I knew the woman at the train station information desk could see the heart-break in my eyes as I approached. I explained to her that, for whatever reason, I’d taken the wrong train, or had failed to get off the right train or something like that, and that’s how I ended up in Leiden (thirty minutes south of Amsterdam) instead of at Amsterdam Centraal.
Calmly she told me that I should get on the next direct train (leaving in about ten minutes) and that I should explain the situation to the conductor when he asked to see my ticket. I got the feeling this wasn’t the first time she’d told a foreign tourist to do something like this. For my part I didn’t actually tell her it was my second trip to Leiden today, as I’d done exactly the same thing earlier in the morning.
In a country that’s about as large as the combined area of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, they have a comprehensive train network. The network map, however, bears a remarkable resemblance to Kim Beazley’s famous “Noodle Nation” with many intersections, and I think that’s where it all went wrong. I think part of the problem is that so many trains go through the airport without necessarilly going via the perhaps badly-named Amsterdam Centraal.
It was nice to get out of Amsterdam and see some of the country-side. And oh my goodness, it really is flat.
My goal for the day was a visit to Hilversum, the headquarters of Radio Nederland where a colleague from Canberra is currently working.
I’ve also been a long term listener to Radio Nederland. As a ten year old I was an avid short-wave listener, and was especially a fan of the famous “Happy Station” program. Somewhere at home I’m sure I still have cards and letters from the program’s legendary presenter Tom Meyer and his assistant Tineke. The fact that I can remember that kind of detail is perhaps an indication of how significant it was for me to make a visit.
As it turns out, it’s just like every other radio station in the world, although they did have an interestingly-designed circular newsroom to encourage interaction. The people I met for lunch and was shown around were incredibly warm, kind people, and I’m very grateful for the hospitality they showed me. Nice stuff.
And then of course, I caught the train back to Amsterdam, via Leiden.