Belgium, Amsterdam and Sneek
16 September 1999

In the morning we did take in the castle and the white cliffs from a distance, but we decided it was prudent to take an early ferry. That turned out to be a very good idea because when we arrived in Belgium we discovered there was a train strike! Dover The big board that every European Train station has, was EMPTY. Tons of people were sitting on the floor of the station staring up at the empty board. Occasionally a train would be announced, posted on the board and a bunch of people would jump up and run to get on it. It would leave soon after. It almost didn't matter where it was going.

We had to get to Amsterdam somehow! But there were no trains scheduled; we couldn't plan. We bought a ticket (Which it turned out we didn't need --we already had the return from our bonn- london ticket! A bit of wasted money! Besides, there was a CONDUCTORS strike!) and just got on the first train that left -- like everybody else. We kept getting off and getting on trains, getting a bit closer each time, until we finally got to Brussels where the international trains were still running. It was not as dramatic as it sounds, mostly it was just waiting. But every once in a while we had the feeling that this was one of THOSE experiences that we would talk about!

We got to Amsterdam at about 9 pm and got lost looking for the hostel, but that gave us a chance to see a little of the city. It seems pretty, but is just about the most touristy city I have ever been in -- at least the areas we saw were. The area around the station was unbarable. The canals are fascinating, and it is a very historic city, but when we go back we will really have to make an effort to get out from the truly gross touristy center of town. Besides, with all the connection to dope smoking, I kind of don't even really want to bother!

The hostel was huge, but very attractive and comfortable -- very European feeling. We went into our room, settled down, showered, chatted with our Candian, American and Korean roomates and slept.

In the morning we had to figure out how to get from the big city, out to this tiny town called Makkum. Which it turns out there Sneek are two of! Luckily we knew about where it was and were able to correct the ticket seller when he started to sell us a ticket to the wrong place. We pointed on the map. I love maps.

After a number of short train rides through the netherlands of The Netherlands we arrived in Sneek. (Pronounced Snake.) This is in Freisland - a province of The Netherlands that thinks of itself as a separate country. We saw more Freisland flags than Netherlands flags, They even speak a different language! Although the mosquitos were bad, the people were friendly and the hostel was a pleasant place to spend a quiet evening, despite being called Wigledam! Most of their traffic was bicyclists (and very few Americans come through there!) and we got some VERY strange looks walking with our backpacks from the train station that evening!

We spent the evening doing laundry, playing Yahtzee and eating at the hostel in Sneek. We were the only people there.

© Copyright Mark Canizaro 2000

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