September 16, 2019
Brussels – Amsterdam – Haarlem
On Monday late morning, we began our rather long journey to Haarlem, Netherlands. Travelling from Brussels, Belgium to Amsterdam, Netherlands is quite easy; however it may be advisable to buy your tickets well in advance, since it gets a tad expensive if you buy it on the spot. The train was clean, well maintained, and not crowded (unlike our earlier train journeys throughout Europe) where the trains were packed to capacity, and we had little room to sit (when we were travelling from Rome to Naples, and from Naples to Venice).
We were staying on the outskirts of Amsterdam – Haarlem (picked on account of the high prices of stay in Haarlem and to avoid the crowds which is about 25 minutes from Amsterdam Central by train, and lugging our heavy suitcases, boarded the inter city train from Amsterdam to Haarlem (which in retrospect was not the best idea – details to follow).
We bought an Amsterdam Regional and Travel Ticket 3 day pass (which enables you to travel to Amsterdam and certain surrounding areas) which enables you to travel in Amsterdam and around the surrounding areas through all modes of transport – Haarlem was covered (which was our primary requirement).
From Haarlem station to our Airbnb, our host had given us bus nos. and told us to get off at Verwulft/ Centrum (about 7 minutes by bus from Haarlem Station). Happy to find a waiting bus, with us struggling to hold on to our several pieces of luggage, whilst the bus lurched and moved, we were on our way. We watched as the city moved by, and 25 minutes later passing by an overpass and now in the midst of the country with nothing in sight, but rows of houses, a lone bus stop in sight, and cycle racks, we realized that we were well and truly lost. Getting off at Vijfhuizen stop (which my husband has misread as Verwulft), we crossed to road to take a bus stop after seeking directions from a teenager at the bus stop. By now, I was tired, cranky, hungry and angry, and waiting to crash. It was a good 25 minute bus ride back to our stop, Verwulft (the stop being the landmark viz. Franz Hals Museum). We disembarked, and then for 30 minutes, proceeding to walk in circles around the city trying to find our host’s house. The city bore a deserted looking, all shops and restaurants closed, and the odd tourists on the street – it was Monday, and Haarlem shuts on Monday (which we did not know at the time). Finally, we managed to find our street and found our Airbnb host along the way cycling off to a movie.
Our home in the Netherlands was set on the ground floor of a set of row houses, with a large living room and lounge area with an open to sky ceiling, a small cosy bedroom on the top, a wonderfully equipped kitchen and our host’s bedroom. The house was filled with artifacts, delightful trinkets and books of every type with wonderful armchairs and a settee. However, we realized we had another conundrum – the tiny though cozy bedroom was at the top of a winding narrow suitcase, and we had one large suitcase which was filled to the top (which would involve us unpacking, dumping our clothes, and repacking it upstairs). Our lovely host, Michelle, luckily decided to leave the apartment to us, and to bunk at a friend’s place.
Unpacking half our luggage, we realized that we were faced with one of the worst travel mistakes one could make – we had lost our passports. Frantic calls to our Airbnb Host, Luci in Brussels, a lot of yelling and panicking, a bus ride to the police station, and several calls later (including to the Indian embassy, and to the lost and found centre of the Belgium railways), our passports were found on the train from Belgium to Amsterdam, and were safely in the custody of the lost and found centre at Amsterdam train station. It was now 8.00 p.m. in the night, and we rushed off to catch a bus and then train to Amsterdam to collect our found passports. I must however say that the Dutch and Belgian efficiency is amazing – within 2 hours, they had found the passport, recorded it online, and a call to the lost and found and they were able to tell us immediately where to find it and how to retrieve it – absolutely amazing. Dinner was burgers and fries at Amsterdam station whilst waiting for our train back to Haarlem, as we ended our adventurous action packed filled day.