My In and Out of Amsterdam

I am sick. I feel gross. To give you an idea of how much I have blown my nose in less than 24 hours, I am a quarter of the way through my second roll of toilet paper. I won’t give you any more details.

This is my souvenir. These germs are Dutch germs. Maybe I got them from my pancakes. Maybe I should have washed my hands more after touching all the souvenirs in the Red Light district. In any case, one can leave Amsterdam, but one can’t be sure that Amsterdam will leave you.

I arrived Thursday night at 6:00pm, right on schedule according to my plane ticket.

Just kidding! I arrived at 3am on Friday morning. The flight from Sevilla to Madrid was delayed by 1 hour — that’s equivalent to 20 pages of Crepúsculo, for all you beginner-level Spanish Twilight readers. No big deal.

We arrived in Madrid with 10 minutes to run 15 minutes away to the connecting flight. One girl, who presumably checked her luggage, zipped ahead and disappeared among the crowd. I never saw her again. About 5 of us chugged in a half speed-walk, half prance, carting our rolling suitcases and calling out, “permiso! permiso!” to clear the way on the moving tracks.

We arrived at the gate, some flushed, some pale, tugging off our scarves and coats, 5 minutes to departure time.

Final boarding was 10 minutes before departure time. We looked at the airplane still sitting, connected to the airport. We looked at each other, a group slowly increasing with damp and panting stragglers. We looked at the cocky, rude, horrible, awful, ugly, and hopefully very sad airline attendant who said, “Please go to the nearest Iberia help desk, which is 10 minutes back the way you came, in order to make preparations for an alternate flight.”

About 20 of us lined up behind 20 others at the Iberia help desk. Here is a picture of the Iberia help desk:

The Iberia help-desk at the Madrid-Barajas airport.

It says, "We're here to help you." ORLY?!

We stood in line for 3 hours. Later, an Iberia attendant would tell one of us, “It would have been better if you had completely exited the airport and then re-entered to get help from the Iberia staff at the main check-in.” The Iberian attendant would also say, “The last flight from Madrid to Amsterdam was filled 1.5 hours ago (1.5 hours after we had all been waiting in line), and even though it leaves in one hour, we just continued to sell those tickets to other people while you were waiting in line for a flight that we messed up. The next flight is tomorrow at 6pm.” That was a paraphrase.

Meanwhile, I made friends in line with a Dutch couple, an American student studying abroad in Sevilla, and an American ex-pat who has been living in Sevilla for 9 years and started a family there.

We decided to fly to Brussels instead, rent a car, and drive to Amsterdam. So we did. Now I can say, somewhat misleadingly, that I have been to Antwerp and Rotterdam. We arrived at Schipol station at 1:05am; 5 minutes after the last “every 10 minutes train,” and 55 minutes before the next “every hour” train. I bought a can of Pringles. I ate them all.

Luckily, my hostel had 24-hour check-in. Ironically, this was also my first night of good sleep I’d had in weeks! With nothing urgent to do in the morning, I stayed in bed until a lazy 9:45am, ate a leisurely breakfast with four courses, and didn’t have to be out of the hostel until 11.

At 11:15 there was  a free 3-hour tour of the city. I love hostel tours! The guides are always enthusiastic, helpful, and full of information; after all, they’re working for tips. I learned all kinds of things about the architecture, the local history, geography, hot spots, food, and tourist traps.

One funny thing I learned: the oldest prostitute in Amsterdam is 82 years old. She has a 2-week waiting list. In other news, the Queen is 82 years old. Coincidence…? Some believe the Queen is responsible for the anonymous sculptural graffiti that dots Amsterdam. The piece I saw on the tour of the Red Light district looks likes this:

A golden sculpture of a boob and a half, one boob gently cupped by a disembodied hand, discreetly lies among the bricks near Westerkerk.

This brilliant sculpture consists of a boob and a half and a disembodied hand. The boobs are so shiny because people rub them for good luck.

One false thing I learned: the Dutch people are so tall because of natural selection; all the short people get washed away in the floods. Look at the beautiful canals:

A cluster of swans and ducks and birds play in the canals between the tall houses of Amsterdam.

15,000 bikes are recovered from these pristine waters every year, and are then recycled. Wait a minute and you'll get the joke.

One interesting thing I learned: the reason one of the towers in the gate in Nieuwmarkt is under construction is because that tower once belonged to the mason’s guild. To gain entrance to the guild, one had to install a new and unique window in the tower. Finally there were so many windows that they damaged the structural integrity of the tower, and so it has to be repaired.

But this post isn’t supposed to be my time in Amsterdam; it’s about the getting in and the getting out.

Getting out was less eventful. There was merely a suspected bomb on the metro, so they made us all get off at the nearest metro stop and walk a mile to the nearest bus stop and then take a bus for 30 minutes to the nearest train station and then take the train to the Centraal station and then…

I had enough to get some french fries and a few other souvenirs; but I could write an entire post about the food in Amsterdam. So I will.

So anyway, then I headed back to the hotel, grabbed my luggage, went to the other train station, and flew uneventfully out of Amsterdam and straight to Sevilla, where a bus was waiting to take me for less than 3€ within 2 blocks of my piso. Perfection.

The next morning, I didn’t realize that Daylight Savings Time had happened in Spain, and I went to work an hour early.

Traveling is funny like that.

One thought on “My In and Out of Amsterdam

  1. That sculptural graffiti reminds me of these two sculptures I saw at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin:

    (Rodin’s “Man’s One Thought”)


    (Begas’ “Pan Comforts Psyche”)

    Also, Andy Warhol’s “Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands” for good measure:

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