Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Train adventure in the Neverland

Oh it's been forever since the last time I wrote a post! I returned to work in January after a year of maternity and parental leave, so I'm basically now juggling between getting back in the game with my job, doing my PhD research (that is more or less abandoned), driving my two kids around (who unfortunately attend two different kindergartens, go to french classes, sport training and painting classes) and co-managing the household (forgotten laundry, overcooked dinners, sticky floors, messy kitchen) with a husband who's on business trips a lot. On top of that, we found out recently that we're moving abroad (hint, hint!) so things have been quite stressful More coffee wine please!

Remember two business trips that happened during my maternity leave, to China and to Azerbaijan? So my first business trip now that I'm officially back at work was to the Netherlands. Or as my firstborn said, to the Neverland (she's quite shocked to find out that I was visiting Peter Pan). Following a 100-hour work on the course, earlier this month I participated in a four-day training on climate governance issue. The problem was, that it was held in a city called Heerlen. They booked me a flight to Amsterdam and I was supposed to arrange my own travel (by train) from Amsterdam to Heerlen to be reimbursed later. I didn't want to go to Amsterdam city central, so I planned my journey directly from Amsterdam Schipol Airport toward Heerlen. Using the official journey planner of the NL train, it seemed pretty simple: Amsterdam Airport to Utrecht, then Utrecht to Heerlen. One train change. It would take me a little over two hours. Well, it didn't turn out that simple, since the NL railway decided to have a massive rail works the day I came to the Netherlands.

My never-ending train journey in the Netherlands Neverland started at the airport. My plane from Zagreb landed in Amsterdam at around 10:30 that day. I was supposed to take the train to Utrecht, except there were no trains to Utrecht operating that day due to rail works. My de-route required me to go to Rotterdam, then to Eindhoven, and then take the train to Heerlen from there. The moment I realized my new route, I missed my Rotterdam train by 30 seconds, so I had to wait for half-an-hour waiting for the next train. Once I got into the next train, everything seemed right. It was a short ride (I believed 20 minutes or so) and I managed to eat a sandwich I got at a little shop in the station and read several pages of Dan Brown's Inferno I was reading.

I hopped off in Rotterdam and change tracks to find my next train to Eindhoven, which was coming in ten minutes. Once the train's there, I boarded the train and found a comfy seat, storing my suitcase on the overhead compartment. Ten minutes into the ride, an announcement was made in Dutch. I asked a passenger next to me what it's about (thanks heavens everyone in the Netherlands speaks perfect English). Apparently the train had technical issue and had to stop in the next station, where passengers need to get off the train and wait for the next train to Eindhoven.

A few minutes later, I found myself  stranded in a small station called Breda. I didn't even bother finding out in which part of the Netherlands I was at, I just remember it was cold and windy. I checked the monitor for departures and saw that the next train to Eindhoven was in half-an-hour, so I sat down on a bench and read my book. It was over 1pm at this point. Five minutes prior to when the train was supposed to arrive, I saw this monitor:

All trains to Eindhoven were cancelled that afternoon
The train to Eindhoven was cancelled. After gathering more information, seems that they didn't plan to operate any more trains to Eindhoven that day. I quickly consulted the NL train journey planner on my iPhone (no roaming within the EU member states literally is the best thing ever happened to EU, isn't it?) and found out that there might be a train to Heerlen going from a station called 's-Hertogenbosch. And since that station is within the route to Zwolle, I decided to hop on the train to Zwolle (I had no freaking clue where the Zwolle was).

Breda station, where the train left us stranded
By 2pm I was on the train to Zwolle. At this point I was pissed with myself for having decided to take a big suitcase.I normally travel really light. I took a tiny light suitcase to Azerbaijan and ended up not having any space for gifts and stuff I had to buy (don't judge, that's what happen when you go somewhere for work and little people are waiting at home); so my husband convinced me to take the big suitcase this time (he'll pay for this!). Half-an-hour later, I hopped off at 's-Hertogenbosch station (try to pronounce that one loudly you!). That was my third train for the day.

I finally found Heerlen in the monitor for the departures. I found the track and waited. In half-an-hour a double-decked train came and I hopped on. I went upstairs and settled myself. It was a two-hour ride after all. A lady-officer came by to check my ticket (which was not checked the whole day by the way) and I told her that it's my fourth train since Amsterdam. She gave me a sympathetic smile and said "I know, it's been chaotic today. But now you're in the right train finally!". The train took me to Heerlen, where I got off at around 4pm. Over five hours adventure from the airport. I took a local bus to get to the hotel I was staying, which, by the way, is run exclusively by volunteers who are retired people. But that's a topic for another post. As for now, my never ending train journey in the Netherlands Neverland was finally over.

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