Greetings from the Netherlands! You may be forgiven for thinking this title a little strange… but it was the only witty rhyming title I could think of. And it makes sense, I promise! So, yet again there’s some catching up to do!
Another day, another amazing, unique city. Berlin was a mix of sobering historical monuments and vibrant city scenes. After arriving late afternoon and yet again lugging my suitcases along a kilometre of cobbled streets from the train station (not to mention up three flights of stairs at my hostel), I decided to go for a walk, and find some food. My feet carried me to Potsdamer Platz, and the brightly illuminated Sony Center. They also found their way to an Australian restaurant overlooking the inside of the aforementioned Sony Center, and even though it was my first night in Germany and it felt like a bit of a cop out, I decided to treat myself to some “home-style” food.
The next day I was lucky enough to have a friend show me around the city, thanks to a chance meeting through a mutual friend a few months ago. In 5 hours we covered all the main sites of Berlin, such as this gate:
And this wall:
Not to mention the more important sites like a hotel with an elevator inside an aquarium, and the Rittersport flagship store (droooool…)
I also got to meet up with another ‘family member’ from Winnipeg, at their café on the East Side, before we headed out for a delicious dinner and dessert. (If you’re one of those people that’s interested in seeing photos of what I eat, there’s a place for you. It’s here.) All in all we walked around 15km so I was more than ready for bed that night.
The following day meant another bus, another train, and another country. It was off to the Netherlands, but as we well know, things can never be that simple for me. Getting to Berlin Hauptbahnhof was surprisingly easy. Getting on my train to Zwolle was easy. Working out where to change trains was a little harder. Eventually, once on the train, I worked it out. Relieved, I got off at the right station, content to wait the ten minutes for my next train, which was supposed to leave from platform 4. Here began the problems. I was standing between platform 4a and 4b, with no platform ‘4’ in sight. The train information on the electronic screens did not match the train I needed. I hovered, and waited, and paced, and waited. The minutes ticked by until finally, at the allotted time, a train pulled in… right at the end of the platform. I start to power-walk towards it, but with about 30 meters still to go, I hear a whistle blow. Uh oh. Not good. There’s nothing for it but to sprint down the platform, hauling my 35+ kilos of luggage behind me. The doors are starting to close. I leap onto the train and somehow, with one hand, manage to fling my suitcases onto the train behind me, a second before the doors close. Panting, I collapse onto the luggage, as the train driver opens the door and asks in Dutch “Is everything okay?”
Oh gosh. I don’t even know if I’m on the right train. After establishing that I was, I got my breath and made my way through the train to sit down and recover from my “sliding doors moment.” [Rookie error no.1 of international solo travel: not having a working phone number or mobile internet. Had I missed that train, I would have been up the proverbial creek sans paddle.] Finally arriving at the station, I have never been so happy to see my dear colleague in my life. (She has a blog too. You can follow it here.)
So after dinner that night I found myself cycling to a local barn to watch some dressage practice. Ahhh… my soul feels at peace again! At first I was puzzled when my friend told me to put a key into the back wheel of the bike. “What for?” I wanted to know. After getting a bit lost in translation I realised it was to lock the bike wheels so it couldn’t be stolen. Aaaah the clever Dutch. They ride bikes everywhere, they build dikes so they can drive over the water, and are big on the wind and solar power. Plus, they eat lots of cheese. I like the Dutch.
So last night, the plan was to head over to my friend’s boyfriend’s house, cook dinner, and maybe watch a movie. Instead, we ended up driving to Amsterdam, walking around the infamous Red Light District, and having a few beers. It was a pretty solid night out that was soon followed by a pretty exceptional day out. We drove (yes, both of us took turns driving, and I successfully navigated the Dutch highways and country roads in a manual car), to a (relatively) nearby barn that breeds, trains, and sells Fresian horses. What a treat! They were having an open house (or open barn?) so we were shown around by various lovely people who told us about the operation and the horses they have there.
(You can visit their website here.)
We finished the day with a spectacular view of the sunset from a small “beach” created by one of the dikes. Yep. Life is good.