me you and everybody

Leiden Centraal Station. It makes zero sense.

Yesterday, I had my first experience with the train system.

I had the idea to tour the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam, which is about 20 minutes away by train. The brewery’s website had very little to work with as far as directions went — “Trams 16, 24, 25 from Amsterdam Centraal” so we figured it would be as simple as it sounded. The four of us – impulsive Aaron, passive Brandon, sensible Pauline and scatterbrained me – made the short walk to Leiden Centraal Station.

The ticket machines only accept “pinnencart” – a kind of Dutch ATM card – or coins (which come in 1 and 2 euro pieces). We tramped all over looking for someone to make enough change for us while Aaron repeatedly inserted his American Visa into the pinnencart slot, totally convinced that it would accept it if he tried hard enough.

When we finally got our 1-way tickets to Amsterdam – 8.10 euro – we noticed there was no platform number. We wound up chasing several trains down before we were able to squeeze on one, which had no available seats. We stood in a corner, desperately clinging to the walls to avoid falling over onto each other, the entire way to Amsterdam.

They never checked our tickets, so I guess they were largely unfazed by the four young adults clinging to each other and shrieking at every sudden stop. Maybe they felt bad for us.

With the trams being much smaller, and having heard horror stories of people who didn’t pay their fare being booted off in the middle of Amsterdam, we made our way to the front of tram line 16 to pay. Aaron paid first, about 7 euro. I pushed to the front to pay my fare when the driver suddenly slammed the doors shut and stepped on the gas, sending the rest of us flying backwards onto unsuspecting passengers.

Hold onto your hats, folks.

After the initial terror of our first tram ride had passed, we found it pretty hilarious that only Aaron had to pay. Ha-ha.

The brewery itself was the greatest tourist trap ever. There was interactivity, good music, super-friendly tour guides, and, of course, free beer.

The Heineken employee walks us through a proper beer-tasting. The proper way to drink a Heineken, apparently, is at light-speed.

At the tail-end of the tour is a bar where you can redeem the pins on your admission bracelet for free beers. I handed mine to the bartender, who laughed and handed them back. With beers. We decided that we liked this game a lot and hung around for a good hour.

We couldn’t figure out why they were so generous with the drinks until we got to the gift shop, where we suddenly wanted to buy everything.

On the way back we got lost in Amsterdam Centraal and wound up waiting an hour for the right train. We sat around in the cold, tearing at a hot Belgian waffle and laughing at our own ineptitude.

It was such a rare experience; no one was angry or frightened that we had no idea what we were doing. We were lost, and rolling with it, and having the greatest time ever. I realized that studying abroad presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with people who share your taste in culture and adventure, people I’d never have met otherwise. As we fought over the last bit of waffle, I knew I’d made the right decision to study abroad.


~ by curiouskristie on January 31, 2010.

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