Berlin to Amsterdam by train: dep. 08:34 (six hours,30 minutes)
Accommodation: Amsterdam ID Aparthotel, Naritaweg 51, Westpoort
Gary was up way before the alarm and our pre-departure was spent taking it in turns to look for trams to the Hauptbahnhof from our window to check their regularity on a Saturday morning. We crossed the street as our tram arrived. As is our norm we were at the station well ahead of time but it allowed us the calm of coffee, fruit salad, finding the lockers for our brief return in a few days time, and accessing our platform. The announcement on the platform in two unintelligible languages including English indicating the complete re-order of the coaches meant that when the train arrived it was necessary to go against the barrage of suitcases and bikes in order to access the very last carriage. Four minutes later it departed. We were the only passengers in our six seater compartment and had window seats facing each other. The board outside indicated three other passengers would join us along the way. Two did, on their way home to Rotterdam. From then on, this blog stopped.
They were an interesting couple with multiple language skills and topics covered included climate, politics, indoor farming, tourists, Tasmanian devils and tigers, and Brexit. She was a very sprightly 81, had visited Tasmania and has a sister living in Perth. He was a reluctant long-distance flier, but incredibly well traveled in his past working life, and with a couple of houses scattered across Europe. They changed trains about 30 minutes before our train pulled into Amsterdam Centraal.
The outer suburbs were not attractive; the low rise residential buildings were a sad reflection of a previous generation.
The station was not designed for international visitors and Gary didn’t warm to it at all. He’d done his research for getting to the Hotel from the Station and the Info woman told us and sold us something different.
On her instruction we caught a no.22 bus to the end of its line at Sloterdijk wondering all the while why we’d booked accommodation miles from the centre and miles from the station and miles from the concert we go to tomorrow. And unlike all our other temporary homes, this one was surrounded by characterless contemporary buildings, no eating places and one tiny Spar food market – but it did sell milk! Thank Goodness! And clearly labelled Still Water.
We were warmly welcomed and our apartment is lovely; lots of big windows and natural light, and a table to sit at (amongst other things like a bed etc etc). But Gary needed an injection of jolliness; even leaving our room and getting lost in maze-like corridors with lots of doors on our floor, soured him further.
The walk to the transport hub (Sloterdijk) isn’t an issue but getting tickets for the tram, bus or train from there, is. The ticket machine only speaks Dutch and the glare on the screen cancels out word recognition. We were told one could pay when boarding a tram but with credit card only; our driver was so cranky however (with us, with credit cards, with life???) that we traveled for free.
Liking Amsterdam was increasingly becoming an impossibility.
We were on a no.19 tram and with map in hand. Gary couldn’t catch the tram stops names and was becoming concerned about how we’d find our way home. He’s been spot on and so reliable with directions thus far; I was starting to think that Amsterdam was going to be his ruin.
We decided that we’d get off after the fourth canal, and get off we did. No dramas. In a good temperature we walked in a straight line on a street that could have been in any city; pretty ordinary and unpleasant, so we turned to the right and from then on the ice melted and the attraction of this city gradually exposed itself.
Gary concentrated on the tiny cars and infinite brands of electric bikes
and I saw the canals, the house boats and the wonderful buildings, so typically Amsterdamian.
We were walking the area known as Jordaan and ‘the 9 streets’, criss-crossing the canals and passing boutique and arty shops, tiny cafes, lounging people, good vibes. Early on we passed a tiny restaurant ‘The Twisted Indian’ and somehow managed to find it hours later, and we ate there. It was great food and a convivial atmosphere.
With natural ease Gary guided us back to the street where the no.19 tram ran and after a short wait we were coming home, pleased this time to have successfully bought our tickets.
car park – bicycle park was like a glistening diamond and Gary could have stayed there sifting through the brands and inspecting those not yet available in Australia. He’ll be dreaming bikes tonight.