Today I left my family in Weert and caught the train to Amsterdam. The plan was to store my bag for the day (at the central station for instance) and then explore Amsterdam a bit. There is still a fair bit of snow on the ground but the main issue now is the ice. It was raining yesterday so all the water on the ground has turned to ice and it is very slippery. My cousins told me many people have accidents trying to ride their bikes when the ground is like this!
So this morning I packed everything up and was about to put on the small bag that I keep my passport in but thought I would put it on when I am about to get my coat and leave. First mistake.
My cousin drove me to the train station, me blissfully unaware of what havoc my lack of preparedness was going to bring about. As I was about 1 hour into the train trip, it hit me like a lightening bolt – an image of my passport bag sitting on a chair back at my family's house in Weert. I did a quick search of my bags for the passport just in case – it wasn't there – and contacted my cousin and asked if it was still at the house. After a search she found it on the floor so I got off at the next train stop (unfortunately by then I was practically all the way into Amsterdam). My cousin worked out which train for me to get back to Weert and said she'd drop it off at Weert train station at the manned desk so I could pick it up. I then went to seek if I needed to buy another train ticket to get back to Weert. The lady I spoke to told me that if I just caught the train back to Weert I could buy another ticket when I get there. I don't think she really understood what I was asking and I wasn't confident enough to clarify if she had understood me. Second mistake. Because I got on the train and when the conductor came around, she told me that I had the wrong ticket and was not at all interested in hearing what the lady at the train station had said. She wanted to fine me nearly 60 euros but I protested so she told me to get off at the next stop and buy a ticket. Fine by me. I did so, bought another ticket and am now on another train back to Weert. I think I was unlucky with the conductor being on the second train – there was none on the way to Amsterdam or now on the way back to Weert.
My cousin's mum (I'm not sure if she is my aunt or cousin!) texted me to say that the people at Weert station won't accept the passport to mind so she will send someone to drop it off to me. I feel terribly foolish and embarrassed but from now on the passport bag is only coming off when I am asleep and then it is locked in my backpack. My poor family must be sick of me!
Luckily my flight to Berlin is this evening so at least time is on my side. I am annoyed at myself that I won't get to see Amsterdam because I think I will have to go straight to Schiphol airport after I pick up my passport – I won't have time to go into Amsterdam now. However the main priority for me here was to see my family and I have done so. And each time something frustrating happens I just think to myself – I am safe, I am being looked after and I can figure out a way to handle this. It's fast becoming my mantra!
It all ended up being ok, although I had to go straight to Schiphol after getting my passport in Weert. This time there were no problems getting on my flight to Berlin. In fact, because it was a budget airline, it had no allocated seats so they separated the passengers into rows, each allowed to go in at a separate time. TO my great surprise, I was allowed to go in first, getting the best seats. I wasn't the only one surprised - a very posh looking couple looked distainfully at me, but whatever. That'll teach them to fly budget!
The flight to Berlin was all of 50 minutes. To me that is just crazy - travelling from one country to another in less than an hour! I was a bit concerned when I landed that I would get lost on the way to my hostel and I was feeling quite tired at this point so was not looking forward to getting lost and trying to find my way around.
I needn't have worried. The directions the hostel gave me to find them were very... well, German. Precise and to the point. I found the hostel easily and the guy at the front was very friendly. A little too friendly actually - I noticed there were a few people waiting to be dealt with and he was adamant that I must be the priority! I can handle that :) This hostel is much more like a hotel so I am looking forward to better beds! The hostel also runs a lot of social stuff and tours around Berlin so I think I'll join in and see where it takes me.
I did get a bit of a shock last night when I went to my room. I forgot that I had booked a mixed gender room so I walked in to find 3 guys all in their jocks reading and chatting. I checked to make sure I had the right room and yes indeed it was! They were very friendly though and two of them put some pants on. We ended up having a great conversation about Europe - two of the guys were from the UK. It's really interesting in that wherever I go and get talking to someone - European immigration comes up. It's a fascinating topic and one that I can barely do justice here, but the short of it is the years of relaxed immirgration control and generous benefit systems are starting to have consequences - and people aren't too happy about them.
This morning I have tucked into the buffet at the hostel. I've noticed that compared to the UK, food is expensive here so I figure I'll feast at breakfast and eat little during the day. Since I landed in London last week I have not really been feeling the best so I'm barely eating anything at the moment. Hey, at least it's cheaper!
Today I think I will go out and explore a bit - there's so much to see so I will sit down with a map and plan it out.
And lastly, a few photos!
The town of Weert, Holland. I took this coming out of church on Sunday. It was raining wet snow that day after the snow storm the night before.
Look what Sinterklaas brought!! The guy on the left is Black Peter.
A view of the snow from the train in Holland. There were many trees around where my family lives - it must be beautiful in spring and summer!
Another view of the town of Weert.