Amsterdam: Rain or rain? I’m not kidding – the forecast was for sunshine. But we wouldn’t see sunshine until the mid afternoon on Sunday.
There’s a classic scene in the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup. Chicolini (played by the fast talking Chico Marx) was assigned to spy on Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) by his adversary from the neighboring country of Sylvania – Ambassador Trentino (played wonderfully by Louis Calhern). Trentino asks Chicolini for his report on Firefly’s activities –
Chicolini: Monday we watch-a Firefly’s house, but he no come, he wasn’t home. Tuesday we go to the ball game, but he fool us: he no show up. Wednesday HE go to the ball game, but we fool him, WE no show up. Thursday it was a double-header, nobody show up. Friday it rained all day, there was no ball game, so we stayed home, we listen to it over the radio.
Well folks, that’s sort of perfectly describes how my first few days in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, went. Rain and rain. If there had been a doubleheader scheduled, it would have been washed out. So after arriving on Thursday, Friday was scheduled to be ‘get to know the town day’. Needless to say – it rained off and on all day.
So the game plan changed. Instead of walking about and learning about this exciting and vibrant city which is all about personal freedom and doing your own thing – I stayed around the neighborhood. Went to the supermarket – where I did learn something:
In Amsterdam, you have to ask for a bag – and then you’ve got to bag your own groceries. Well maybe she did ask me if I wanted a bag, only because my Dutch is kind of seriously lacking, I may have missed it. The other thing I missed is that they ask you if you want a receipt.
This is how that played out:
Cashier: Wilt u een ontvangstbewijs?
Me: [not having a clue] …..
2nd Cashier: Do you want a receipt?
Any way, the markets are called supermarkets but they’re not all that big. I found two a few minutes from the apartment on Nassaukade – mostly I saw people carrying baskets. They don’t seem have rolling carts for you to push around – if they were there, I didn’t notice.
So I went back to the train station – I had the bus pass (unlimited bus/tram/metro for 5 days or 120 hours) and the station was only 6-7 minutes away (and it was raining) because I wanted to check out the Thalys train I would be taking in a few days when I left Amsterdam for Paris. This train almost always arrives on Platform 15 – which is all the way in the back of the station. Since the concourse is at ground level and the train are upstairs – I had to pass under all those tracks until I came to the steps and escalator to go up Platform15. Platform 15 is really one very long platform divided into two section A & B. The Paris train comes to 15B.
On each platform, at least those which receive trains with reserved 1st or 2nd class seating, there’s a platform map which tells you where to stand for the various coaches which is great. You’re on your own to find your seat however.
Later in the afternoon – I planned to take in a movie. It was called English Vinglish. It was about an Indian woman in an unhappy marriage who comes to New York to stay with relatives and to enroll in a crash course – 4 weeks – to learn to speak English. It wasn’t playing in town so I had to take the Metro – Amsterdam’s equivalent of the New York City subways. I found the Metro train – no problem. Took it out the stop called Arena. The theater complex was right there.
One problem – the subtitles were only in Dutch. Not English. So I fooled them. ‘I no show up’.
Next day was Saturday = and on this day, I had planned a small day trip. To a small city about 15-20 minutes away by Intercity train from Amsterdam. The city was called Haarlem, and was highly recommended as a day trip. Of course it was raining, but I left the apartment and got my train ticket anyway.
After no more than a quarter-mile into Haarlem – the rain intensified, so I had to bail out.
So I never did make it past the environs of the Haarlem railroad station. For you history buffs – New York was once called New Amsterdam, so no one will be the least bit surprised when I tell you that the location of what is now Harlem in Manhattan – was originally settled by the Dutch in 1658 as a small village north of New Amsterdam, and was named after Haarlem in Holland.
Oh well – the rain can’t last. I’ve still got a few days left – so I’m hoping that the weather improves somewhat. Well Friday and Saturday were not complete wash-outs. I did manage to take a few pictures as well as imbibing a few glasses of a great beer called Vedett. Actually, this is not a Dutch brand , but is from Belgium.