I checked out of Kabul and left my luggage at Centraal, discovering the smaller lockers that ran €2.50 instead of €4. Yay. I hopped on the tram for the Rijkmuseum, but as I wandered through the galleries of art, I found that I was completely fucking exhausted, and couldn’t stand all the museum walking, and while the pictures were quite nice, compared to yesterday’s museum, I just had to go … to Haarlem!
A bevy of bikes at Amsterdam’s Centraal station.
Waiting for the train to Heemskerk.
Dirty but cute.
Nope, it don’t look like in America.
At Haarlem station I phoned the hostel, which had a school group that day and was full. I thought I’d try my luck with the indifferent ladies at the VVV, who would be happy to book me accomodations, for a fee, give me a list of hotels, for a fee, sell me a map … well, here, look at the map / hotel guide.
I just didn’t want to. After Amsterdam the last thing that I wanted to be was a tourist. I took my notebook to the payphone across the street, and phoned the two other hostels that the friendly lady at the Haarlem hostel had given me.
The Heemskerk hostel had room. For about €2.50, the cost it would have been to book a room at Haarlem, I took the train up to Heemskerk. I’d been instructed to alight at the station before, Beverwick, but I didn’t realise this until after I had thoroughly dug the quiet, open landscape at Heemskerk station, with its beautiful clouds drifting crisply on the clear sky.
I asked a lady for advice. The trains run twice an hour. I asked her how far to walk back to Beverwick. “Thirty minutes. For a man, maybe fifteen.” I smiled and pointed at my bag, “For me, twenty.”
Maybe it was the rest on the trains, or the spirit of adventure, but the same young man who couldn’t suffer walking around the Rijkmuseum was ready to hoof it around the Dutch countryside with a heavy pack.
Actually, I wised up and phoned the hostel for the address, and found a map, and made my way there directly, instead of walking to the next town over and taking the bus that I would have taken had I gotten off there as instructed.
I had a hard time finding the place, as it was set off the road a bit, and it was a castle, which had a wedding winding down as I walked past it the first time. I was thwarted as well by the Dutch signs that warned of trespassing, and the NJHC logo of the Dutch part of Hostelling International, of a little house with a tree, that read to me as “camp site for some group that you should leave alone.”
Anyways, I found myself in the castle, with a couple of dozing, stoned Italian guys who spoke no English, and a pretty pair of Dutch-sounding girls in the next room over. I wandered in to town, explored, and had a snack at a little place that gave you a complimentary bonbon with your coffee. I also bought a couple of apples, one of which I ate for dessert, while I wandered back to the castle.
One nice thing about Heemskerk, is that I am finally some place new. I am occassionally questioned by someone, and have no idea what they’re saying, so my answer is to smile, and ask, “Spreche English?”
That evening I drifted down to the bar to work on my journal. As I was writing about the weed I’d smoked in Amsterdam, a large party consisting mainly of middle-aged Canadian women, with a few husbands thrown in for good measure, occupied the opposite end of the room. One or two apologised for being noisy during my work, but I said that it was no big deal, and anyway, my hearing was bad just then because of the ringing, so it was easier for me to ignore such distractions.
When life hands you a lemon … right?
I later discovered that they were a group of forty of a 100-women chorus from Vancouver, Sweet Adelaide. They capped the evening with a set of their four-part harmony. I found this to be extremely pleasant.