Europe Echelon: Zaanse Schans

A beautiful day destroyed by my carelessness.

I wipe my spunk off with a Kleenex. It’s my second, and I feel like I could go again at least ten more times. It’s the morning of an overcast Easter Sunday, and my libido is, for some reason, off the charts. It’s snowing again, but the day feels odd. Overnight, clocks all across Europe shifted forward an entire hour. After 1.59am, it didn’t become 2am. It jumped straight to 3am, and although it sounds like nothing, just the mere act of trying to comprehend the concept of daylight savings time is strenuous on the mind and body. For my smartphone, this rule was not too complicated or too crazy as it too, fast forwarded by an hour – I discovered this when I returned to the hotel at 4am.

In the tropics, where the weather’s rain or shine, there’s a certain order to the proceedings of the day that lets you know what time it is without even having to look at the time – there’s a certain uniformity to the intensity of daylight and atmospheric pressure that’s specific to the time of day. But what happens if the intensity of light and pressure remains constant throughout the day? The sky looked the same at 11am as it did at 7am. There was a certain stillness and silence evoked the sensation of being in limbo. I needed to get out of it, I needed some fresh air.

So, on the hotel concierge’s recommendation, I decided that I’d take a day trip to somewhere besides Amsterdam. They offered me a myriad of destinations, and the fact that I had the Dutch national rail network at my disposal meant that everywhere from Amersfoot to Utrecht was just a train ride away. I even contemplated joining my ex-SIM canoe polo captain, Facebook friend and really nice guy, Alvin, who was also holidaying in the Netherlands. Out of pure coincidence, he became an unexpected, albeit pleasant online acquaintance, offering advice and some virtual company while my familiars in Singapore laid asleep. He thought I should rent a bike, and cycle through the Amsterdam’s “interesting” parks. The hotel offered Zaanse Schans, a picturesque site just one station north of where I was, which sounded more intriguing. I shouldn’t have. I was to regret my decision.

Zaanse Schans, in the province of North Holland, has a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. It’s quite historic, really, since it was the ingenuity of the people living in this region, who harnessed the power of the wind for commerce and industry – the basis of the Dutch’s enterprising spirit, one who’d build an empire stretching from the Carribbean to the East Indies. It even began snowing, poetically in its grace and character, a concluding end to my time in the Netherlands.

It’s windy, and the skies are a bit dark for it to be morning.

Feels like a themed park, really, with souvenir stores, restaurants selling the same thing.

Besides windmills, there are old style Dutch houses too. No idea if these are inhabited or not.

Reminds me of that scene in Inception.

A better view…

Along the way, there are many places that sell local produce, such as this chocolate milk.

You think the ground is filled with gravel, but it’s not.

They’re so many ducks in Europe.

One of the locals.

That’s the canal, partially frozen.

It’s snowing.

The sky and ground merging.

Schiphol Airport is not very far from here.

By now, it was snowing quite a bit. So, I took refuge in the clog museum which is also a store. The manufacturing of clogs is all automated.

The clogs serve a practical purpose. Netherlands is a low-lying country. In fact, much of the nation lies below sea level. Whatever land that’s available are wetlands. So, these wooden clogs help the wearer find his or her footing in the soft ground.

Croc clogs. Can’t say I’m a fan. I’d have bought a pair of clogs, but it’s not particularly practical back home, and it’s a tad bulky and heavy.

In another world, I dream that Andy and I are together – happily forever.

More ducks.

This is the only picture of me you’ll see. My coat, if you were wondering, is at the coat hanging closet.

But I became complacent. Whilst waiting for the train to take me back to Zaandam station, I received a stinking text. I had apparently withdrawn SGD 817, which I thought was impossible because my card was with me… the wallet still there, notes, IC, everything intact, but my Debit Visa card inside… Where was it? I was panicking, and freaking out.

I couldn’t have lost it at the party, I thought. It was impossible, because I intentionally left my wallet in my hotel room, taking only 50 Euros with me.

What about Zaanse Schans? Did anything happen out of the ordinary? Did someone brush pass my bag? Was my attention directed elsewhere? I strained my mind, but I struggled to come up with an answer – I really don’t know where it was stolen.

Then it hit me. I never looked at my card again after I swiped it on my first day at the hotel in Amsterdam. Assuming that the card had been returned to me, I had left my wallet in an outer flap of my tote. With much of my time sightseeing, and constantly focused on something else, be it paintings or artifacts – all the venues from Anne Frank Huis to the Hermitage Museum crowded with people brushing past everybody – it would’ve given pickpockets enough time to study my actions and to execute. The only checks I ever did to ensure my wallet’s security was briefly “looking” at it. It never occurred to me to physically check that the contents were still there.

Looking back, in the aftermath of the incident, perhaps an hour or so after, I was somehow resigned to the fact that I’d never get my money back. You know, the good thing about having suffered from clinical depression is that you have no expectations of anybody or anything – you just expect the worst. So, with the “worst” now happening, I was shaken, but not terribly hurt by the loss. The helpful hotel manager drove me to the police station to make a police report, but that’s all they could do.

There was a silver lining to all of this. The perpetrators didn’t take the wallet, and they didn’t take anything else, including my POSB Debit Mastercard. I texted by Auntie, knowing that she’d be more understanding and would be able to convey to my Mom in a way that wouldn’t stir anymore rush of emotions than I needed to deal with right now. While the hotel manager did offer dinner on the house, I do not eat. In fact, I never ate on the day. The only thing I had, was a delicious chocolate milk at Zaanse Schans.

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