeling of loneliness and homesickness, I took a 4 hrs ICE train from Frankfurt to Amsterdam to meet my friend who was seconded there. She was staying in a nice house by the canal near to the juicy red light district. It was really great to see a friend and from her expression I can see that she was equally excited. Started Saturday morning with a visit to the tulip fields and Kirkenhoff festive. Took a half-hour train from the Central train station to Schiphol airport where we changed to a bus which is around an hour ride. Kirkenhoff is pretty and impressive. Lots of colourful tulips and the festive ambience there was great with people dressed in the traditional Holland clothes.

After a morning at the tulips field, we went back to Central station to take another train to Zaanse Schans, the place where you can see the windmills. Interesting events happened enroute. We boarded the train from Schiphol airport to Central station and sat on the upper deck of the train. Halfway through, it stopped for a long while and we decided to check out why it didn’t move. We came down to the lower deck and realized that we were in the middle of the track with cleaners coming up to do the cleaning. There was no other passenger in sight!!! We panicked and shouted for help. A train assistant came to us and brought us to the 1st class seats. There, we found another British guy who was in the same situation as us. Apparently, announcement was made in Dutch that we need to get off the train at the previous station so obviously we couldn’t understand a word!

When we reached Zaanse Schans train station, the lonely planet guide mentioned that we need to walk 400 metres and we will reach Zaanse Schans. However, after walking for 400 metres (by following the signs), Zaanse Schans was nowhere in sight. We asked around and was told that we need to take a free ferry which would take us over to Zaanse Schans. Oh well, the lonely planet guide didn’t say this! We reached Zaanse Schans late afternoon, just in time before the windmills closed. Zaanse Schans is beautiful and definitely worth the trouble to get to. If you want to avoid the hassle, you can join a day tour from Amsterdam. But of course, I love free and easy travel rather than being tight down by a tour hence would still recommend going there on your own. That evening and on Sunday, we visted the red light district (saw the disgusting ladies in the “fish tanks”), the “I love Amsterdam” sight, museums, etc.

My adventure doesn’t end here. I was supposed to catch the late afternoon train back to Frankfurt. However, the train caught fire! There were some announcements in Dutch that asked passengers to take a train to Utrecht to transfer to the ICE train. However, as I can’t understand a word, I missed my train….. Managed to catch the later train back to Frankfurt and reached pass midnight… What a trip.

Travel Tips:
– Make sure that you buy the full ticket and not the discounted ticket which only applies to people who hold the locals. We made a mistake but was “forgiven” as we were ignorant of this.
– A “coffee shop” is a place that sells drugs (or drinks with drugs). If you want normal drinks, go to a café!
– Best to sit in the lower deck of the train (or if you sit in the upper deck, when you see all people alighting, ask them if this is the last station).

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5 03 2012

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