And it was wunderful although it didn’t seem like that at the beginning.
First this trip was on the cheeappp.
Secondly, my initial plan was to go for a conference in Italy between the 7th-10th of September but I found the the earliest visa appointment date I could get on the Italian Consular website was Sept 5th (and being Nigerian, you need to add 2 weeks to the normal processing time). So I decided to seek the warm embrace of the Netherlands and hightail it to Italy from there. My classmates had gone there earlier in the year and said it was fun.
I chose to apply for the visa thru the Netherland Consular office in Edinburgh (opportunity for some sightseeing too).
|Your tour guide - Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse palace, Scottish guy in skirts playing bag pipe, that doll collection looks like something from a horror movie, Ebony and Ivory (my tour partner)|
For all my troubles Netherlands gave me a miserly 3 weeks ending on the 3rd of Sept so no Italy Conference still :(.
You might wonder why i chose to bus it? Initialy i thought it was cheaper (it wasn't!) then I thought driving would enable me appreciate the changing scenery through 4 Western European countries.
It was supposed to be 12 hr journey (did I hear you say backache??) leaving London Victoria at 8.30 to get to Amsterdam at 8.00pm. Well, we got to Amsterdam at 1.30am. How you wonder? A 5 hr delay in Brussels!! The coach broke down and we had to wait about 3.5 hrs for the replacement then add rain and rush-hour traffic. What was most amazing was that nobody shouted at the driver or complained (you know how we do it in Naija). It was all civilized and understanding. even those who were missing connecting flights. Passengers played with their phones, got up at intervals to stretch their legs, cheerfully gisting with the driver. smh.
My seat mate Tom, a handsome dutch-English budding actor kept me from tearing my hair as we compared cultures and foods.
By the time we arrived at Amstel Station, Amsterdam at 1.30am, the trains had stopped so I couldn’t get to Amsterdam central where my paid hotel accommodation was waiting. Well, I could have taken a taxi but remember I was on a vermicelli thin budget here.
So I sat it out on the comfy leather seats at the bus station
|A few inches and that chair would have made a mighty fine bed!|
I had 'great' company (not!) in the form of a stout Hungarian-Spanish drunk man Leon, who was trying to solicit me for sex (offered me 50 Euros). Alas he knew little English and I knew no Spanish so it made for an interesting conversation
Leon: me like you. Gibberish, see money. Me give you. go hotel.
Ginger: You -me no no no –with vigorous hand gesticulations.
I was miffed cos when I threw him off he went over to this old buxomy woman who can’t be a day under 55. And there I was thinking he was mesmerized by my hawtness, drunk or not.
Morning couldn’t come fast enough. I went to the ladies, cleaned up, changed to jeggings, brushed my teeth and wandered into the city for a mini sight seeing tour.
And I fell in love.
Amsterdam is such a pretty city. You know those ceramic dream like buildings you find on display shelves? It seems they are modeled on Amsterdam buildings. After boring old British houses I loved the rusticity of Amsterdam: the canals, the cruise boats, the bicycles!! Everyone and their mom rode bicycles. I really need to learn how to use that contraption. Its sexy and healthy exercise.
|There was something 'Open Sesamish' about the opening and closing of this portion of road. It opens to allow boats pass.|
The Dutch were also a friendly lot. A lot of strangers saying hi and flashing genuine smiles. Within 2 hours of ambling about the streets I had made 4 acquitances who tried to convince me to extend my stay.
Then my phone battery went caput and I couldn’t take any pictures. What!! My new friends directed me to this Coffee shop Popeye to get a drink and get my phone charged. And my eyes really popped. Get a look at their list. Yep It was an authentic weed shop. Even the brownies could get you high.
Nevertheless it was a particularly cosy and friendly shop. I was even invited to share the peace pipe on the house. No can do!! I had this imagery of me being so high that I forget to go back to UK.
|Take a look at that Price list and the colorful names for different hemp cultures|
The ‘coffee shops’ finally explained why most people in this town were happy. They were all prolly walking in a weed haze.I would def visit Popeye again if I ever go to Amsterdam (not for the weed o!).
I didn't get to see the Redlight district. I had asked the lovely lady at Popeye to gimme directions to the district which she did grinning from ear to ear - she found my embarrassment amusing cause I'd whispered the question into her ear. I must have missed my way cos I never found the street and I wasn’t ready to ask passersby.
|I got to visit a Cheese shop. Went away with Goat cheese. Second pix is one of the ubiquitous tour boats littering the Canals|
By 15.30pm I was at the station waiting for my train to Aachen, Germany which was 2.5 hrs away. Prof had invited me to see his much boasted of Aachen.
I was awed. Maybe it was cos I had this idea of a sterile military Nazi Germany. It was thus a surprise to find this picturesque town. You could also feel the energy and the affluence. Unlike Britain where it is now common to find boarded-up shops and buildings falling on their ears, I could not smell the recession here.
*I also saw Aachen’s red light district which compensated for Amsterdam.
|Buildings: Something old, something new. The roundish structure is a public bath|
|Street view: Germans love dining out. Note the time 8.30pm|
|More street views: the multi-people statue is supposed to depict people involved in bribery, you can see the exchange of gifts :), Pix 2 is a picturesque bus stop.|
Prof wanted to take me to the Carolus theme park for spas, a newly opened theme park, and an animal park. You can guess the one I was really excited about.
|St Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Vets), Kangaroo, Flamingo, Zebras, Scottish Highland Cow. No pictures pls!|
Did I mention German efficiency? Buses arrive at bus stops at least 2 mins before scheduled time then wait. Hello Britain. I also noticed that passengers could get in through the bus’ side entrance. You only go through the front if you need to get a ticket. I’m sure you can see the loophole in that. But there was a strong deterrent: 40 Euros fine if you get caught.
Students get to buy a transport ticket (200 Euros) at the beginning of the school year which covers all train journeys and bus trips within most major cities in Germany. What a bargain! When I think of how much I have spent on transport in the UK…smh.
I went shopping by myself on Monday. I got Printen for my friends, (a biscuit Aachen is famous for). A shopping decision I regret cause the biscuits taste errmmmm funny. Prof says it’s an acquired taste..well he should have warned me. I was so embarrassed I didn’t give it to the friends I bought it for cause I felt they will judge my poor taste. Sigh.
I did wish I had lotsa money to shop with. Ah well, another time.
Home again home again jiggety jog, this time by Eurostar (train). 2hrs and I was back in London. Never again Eurolines!!
|Durham market place|