The excitement of travel to new land and with family to accompany for the first time is never easy to express. An invitation to attend a conference where the family could be a part of entourage was something which was godsend at a time when the school of my daughter had closed for summer vacation .
It was hot even at 2 AM in the morning in the month of May as we took a cab to IGI airport, Delhi. The Royal Jordanian flight headed westwards sharp at 6.30 AM as the huge ball of sun was casting its magic glow over the horizon. The flight reached Amman at 10 AM the local time.
We spent time going around the duty free shops at the Queen Alia International Airport to kill time before boarding another connecting flight to Amsterdam. Once more the flight took off in afternoon and reached there as the sun was setting. The temperature outside was 18 degrees . The massive Schipol airport greeted us as we descended to the metro station through a maze of escalators and purchased the tickets to ,The Hague. It is the third largest city by the North Sea. The train zipped passed the lush green fields and within half an hour we reached there. The hotel was a short ride from the station. The driver reminded us not to eat in the taxi. The hotel had grandeur of a palace and looked imposing amidst picturesque surroundings. The beach promenade adjacent to the hotel and was bustling with activity on the weekend. The chilly winds greeted us as we walked along the beach front. The sun was still shining though it was almost 10 PM. Our room overlooked a Casino where a steady stream of visitors continued to pour in. At night I woke up with start on hearing noise of crowds and breaking of glass! As I looked out of the window, I saw more than 50 people on the street who were drunk and were making merry. The laser beams were illuminating the sky as the revelry continued
|At Madurodam,The Hague|
Next morning we walked into the hotel restaurant for our breakfast. After a hearty breakfast we headed for Madurodam. The place is also known as Mini Holland where one can see all the miniatures of the buildings in Holland in ratio 1: 25.One can see the beautiful canals, the windmills, the floating ships, traditional cheese making, port of Rotterdam and also a full scale model of Schipol Airport complete with aircrafts and runway! This is one place which is ‘must visit’ to get to know about full Netherlands in a few hours. One should not forget to see the ‘sand museum’ which is unique.
Our next halt was Rotterdam, where we landed in train by mistake! Instead of boarding the train to Amsterdam, we took one in opposite direction to Rotterdam and fortunately, we were not checked en route otherwise we would have ended up paying fine for boarding a wrong train. Rotterdam is the second largest city in Holland and one of the busiest ports in the world. After hanging around the port area for a while we walked into a pizzeria and enjoyed the nice pizza. We took a train back to Amsterdam and arrived at the Central Station. As we stepped out we were greeted by the sight of ferries plying in river Amstel, the trams scurrying around and generally a very festive atmosphere. The water in the canals is changed 5 times a week to keep it sparkling clean. A canal cruise followed which took about an hour. This gave us a glimpse of Amsterdam city and the major landmarks, big warehouses, bell shaped arches of buildings, old church spires and canals. Later we took a tram trip to the far end of the city enjoying the sights as, the cyclists thronged the specially constructed ‘cycle ways’. We kept hopping into trams to see the life in this busy city and get the pulse of the place and appreciate the way of life. We finally returned back to our hotel around 8 PM after a full day of merry making.
Next morning was a day for boat cruise. We stopped by a windmill which was tied. We were told that the blades of the windmill are tied when there is a new born or a marriage in the family. We stopped by a small hamlet where many traditional items were on sale. We had some delicious coffee and apple pie from the local vendors. The boat cruise offered a magnificent view of the country side with traditional houses, big farm lands, windmills and huge cows. The bright and sunny day made the trip even more enjoyable. After about an hour long ride we reached Amsterdam and went to the local wineries to taste the brew. On our way back to The Hague we passed by Delft, which is known for the pottery and crockery. There was a traffic jam so after a crawl in the traffic for 45 minutes we reached the hotel and retired for the day
After a busy day in meetings and conference, I was ready for the evening. We cajoled our daughter to stay back in the hotel as there was a dinner party arranged in a restaurant near the infamous Dam Street. The streets along the canals wore a festive look and this RLD is unique. There were girls flashily dressed in skimpy clothes and were behind the glass partitions. Those interested would walk in and when the deal would be struck and the curtain would go down. We stopped by to see the wine sellers and were offered free drinks. Finally we reached the restaurant where on ordering the vegetarian menu was served fish! What a surprise! We were later told that fish is considered to be vegetarian, so we had to pick up some stewed vegetable and bread for the dinner.
We then took the bus to return to the hotel past midnight and were shocked to find our daughter crying in the foyer as we returned so late. She told us later that she had gone to meet Sharon, our coordinator and was informed that we were having a ‘gala time’. That had upset her even more. Feeling a little guilty, we finally consoled her and settled down to sleep
Next day we packed our bags and checked out of the hotel. We reached Amsterdam Central station and took an evening train to Antwerp, our next destination as we had purchased a four country pass by Eurail! It was a nice journey through the lovely landscape with a brief stopover at Rosenthal. We arrived in Antwerp at around 9.30 PM. Luckily we found a money changer close by and converted money in Belgian Francs (pre Euro days)
As I had not booked a hotel, we hunted for a short while before locating a hotel nearby. It was a nice comfortable hotel where we fell asleep soon after
Next morning we checked out of the hotel early and went out to see the city. Antwerp is very well maintained and Grote Market(Main Market), City Centre, Opera were some of the interesting places we saw. We took a stroll by the River Scheldt as the morning breeze swayed the nearby flowers gently. We sat near a fountain and enjoyed chocolate milk and croissants. There are innumerable shops selling handmade Belgian chocolates which were very alluring. We then stopped over at pizzeria where the hand tossed pizza and the garlic butter served with bread was one of the best we had tasted.
We returned to the Central station and boarded a train to Brussels in the afternoon. In 40 minutes we were in Brussels. We took a city tour and saw the major landmarks like St Michael Cathedral, the Grand Palace, and City Centre and passed by numerous antique shops and eateries. It was very fascinating to see the lace work which is done by the local craftsmen, involving intricate designs. We were also lucky to witness the Changing of Guards ceremony at the Grand Palace. We then looked for hotel and finally checked in La Bouche a hotel located in the heart of the city. It was owned by a Pakistani national. A nice clean hotel with a very small lift took us to our room. It had been an enjoyable day and we soon dozed off to sleep.
|The Petrusse Express-Luxemborg|
Next morning we got up early and after a breakfast we checked out of the hotel and took a bus to Namur. From here we took a train to Luxembourg. The city is an important member of EU and is on UN World Heritage List. There are some outstanding monuments like the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Palace, and History Museum. A one hour ride by the Petrusse Express with commentary about the history was a good experience to learn about the place. The city has a number of open air restaurants, and some mouthwatering bakeries. We had some nice pastries and ice-cream.
|At the City Palace-Luxemborg|
Later in the afternoon we once again boarded a train for Trier and then to Bonn and arrived in the city. Bonn is a sprawling city on the banks of River Rhine. After a little hunt we managed to find accommodation in at Venus Park. It was around 9.30 PM when we reached the place. The room was comfortable and had bunker beds. We had traveled through three countries starting from Belgium and ending up in Germany with a stopover at Luxembourg, in one day!
The morning light greeted another day and we got ready and reached the city centre. On the way we saw the Bonn University. In the town we visited Beethoven’s house where the entire life of the famous composer is depicted and his belongings are on display. The Old Town Hall and the streets were crowded and were very colorful. We also took a long bus ride to a nearby village and were awe struck by the picturesque surroundings and lovely flowers. We indulged in some small shopping including a CD of Beethoven’s music.
In the afternoon we boarded a train for return back to Amsterdam. The journey was uneventful and we passed through Cologne en route. It was dark by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. We boarded the Royal Jordanian flight to Amman from Schipol airport and arrived in Amman later in the evening. The next flight to Delhi left at night and we arrived back home as the dawn was breaking.
Although it has been many years but the memory of those moments of European whirlwind tour remains as fresh as dew drops settled on rose petals on a bright morning.