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When I fly to Kuwait for work I have a 6 hour wait in Schipol airport, Amsterdam. It’s the best airport I’ve ever spent blocks of time in but it’s better to be outdoors. When my colleague told me that it’s only 15 minutes to Amsterdam city from the airport I realised that I should venture out this time!
My flight was delayed due to fog in Amsterdam and I enjoyed the chance to have a nap on the plane. By the time that we arrived in Schipol I only had 5 hours but decided to continue with my original plan.
In the airport I looked for luggage lockers to leave my carry-on suitcase but because I was in the Schengen section and my next flight wouldn’t be Schengen, I wasn’t sure of where I would be reentering the airport so I decided to take it with me.
I easily navigated to the station and bought a train ticket using the simple prompts, although I accidentally bought one way instead of return which meant that I paid an extra 1.50 Euros due to the visa card fee and single use ticket fee. I carefully checked the timetable and selected the next train headed towards Amsterdam Centraal railway station.
The train ride in 2nd class was very comfortable and there were many empty seats. I looked with interest as my first glimpse of the Netherlands, from ground level, passed by. I saw blocks of flats with colourful graffiti and street art. I saw a woman in a hijab and long coat hanging out her wet washing on her balcony, I saw increasingly interesting, traditional style architecture as we drew closer to the city centre.
The old town of Amsterdam is laid out in a radiating pattern from the central railway station (Centraal), with a symmetrical sequence of streets, alleyways and canals. I disembarked and looked for a luggage locker but discovered that I would need to reenter the station and for that would need a new ticket so I kept the spinner suitcase with me.
Across from the station is a tourist information centre where I saw that their main purpose was to sell tickets on canal tour boats. I grabbed a brochure that contained a basic map and set off to enjoy the sunshine and get a feeling of Amsterdam.
A lot of work is going on and the footpaths on the main road linking the station to the Dam was blocked in many places. This gave me plenty of opportunities to wish I didn’t have any luggage but also to be grateful that I packed lightly and could easily carry the bag.
I walked straight past the Sex Museum and the Dungeons, Madame Taussauds and the Body works museum, leaving those for tourists with more time. I paused in the Dam to admire the architecture but without any information about what I was looking at I kept wandering, this time down an alleyway decorated for Christmas. I struggled to fit as delivery vans, couriers and bicycles clogged the alleys.
I spent a few minutes in Rembrandt square admiring the intricate sculptures. There was a tour group there and I wished I could eavesdrop to learn about the significance of the sculptures but I failed in that endeavor.
Across the square I saw one of the famous Dutch coffee shops and as I stood reading a map of the city a hard bitten looking man came and muttered an offer to help me. I doubt he was offering directions!
I wandered along pondering the strange feeling of travelling alone and having no destination in mind. When I saw the photography gallery I headed in and really enjoyed exploring an exhibition of photographs and proof sheets from famous photo journalists. The photos of Fidel Castro, Nixon, Thatcher, and lots of famous photos of war zones were fascinating.
I was so interested in the exhibition that I suddenly realized I needed to run right then to the train! I carried and dragged my suitcase back to the station, jumped on a train and rushed to the airport, cleared immigration, ate a super fast lunch then boarded right on time.
Amsterdam is lovely and I look forward to returning with family!