It was a well deserved vacation after 1 month in Switzerland, while I was barely communicating with people as the Swiss are a bit shy or I would say they don’t easily get along with strangers like me. My best friend who promised me to come visit has finally decided to meet me in Amsterdam, it was a decision jointly taken after I gave her the choice between Amsterdam & Prague. Well, I have to admit that I am talented at persuading people of what I really want to do. In fact, Amsterdam is my favorite European city and since my visit in 2011 I was dreaming about going there again in order to see the tulip fields of Keukenhof in Lisse, which is almost an hour drive from Amsterdam. But I was more into Prague since I have never been there, but after showing Keukenhof photos to my best friend it was really difficult to persuade her to go elsewhere.
Due to flights availability and prices, I had to arrive one night before my friend. On the way to my hostel from Schiphol Airport -the BEST airport that I have ever been to- to Centraal Station, I have met with two brits who were asking for help to catch the right train going to the city center, they were pretty cool & funny a PE & a science teacher coming to Amsterdam for the weekend to attend a Bachelor’s Party while spending the night at Dirty Nelly’s hostel. We chatted on the way, I told them “You know guys, this is my first time in a month to hear people speaking while I am actually able to understand every word spoken”. The PE teacher laughed and replied: “Why?”, “Because I have been in Bern for a month, the capital of Switzerland in which German is widely spoken, around 95% & 5% are french speaking, I do not speak even one word of German, all the menus in restaurants, nearly everything is in German, so it is whether I don’t understand a word, or barely understand the mix of French & English spoken, or use hand signs to find a common understanding, hahaha”, I said. They were very loud, but very entertaining. Trying to find their way to their hostel, I tried to help them using my Rough Guide to Netherlands -that I bought during my trip to Malta back in April 2011-, but Dirty Nelly’s wasn’t mentioned in there. Having a guide book and knowing the way to the city made them believe that I’m a travel geek (TRUE, haha, I cannot move without one of these guide books, they are my true friend and helper). I showed them the way to an information desk inside the train station, wished them a pleasant stay and a wild Bachelor’s party -in the back of my mind “Bachelor party in Amsterdam, at Dirty Nelly’s…mmm, it will definitely be a wild weeked :)”-, then headed to the hostel where I was staying.
I could never rely on my instincts to lead my way, although I was in Amsterdam a year ago but I couldn’t remember any directions, I recognized every street, every canal that I walked through but not directions. Amsterdam was quite busy that night as they were celebrating their independence day. It took me more than a one hour walk to get to Shelter Jordan Hostel -which is roughly 15 to 20min walk, but I got lost several times- a very nice & clean hostel located in a wonderful classy neighborhood called Jordan, where I checked in back in May 2011. I was sharing a room with 3 other girls.
The next morning I packed, had breakfast; Muesli with yogurt, a banana and a cappuccino, taken some photos of the breakfast area that has been renovated & decorated nicely, then started to hit the road to meet with my friend, as we were supposed to meet at the hostel where we were staying -better not to mention the name as it wasn’t a very pleasant experience- located right next to Heineken Experience. When I saw her right across the street I screamed out loudly & hugged her “OH MY GOOOOOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU MADE IT, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT I’M GOING TO SPEAK MY NATIVE LANGUAGE FOR 5 DAYS, I MISSED YOUUUU.” We were joined by another friend of my best friend’s and we really had lots of fun; we went to Vondelpark where we had hot dog sandwiches with curry sauce, to Heineken Experience where we took pictures at every corner, recorded videos, to Jordan where I showed them Anne Franck house from outside as well as the church right next to it & the hostel where I stayed the night before, to Leidseplein with the wide range of restaurants, Holland Casino & cycling tours office of Joy Ride tours by which I had an AWESOME Countryside bike tour back in 2011, to Rembrandtplein where we had the most amazing breakfast at St. James’s Gate Restaurant & enjoyed buying colored paintings, not to mention the pleasure of walking around this area, to Museumplein where we had the famous photo of jumping with Rijkmuseum & I Amsterdam sign in the background & eaten breakfast at one of the small cafes lying there, to Dam Square where hundreds on souvenir shops lie, took a hop on hop off boat, had Vlaamse Frieten from the AMAZING Chipsy King. Our second day (May 5th, 2012) coincided with the Liberation Day called in Dutch Bevrijdingsdag, so concerts, people singing and dancing everywhere. We spent a full day at Keukenhof, Zaanse Schans (oldest windmills in Holland), Volendam (a harbor and a fishers town with amazing fish restaurants), Marken (a tiny village, with a mix of countryside, boats & tiny traditional houses). It was an intense trip, extremely enjoyable.
On May 8th, it was time to go back to Bern, my friends dropped me off at Centraal Station to catch the train to Schiphol Airport, took the flight, arrived at Basel Airport to take the train to Bern which is one hour -Bern only has a tiny airport and barely had flights that’s why I always traveled from Basel or Geneva. The train was around 15min late, It was already 12:10 a.m. and I was really exhausted, looking forward to being at home. The train was half empty, so I was lucky to be seated comfortably on two chairs, I tried to get some sleep but in vain, so I just relaxed stared at the window, until a guy started talking to me, I answered in return he was like: “What are you doing in Switzerland?, How long have you been here?, Where are you from?”, I responded and asked “how about you?” in return, until he finally told me: “I’m from Jamaica. Sooo, you’re a lawyer, that’s interesting! You are definitely looking for me.”, I replied naively looking into his unconscious reddish eyes: “What the hell are you talking about?”, he replied sarcastically: “Because I’m a criminal.”. In the back of my mind I was screaming “God help me, what should I do now!!!”.
The train finally stopped, I got out while saying out loudly: “Somebody saves me from this asshole.”, nobody moved or showed any sympathy, they just walked out of the train as if I do not exist at all!!! -If I was in Egypt, people would have been him up & taken him directly to the police station. The guy was waiting for me outside the train, so I decided to get on the train again to look for someone from the railways company, until I found one, I told him my story so he asked me if I want to report it to the police, but I decided not to as I was scared that the guy would find me in the future as Bern is sooo small, I also wanted to go home immediately & the last thing I wanted is going to the Police Station while I’m a girl all alone in a foreign country. I just asked him to take me to the taxi station to make sure that I am safe and sound. I took the taxi back home, looked behind to make sure that the guy wasn’t following me, arrived around 1am exhausted, looking forward to tell my colleagues at work about this unfortunate story, yet funny.
The good part about these stories; they are the memorable fun part of any trip ;)…Enjoy your travels, your experiences, and cherish every moment with JOOOOOY…
1. Never speak to strangers if they look suspicious or have red eyes -drunk or drugs.
2. Never take a late night train when you are a solo female traveler -from this day on all the trains I caught where morning or evening trains, even if I had to spend one extra night somewhere, it’s better to be cautious than sorry.
3. Avoid late night trains because you will have to take a cab instead of public transportations -that’s for better money allocation.