Train Hostel, Netherlands

Recently, at school, we got to the place in the calendar that everyone had been looking forward to for months.  Winter Break.  Not to be confused with the Christmas holiday break, winter break is thrown in the middle of February because, you know what?  There’s a long time between Christmas and Easter.  And a two week holiday is just what every teacher (and student) needs. Continue reading “Train Hostel, Netherlands”

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Malbork Castle, Poland

Malbork Castle is just about an hour outside of Gdansk, Poland.  I decided to make a trip out to see the castle, and hopped onto the first train.  Now, the train ride itself was somewhat terrifying for me.  There were no seats available, so there were a whole group of us standing in the area between two cars.  This in itself was not scary, however, the fact that I was somewhat wedged against the door f the train, and a large Polish guy broke the emergency door open handle so he could prop the door part way open, and get some air into the otherwise insufferably hot train car was terrifying.  The whole trip, I thought the door was going to open, and I was going to tumble out of the train.
Luckily, I made it to Malbork.
Now, I am geographically challenged. I can not navigate.  I can’t tell directions.  I get lost a lot.  So I was sort of dismayed that when the train dropped us off, there was no castle in sight.  I would have to find the castle.  Not my strong suit. I decided to take the road with the nice sidewalk.  I figured since the castle was the biggest tourist draw in the area, they would make it as easy as possible to find.  (Not by posting signs, mind you…  at least not that I saw)  The road took me into a cute little town.
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I decided the best option was to just continue through the town.  And then, surprise of all surprises- I found the castle!  On my first try!  Without getting lost or taking a wrong turn.  Just intuitively.
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There weren’t many people around when I got to the castle, but they were all out of audio guides.  Normally, I wouldn’t care, because I’ve never been a big fan of audio guides, however in this instance an audio guide would have been very useful. The map I had was unhelpful at best.  Most things were not labeled, and it only showed the ground floor.  Undaunted, however, I entered the castle, through the gate.
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Well, gates…  because Malbork had five gates.  Five.  Good luck trying to attack this place.  And that was only into the lower castle area…  more gates and a moat were also protecting the upper castle. I suppose, when you live in a castle, you can never really be too careful.

Immediately upon entering the lower castle area, I was confronted with some art that really had me a bit confused. It was a whole collection of larger than life statues of men. With boxes around their heads…
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Also, they had cannons aimed at them…
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This was the first time I thought to myself, ‘gee, I wish I had an audio guide.’ It would not be the last. It wasn’t even fifteen minutes later when I noticed the second thing that I thought was rather inexplicable…
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Ninja warrior, suspended in midair. And he was not the only one… there were many ninjas all over the castle.
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I don’t know why they were there. Perhaps the castle was at one point protected by a band of ninjas…
ANYWAY
The castle was very large, and some things about it were just gorgeous. However, I felt it had been too renovated. The whole castle looked good as new, and it took away from any authenticity you would have felt. Until I stumbled into the one room that hadn’t been renovated yet. It was my favorite part of the castle, because for once you could see the history.
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The one thing I really did love about the castle was its windows. It had fabulous windows.

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The castle was really nice though, and all in all I had a great afternoon there. But all too soon it was time to turn back and head back to the train station to go back to Gdansk.

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Ticket Machine, the Netherlands

A quick note on my altercation with the train ticket machine at the Holendrecht station in Amsterdam.  What’s that?  You’ve been to Amsterdam several times, and you don’t know where the holendrecht station is?  That’s because it is the middle of nowhere.  Middle of no and where.  (I look forward to hearing about all the wonderful things located near the holendrecht station.)  I arrived at the station via the shuttle from the lovely Lucky Lake hostel. I had spent the last week in a wonderful oasis of calm and happiness.  Let’s just say, it was a harsh re-entrance to the real world.
I arrived at holendrecht, and it started raining.  Pretty hard.  I bid adieu to the lucky staff, and then set off to find the ticket window.  Silly Julie.  There are no ticket windows at the train station, just a ticket machine.
Ok fine.  I will figure out how to buy my own ticket. I walked to the ticket machine feeling incredibly self sufficient.  The machine doesn’t accept credit cards.  No worries… I have cash.  I pull out my last, wrinkled 20€ and hope and pray the machine takes it.
It doesn’t only take cash… it only takes coins.  Now, my train ticket to go from Holendrecht to Rotterdam was €12.20.  That’s going to take a lot of change.I already have about 3€ in change, and so I only need another 9€.  No biggie, there is a flower shop and a snack stand nearby.  I approach the flowers first.
Holding out my 20, eyes wide, rain dripping from the edges of the hood of my coat I appeal to the owner of the flower shop.  Before I can even open my mouth to ask, he begins yellng at me.  Only then do I see the sign directly over his shoulder, in English, telling me that they do not give change.  Ok, snack bar it is.
Knowing what to look for this time, I approach the snack bar slowly, looking for a similar sign.  I see this one immediately.  Trying to be sneaky, I decide to buy a kaassouffle for just €2.50, and ask for small change back.  She just shakes her head…  but at least I get a few more coins.  I take a moment to dig in the bottom of my purse, and find enough to allllmost get there.  So close.  I buy a coke, and voila.  I have my 12.20, mostly in 20cent pieces, with some 1€, 2€, 50¢, 10¢, and finally four 5¢ pieces made up the last twenty cents.  (This will become important…)
I make my way quickly back to the machine, trying to stay as dry as possible.  Now a pro at working the machine, I begin feeding it all my money.  I always put things in numerical order, it’s just a thing.  So starting with the 2€ coins I make my way down the currency.  I have no problems, everything is going smoothly, as it should.  Until I put in the first 5¢ coin and ‘plink’ it hits the coin return dish and the machine doesn’t take it.  Ok no problem, I have 5¢ coins coming out of my ears… I put in the next one…
Plink.
Try again.
Plink.
Ok, have to look for another 20¢ coin.  Or perhaps go back and buy another kaassouffle.  Tears start to form, because I didn’t even want to leave Lucky Lake in the first place, and now the universe is telling me that I shouldn’t have.  I furiously dig in my purse looking for one. more. coin.  Finding nothing, I look back at the machine helplessly, and see ‘Your session has timed out.  Your change will be returned.’  Sigh.  Fine.  I look expectantly at the change return cup, and nothing happens.
Eyes back to the screen.  ‘You’ve paid too much.  Your change can not be returned.  Please go to the service desk to get your change back.’

What.

I consider giving up.  The next Lucky shuttle will arrive in just a few minutes.  I’m totally wet, tired, and completely broke.  No ATM to get more money, no service desk to get my money back.  But I already booked my hostel in Rotterdam, and cancelling now will forfeit the first night’s cost.  Nothing if not thrifty, I decide, rather miserably, to press on.
I take the photo of the machine error screen, and then board the train without a ticket.
The ticket checker lady comes by just one or two stops after I get on, and I explain my story. I show her the picture.  I admit to having no ticket, and apologize.  She says ok, and continues on.  Everyone on the train looks at me suspiciously.  The girl without a ticket.  Gasp.
I arrive in Rotterdam.  It is raining even harder, and I just want to curl up in my bed and take a nap nap.
But first a long walk, across the city (truthfully it wasn’t that far I was just in a bad mood) once again in the rain.  Arriving at the hostel, I check in, and crash.  Finally.