Tuesday, 22 December 2009


"I'll never trust the weatherman again" Andrew concluded. Can't say I blame him. I lost my faith decades ago.

It all began with cheap Kruidvat train tickets. They sell them a couple of times a year. For 12.50 you can travel anywhere in Holland at the weekend. There's just one snag. They're just valid for a few months. Last weekend was our last chance to use ours. The Charles Dickens Festival in Deventer seemed a good outing for the kids.

The weather hadn't been great all week. So we carefully checked the weather forecast. Freezing cold on Saturday. Snow Sunday morning, sunshine in the afternoon. "The market will look lovely in the snow" Dolores assured me, "Let's go on Sunday."

While I had a good long lie in, Dolores checked the NS website to see if the trains were running. When all seemed fine in railway-land around midday, she kicked me out of my bed.

The sun was indeed shining. as we packed for the trip. By the time we'd got to the buss stop, it was overcast. I spotted a few flakes of snow when the bus stopped at Olympiaplein. When we got off at Amsterdam Zuid, it was properly snowing.

The blizzard had begun by the time we reached the platform. There was a train parked there, doors open, without much apparent intention of departing. We were planning on taking a direct train to Deventer. Then there was an announcement. It recommended passengers for Amersfoort and beyond take the waiting train and change at Weesp. We got on.

Big mistake. My big mistake. My Dutch geography isn't bad. Putting together a pub guide for the whole of Holland helped educate me. Yet somehow I managed to confuse Amersfoort with Apeldoorn. Apeldoorn isn't far from Deventer. Amersfoort is miles away.

At Weesp we soon got a connecting train to Amersfoort. Though it was a stop train. And, after a scary dash across a slippery bridge, another to Zwolle. By now the snow was falling so thickly you couldn't see more than 100 metres. The sheep seemed to be having fun, "At least they're dressed for the weather." Andrew remarked.

Preparation. That's what travel is all about. I'd assumed it would be cold. And that pub opportunities would be scant. That's why I'd taken along a drink. A very special drink. St. Bernardus Abt packs a bit of a kick. But not a blizzard sort of kick. So when decanting some into a plastic bottle, I stiffened it up a little. A lot. With an inch or so of Caol Ila 12 year old. I suspected I'd overdone it when it went a funny grey colour. Turned out I'd got it just right.

"What's in that, Ronald? It smells like kitchen cleaner." Dolores remarked when I took a swig on the train. "Put it away." A mouthful or two was all I needed to get a pleasant warm feeling deep inside.

"At least the snow's easing off. " I commented cheerily, as the blizzard outside intensified. Then I got on with scaring Andrew. "We'll probably be able to get back today. If not, we can sleep in a waiting room. That'll be fun." He put on his worried look. Panicking him is so easy, it almost takes the fun out of it. Almost.

"To think I could have been wasting my time sitting at home watching football and drinking beer." No-one paid me any attention. The graffiti covering one window spread coloured light like a cathedral window. Outside, a minimalist white on white painting. Weird, man.

Dolores is a very determined woman. She's wasn't going to let a bit of snow spoil her Sunday. Though, as we stopped at ever more weirdly-named places, she did begin to waver. And consider aborting at Zwolle. But, amazingly, a train to Deventer was waiting there. Another bloody stop train, but at least with the right destination.

The snow was still falling thickly when we emerged from Deventer station. But we were there. And it had only taken 3 hours (rather than the scheduled 1 and a quarter hours).

We walked around the Dickens market, bought some meat and sausage, and headed back to the station. We'd been in town just under an hour.

Station announcements saying "Do not travel by train" were a little disturbing. But just NS covering their arse. We waited an hour for a train. But the journey back wasn't that bad. Only one change. And the first train was an intercity. Both trains were packed, but we got seats. Through pure luck. We were just about to walk through the first class carriage, when an announcement informed us that it had been downgraded to second because of the crush.

I'd saved half my central heating bottle for the way back. It worked a treat. I can give you the recipe, if you want.

We were just back in time for Tatort. (Actually, it was Polizei Ruf this week.)

It's the most snow I've ever seen in Holland. But at least we didn't waste our cheap train tickets. Mike wasn't so lucky. He was trying to get to Aachen and got no further than Breda.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

We're supposed to be the Great White North. That is true in parts of Canada, but Toronto currently, while rather cold, is just about snow-free. I gotta gotta gotta get away.

Nice report Ron but had it worked out, what would you have seen more of there? What kind of event or festival is that, what activities?