So I decided to leave Rotterdam and instead of going home as planned I thought I'd take a detour and go to Zürich with Casey. We left Rotterdam, taking the 1049 bus to Rotterdam Alexander station. We go to Rotterdam Centraal at about 1116. We took the train to Amsterdam Airport, arriving there at 1216, giving me just enough time to buy a ticket for the 1310 flight to Basel, Switzerland, and was lucky enough to be able to organize a seat next to him for the flight. After arriving in Basel, we found a train to Zürich which took about an hour. When we got to the Zürich station, we were met by Jelena, Casey's girlfriend, who took us on a tram back to her house. After the mad dash across Europe, we were quite worn out, so we sat down for a while talking to Jelena and her mother.
They made dinner for us, a delicious vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise, after which we sat down, chatted and recuperated. I took a shower before we headed out for our guided tour of Zürich by night. We walked around some very quiet surburban streets on our way to the action and on the way we came across a bit of an obstacle in the form of a construction site that blocked the walking route that Jelena usually takes to the city. So, like the socially irresponsible rebels that we are, instead of going around it we jumped the fences. Once we got to the city proper, Jelena showed us the night spots where the locals sat drinking coffee and eating ice cream at trendy cafés while watching people go by. I have many photos of Zürich by night, so be sure to check out the Europe 2007 album in my gallery.
After enjoying a great cup of coffee and a banana split with Swiss ice cream, we moved on to a typical European bar, small and intimate where you can tell the barman knew everyone there by name and what they liked to drink. We spent a few minutes and then moved on to another bar where Jelena's friend, as chance would have it, was meeting her after for the first time in 2 years after spending a long time in Australia. We stayed there for a few hours while they caught up on all the developments in each others' lives. By the time we were ready to go, we were all too tired to walk the distance home, so we took a taxi for 15 Swiss francs. Jelena's brother was nice enough to sleep on the couch, so when we walked in at 2am I found that I had a nice comfy bed to stay in. I must remember to send a big thanks to Jelena and her family for their generous last minute hospitality.
Which brings me to this morning. The mad dash back across Europe. Right now, I am sitting on a train from Basel, Switzerland to Frankfurt, Germany. I left Jelena's house at 1529 hoping to make it to the station in time for the 1602 train from Zürich to Basel. I got to the station at 1551, but got stuck in the ticket queue behind an old German idiot trying to pick up the cute ticket clerk. I got a ticket and ran to the platform just in time to see the train pulling away. It was just like in the movies, the train slowly starting to move and there's this guy (me) weighted down with bags running next to it yelling "Nooo! Stoooop!" only to get to the end of the platform and fall off looking very comical and stupid. Well, that last bit didn't actually happen, but you get the picture. So I went downstairs to the pay per use bathroom, freshened up and got ready for the next train in an hour. Because of that extra hour, however, there is no way that I will make the 2115 flight out of Frankfurt, so I'm going to have to find a place to spend the night in Frankfurt and take the 1500 flight tomorrow. I got on the train to Basel, where I met a bunch of Australian teachers living in Basel, who were nice enough to give me a pointer to the next train, the one to Frankfurt, which saved me a few minutes of running around trying to find my bearing. Thanks guys! Right now I am on the train from Basel to Frankfurt. I have no idea what I'm going to do when I get to Frankfurt, but I'll work something out. Don't worry, I'll keep you all posted!
So it was time to leave Thailand and head to Rotterdam to meet the CouchSurfing guys. I left most of my luggage with a friend in Pattaya, as I did not feel like hiking around unfamiliar territory with 50kg of large bags. So I put 5 days' worth of clothing and supplies into a backpack and headed off into the great unknown.
The flight was terrible. It was an older 747 with no entertainment system at all. I'd forgotten to request a window seat so I was in the middle seat of an aisle row, between a stern Japanese guy who scowled at me every time I fidgeted, and some weird kid who fidgeted even more than me. Sleep was impossible thanks to the elbow he kept jabbing into my ribs. Needless to say it was a relief getting off the flight at Frankfurt. The entire airport is blanketed with a T-Mobile hotspot, which made getting online to check email and get a map easy. If only all airports had that.
I booked a long distance train ticket valid for 2 months from the travel center in the airport, it cost EUR200. I found out afterwards that I could take a local train to the border for EUR21 and then a local train in Holland for the same price, but oh well, now I know for next time. The train went from Frankfurt to Utrecht, taking about 3 hours, and then I changed to a local train for Rotterdam, taking about 40 minutes. It was a pleasant ride, the long distance train had a restaurant, as well as power plugs for laptops in every seat, however my plug didn't fit.
I got off the train at Rotterdam Centraal and walked around for a few hours. By now I was thoroughly grateful for my foresight in leaving my bags in Thailand, having to lug 5 bags around would have been a nightmare both in Frankfurt and in Rotterdam. I had a bite to eat in Burger King, bought a SIM card for my mobile phone and found an internet cafe in which to get online and grab the address I was supposed to be at.
Eventually, at about 7pm, I arrived tired and bedraggled at Jacob van Campelplain, only to discover that the number I had been given was wrong. As I had changed my SIM card since calling Walter, the number was no longer in my phone's recently dialed list, and there was no internet cafe in sight. So I had to call my Mum to look up Walter's number for me on the CouchSurfing web site. Thanks Mum! So I finally made it to Walter's place, tired, hungry and smelly, where I met Chris, Jim and Weston. More people should be arriving soon. I'll keep you all posted how my stay here goes, so stay tuned, dear readers. Until then, bye for now!