You wouldn’t believe the morning we’ve had. After blissfully waking up at 5am after the coziest warmest sleep in a Marriott in Amsterdam, we found ourselves five hours later by a cold drizzly bus stop in Rotterdam, holding on to one last hope to salvage the day’s travel plans.
But we’ll get to that later.
When I last wrote, we were en route to Berlin and everything was going great. Our day in Paris had been beyond spectacular and our brief stop in Brussels and Bruges had been the perfect transition.
We should have known it was all going way too smoothly.
We had one connection in Koeln, about 40 minutes, which we figured shouldn’t be a problem. Until we started getting closer and they kept announcing more and more delays. By the time they confirmed exactly when we would be pulling into the station, our transfer time had shrunk to about five minutes.
Okay. Still doable. That is, until the train just flat out stopped right before the platform and stayed stuck there for about 20 minutes.
Oh and I should mention there was no AC and it was the hottest day in Germany of the year thus far.
Turns out every train coming into that station had insane delays. We missed our connection to Berlin and had to wait about an hour and a half, sweating on the scorching platform, until the next one (also delayed) rolled in.
And to top it all off, the train was completely booked so we lost our seat reservations.
Luckily we met an American guy who was living in Berlin and trying to get home and he recommended we make a beeline for the restaurant coach as soon as the train pulled in and just snag a table for the entire ride.
Which is exactly what happened. Finally, we were en route to Berlin again and only an hour or so behind. And there was AC! And food!
It was all going great. That is, until the engine broke down in the middle of nowhere and we were stuck and delayed another hour.
We finally made it to Berlin and arrived at our hostel around midnight. Sweaty and exhausted and cranky, we thanked the gods for giving us the foresight to splurge on a private room and gratefully collapsed on the bed.
The next day we spent the morning reserving and confirming the remainder of our plans, including accommodations for the last half of the trip. We made our way out around 1pm to grab lunch at a restaurant in Hackescher Markt. We wanted some authentic German cuisine and it did not disappoint. After we made our way back to the hostel to meet up with my two friends, Garrett and Matt, who had just arrived that afternoon. They were doing their own Europe trip and it was a happy coincidence that we were able to be in the same place at the same time.
We accompanied them back to the Markt so they could grab food and then we took a short walk over to see the TV Tower. It was now nearing 6pm and it was almost time for the real reason anyone was in Berlin that weekend: the Champions League Final.
Back at the hostel, my friend Leo met up with us to go find somewhere to watch the game. He’s been living in Berlin so we were trying to coordinate with his friends to go to a public viewing. After some running around, we arrived just in time at the perfect place, Beach Mitte. We snagged a table directly in front of the TV and not ten minutes later, the place filled up with people. Watching the game in that atmosphere was insanely fun. Though I was really sad it wasn’t Real Madrid in the final, it was still a great match.
We were wiped out after the game so we headed back to the hostel and grabbed some drinks at the bar before calling it a night. The next morning we met up again with Garrett and Matt and got the touristy day started.
We grabbed lunch at Dada Falafel, widely considered the best falafels in Berlin. I haven’t tasted every falafel in Berlin but I can’t imagine anything coming close. From there we went to go see the Berlin Wall, which was emotionally overwhelming, and then the Mauerpark flea market (overwhelming for a different reason).
After we made our way to the Holocaust Memorial and went inside to the exhibition. Sad and powerful but worth it.
From there we walked to Bradenburg Gate, which had been taken over by the Champions League. We slipped in to the area just in time. We went inside the UCL store and bought souvenirs and took a ton of pictures.
Not ashamed to say I took more pictures of all the UCL stuff than the actual Bradenburg Gate.
We made one final walk over to see the Reichstag and from there took the metro back to the hostel. We grabbed drinks at the bar and killed some time before grabbing a quick dinner at a Thai restaurant nearby.
Charlotte and I had an early train the next morning, one straight shot to Amsterdam. After a panic moment trying to find the bus to the train station, seeing it go by and missing it, and desperately hailing a cab, we finally made it to the platform and on the train with ten minutes to spare. I slept for like 90% of the trip, which as uncomfortable as it was, was just what I needed.
We arrived in Amsterdam around 1pm and took the metro the Marriott my dad had treated us to with some extra points he had. We were ecstatic. A real bed! And showers! And it’s all clean!
We made our way back to town and grabbed lunch at Hanneken Boom, which I highly recommend. A bit off the beaten path but worth it. Then we took the tram to the departure point for the canal cruise we had booked. We had originally wanted to do the hop on / hop off one but it was late in the day and it wouldn’t have been worth it. The tour we booked through Blue Boat Company was 75 minutes and it was relaxing and informative, though the audio dialogue was beyond cheesy.
It was late evening now and getting really cold. Neither of us had expected the temperature drop and we weren’t exactly prepared. We rallied through and went to Museumplein to take pictures by the I AMSTERDAM sign. It was unfortunately too late to go into any museums. We had hoped to make it to the Anne Frank House by 6:30pm but when we realized the walk would take us too long, we dipped into this tiny little mobile restaurant for some hot chocolate and poffertjes, which are basically Amsterdam’s equivalent of fluffy mini pancakes covered in sugar and butter and (at our request) Nutella and strawberries.
No regrets. None.
It was pretty cold now but the sun still hadn’t gone down so we walked all the way back to the train station, stopping and dipping into souvenir stores and grabbing free samples from all the different locations of the Old Amsterdam Cheese Store to keep us warm.
Half a day is not nearly enough time in Amsterdam. We weren’t able to do so many things we wanted to do or see but we both fell in love with the city and knew that would just give us a reason to come back and soon.
We made it back to our warm cozy hotel around 9:30pm and after a nice hot shower, we were snug in bed and ready for a full day of travel the next day. We had three train reservations: leaving Amsterdam at 7am to Frankfurt to Vienna to Budapest arriving at 11pm.
And it all would have gone wonderfully. We woke up with plenty of time, checked out, made our way to the metro stop. We should have gotten there with twenty minutes to spare. We were dreaming of a nice hot breakfast and a nap on the train when all of the shit hit all of the fans.
The metro to the train station got cancelled. And the next one coming would have been too late to make our train.
Frantically we went back to the hotel so they could get us a cab. We were really pressed for time now. We sat in the lobby, watching the minutes go by. If the cab comes now, we still have time… If it pulls up in the next minute, we’ll be okay…
With our train leaving in 14 minutes, the cab rolled up to the hotel. It was a 20 minute drive to the station give or take. Our driver dropped us off at the exact time the train left. We ran into the station maybe two minutes too late.
Not panicking yet, we went to the ticket booth to see if we could make it to either of the next two trains. No dice. Only option was a 2pm train with three transfers arriving in Budapest tomorrow morning. Neither of us wanted to be hopping around on trains for 18 hours. We took an intercity train to the Schiphold Airport to see if we could get on any flights. Nothing. We got back on the intercity train all the way to Rotterdam Central, a good hour away. From Rotterdam we took a bus to the deserted airport and desperately fell upon the only travel agent in sight who booked us on the only flight leaving to Budapest that day at 12:55pm. Direct.
I think we had been holding our breath for five hours.
We’re about to board now for Budapest and we’ll be there by 3pm (seven hours earlier than our original train reservation!) It cost us a pretty penny but all in all it wasn’t so bad. We would have paid only a little less for new train reservations and losing a night of accommodations.
Sometimes traveling sucks but you just gotta grit your teeth and roll with the punches.
I’ll write again after Budapest — until next time, stay away from trains!