If the title of this blog post is any indication, the past weekend was a bit… how shall I put it? Packed. And taking into account my love of alliteration, the “whirlwind weekend” moniker simply makes sense.
The short of the story is this. Some friends of friends had extra passes for two more days of unlimited travel within the Benelux-Germany region (in addition to the stated Germany, this includes the countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and handed them over to us. They also expired yesterday, so we found ourselves with a short window of time to use them, if we wanted to take a free trip. Considering we had no extra vacation time, we had exactly two-and-a-half days of free time, and opted to spend last weekend on this little adventure.
Luxembourg was initially the most appealing destination for me, as I know literally next to nothing about the place, and have never been. But after some deliberation, we narrowed it down to Brussels or Amsterdam. I’d been to both but spent only a couple days in each location, so both were up for grabs. And while I was actually leaning more toward Brussels (as I had seen little of the actual city), both of my friends living there were unavailable during the weekend, and seeing people you know is half the fun. So instead, we headed to Amsterdam (where I actually happen to have family who I didn’t actually happen to see).
So on Friday afternoon, I gathered together belongings in my giant backpack (which was purchased back for Euro Trip 2010) and put together a ton of snacks and met M. at Berlin Hauptbauhnhof. He had worked a little bit longer a few days before in order to get off work slightly early, and we were able to catch the 4:49 train out of town – the final train to Amsterdam that arrived within the same day.
And we were off. I actually really like train travel. Yeah it can be boring, and there can be unfortunate things that happen (delays, smelly people, loud passengers, et cetera) but I like not having to worry about anything aside from catching the train. As long as there is good company, an interesting book, and plenty of snacks, I am happy. And it didn’t hurt that we had seat reservations, so there was no worry of not sitting together, or standing on the train.
Of course, there were minor things like having to switch between trains. Which is what brought us to Duisburg, a place I would otherwise never hang out in or stop off at.
Apparently this place is best known – aside from being in the Ruhrgebiet area – for the König Brauerei. So maybe it’s not that bad.
We had exactly 39 minutes between trains, so we spent about 25 of those minutes exploring the areas on either side of the desperately-in-need-of-an-upgrade train station. And then we caught our second train.
Train number two took us from Duisburg directly to Amsterdam Centraal, a trip that lasted a little more than two hours. This time around, our reservations had us in a private “comfort seating” compartment, which was actually quite cool. There was another couple in there and a guy on his own, and all five of us spent that ride reading or listening to music or watching things, so it was actually kind of serene. Some people also slept a bit. The following is a picture of some people post-nap.
Finally, we arrived at our destination at 11:30 p.m. We immediately made our way to the bus stop and took the bus to Westerpark, where we met the couchsurfing host we’d be staying with the next two days. And after chatting until 1 in the morning, the two of us conked out in preparation of a busy day ahead of us.