Who Drives From Munich To Amsterdam?

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Where I stayed
Eline and Marien's House

Flag of Netherlands  , Gelderland,
Monday, July 12, 2010

I wake later than expected on the mattress in a strange position, the laptop open on one corner. This is the second night I've fallen asleep doing something, usually waiting for something to upload. So it seems my ability to fall asleep on public transport as become one no longer defined by wheels.

Alex is up in the kitchen after having slept a good ten hours. He is a little surprised by it, not thinking he was that tired. Susannah has left, her exam starts about now. Rainer is nowhere to be seen, most likely still asleep; his car is testament to that. Lena is quietly freaking out about her own studies, moving an armchair to the patch of grass across from the house to keep from being disturbed. The sky is heating up quickly. Before too long we’ve all moved into the shade for what could be another slow day relaxing under trees and exerting as little energy as possible. But today is not only for that. Today I leave Freising.

We chose to walk alongside the river to the city and to the bus stop. Passing the track I took last time heading into the city, I realise the earlier one was completely made up. While nice this makes sense, not everyone would walk along a track without an actual track, and I was unsure how the bikes would get through. Even in the shade here the sun is still strong.

The walk to the bus stop is strange. Saying goodbye to someone is always weird, with the chance that I may never see them again very apparent. But like Maria and Robert and Marja the opportunity arose to see them again, making the leaving strange again. Now Alex is added to the collection of double last timers.

Traveling by bus I don’t see any of the things I expected to find – signs pointing in directions I’ve written down from the internet. We pass one of the two terminals, and it turns out they're further apart than I thought. But I’m sure everything will be ok. Everything will work out.

Everything feels better with watermelon, which I find and wait by a sign that it turns out I was looking for and but heading in the wrong direction for. Area Z, often referred to as Area Zero or Area 0 on different signs, is as good a meeting place as any, so I ho into my fruit as small families and couples look on as they pass in and out of the automatic doors. A call that I answer with sticky hands lets me know he’s arrived, but is in a different place to that which was arranged. I feel better about not knowing where I am.

In a grey polo, black slacks and sandals, a tall man with hair matching his top smiles as I approach. He looks to his watch as he begins to talk in German, and then realizes I don’t understand a word of it. His small car is packed to the roof with two small spaces remaining for passengers. I’m surprised at his Tetris technique as he somehow has the large bag fitting about the back seats and the other hidden amongst the piles I consider taking my small bag into the front seat, but I can’t really see it to say so. Oh well, I’m sure sleep will find me anyway.

Amongst the goods I see lots and lots of food. I ask about it, in particular the two watermelons I notice balance at odd places. It’s a money thing. Food – some foods at least – are cheaper in Munich than Amsterdam, and with the car here it seemed like a good idea. In Amsterdam trips are a lot shorter due to the use of a bike, so balancing the wares atop the two wheels would be somewhat a challenge, one that I would pay good money to see though. He smiles like he’s tried it.

Born in Germany, the driver works for the German/Dutch chamber of commerce in De Haag, living in Amsterdam. While not an every day occurrence, with his family and old friends back in Munich he will often find the time to make the trip, and enjoys the adventure and flexibility of a car. This is good and bad, as he says there is currently a whole stretch of road out of action as renovations are being made. Welcome to the every growing carpool lanes of Europe. Time and time again he refers to a map at his side, branded with a major fast food chain, which can be found throughout the globe. It’s a shame their big signs cover important parts of the map, but he seems to know this from experience and says the shortcuts should save us about an hour. The digital radio is set to a station that continues to feed information about the roads. Though I don’t understand it I can hear the pattern and the disc jockey element coming through.

The girl in the back is originally from the south of Hamburg, but is currently studying in Denmark near the German border. Her accent is so American I almost cannot believe she’s German, especially when she talks about not speaking the language for so long. I really am struggling to get my head around this language thing. She’s traveled quite a bit, spending time in much of the European countries, America and Australia – she asks about an Australian band that I’ve never heard of "You’re from Australia? They’re from Sydney, and live around the corner from this pub I can’t remember the name of. Surely you know it…" After house sitting for a relative in Munich and slowly losing her mind the opportunity to drive to Amsterdam was too good to pass up, and is unsure where she’ll head next.

The rains come and go. I’ve been sleeping on and off so really have no clue where we are, sometimes finding a turnoff to a city that rings a bell but I cannot locate it in the map in my head. The clouds are chasing one another across the sky, moving the rain quickly across the asphalt. At times it feels like a carwash, that the jets of raindrops pass over us like a curtain before opening up to sunshine. The radio tells us that Thunderstorms in the south of Germany are bad enough to stop the trains running, so I’m even more thankful for the lift.

We pass the bullet train along one section of the autobahn. A train that runs from Cologne to Paris and other parts of Europe speeds by, or would if the storms weren’t like this. The driver has been in there before, and says because of the speed of the train it almost appears the cars outside are going backwards. Above the rails and roads string the power lines – together in family groups that slowly change as we make our way across the country. Some develop longer arms, other reach higher, more still take on extras and seem to spin in the air.

Eventually we cross the Dutch border, so much more aware of our speed through Germany when we now have to coast at a snails pace of 100km/h. It’s not long until we are close to Arnhem, or at least the exit from the autobahn suggested by Marien. I’m still yet to work out phone numbers, so the initial calls didn’t make it through earlier, so keep myself from freaking out about being alone in a car park near a highway with the uke. A couple walking their dog look over and wave, another seems to speed up as they pass. Everything is fine. From memory there’s a hotel further up as mentioned by Marien, so people are nearby. I don’t last long, as Marien makes his is in the car park in no time at all, and it’s an even shorter ride to their house than I had imagined. Again the difference in seasons is baffling. The near snow, constant rain the grey skies have all but gone, replaced by greenery along both sides of the road. I almost don’t realise where we are, which is a little understandable as one of the standout buildings burnt down between visits.

Eline and Marien’s house is just how I left it, with the exception of a wonderfully flowering garden in full bloom in the front and back. I have a welcoming feeling of dejavu as the three of us share coffee and syrup waffles and experiences of times between. They are glad to hear about their kids and how well they looked after me, relating to their quirks and loveable parts. You can really see they are all from the same flock. Talk of my travel experiences appear to be quite different to that which Marien has experienced, and the mention of the ride sharing website he finds quite amazing. The couch surfing too is not something he has experienced and is quite intrigued by the level of trust and openness involved. It is a very wonderful feeling to be offered such things, and I believe will change the way I travel further on.

Eline asks if I could take some presents home for the youngest youngsters in the Hatcher clan, revealing two Dutch books for Bea and Indi. One is the English version of Jip and Janeke, the educational wonder I was shown by Liesbeth in Switzerland. The other is titled the Cow in the Canal, or something similar, which tells the tale of a curious cow who one day found herself in a cart floating down a canal towards the city of Amsterdam. The cart/barge thing itself is not uncommon, as Dutch farmers would often have to move herds in ones or twos across passages of water to graze on the other side. The cow ventures into the city via its many waterways and watches the world from the water, looking out along the city skyline at all the wonderful shapes of the steepled or staircase houses. This leads to Marien’s collection of porcelain houses, many of which detail the different roof shapes found throughout the country. He disappears for a few moments, returning with a shoebox held carefully between his hands. Inside, delicately wrapped in fabric are at least twenty of these porcelain delicacies. White a detailed blue, each of these stands no taller than 150mm, and alongside one another create quite a picturesque cityscape. Complete with a booklet of ever-growing proportions (the collection is quite never-ending), Marin collects one every flight he takes with a particular airline. On some occasions, other passengers see no need to collect them from the airhostess, so instead offer them to Marien, much to his excitement. While he treasures these, he bravely offers that I take one or some home with me. They are but a collection, I can always get more. I do not wish to break up his collection, but cannot refuse the offer, so decide upon one to take with me. A small piece of Netherlands to carry carefully, I sit it on the table beside my bed, back upstairs with the DVD collection, the beanbag and guitar in the corner, the darkened windows curtained, the house ready for sleep.

9 days and counting.
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