Sunday, 16 March 2008

The 'boekenweek' train trip

Every year in the Netherlands, the collective booksellers give away a booklet written for the occasion by a "literary giant." This action week is called the Boekenweek, Bookweek, and is sponsored by the DUtch railways NS. On the sunday at the end of the Boekenweek you can travel anywhere in the Netherlands for free on every train. You just have to show the booklet to the ticket inspector. Since my parents moved from Amsterdam to the quaint village of Musselkanaal in the north-east of the Netherlands (Groningen Province) they've complained that I only visit every now and then. I told them that if they wanted me to visit more often they should have moved to Vladivostok instead since it is faster to get there by public transport than to Musselkanaal. The nearest trainstation is Assen (two hours from Amsterdam) and from there by bus another 2.5 hours for the 30 km trip... My sister lives not too far from my parents and she owns a bookshop so she sent me the booklet with the imperial command to come and see my parents. She would pick me up at the Assen trainstation. This morning i dutifully got on the train to Utrecht where I had to change to the train to Assen. Nice quiet Utrecht train; plenty of seats, iPod softly crooning in my ears en reasonably at peace with the world. Until I got to Utrecht. Everybody in the Netherlands who has bought a book in the last week and therefore had aquired a free booklet aka trainticket had gathered on Utrecht CS to take the train to Assen. It seems there was this "very important" exhibition of Chinese art in a museum in Assen and these culture lovers wanted to see the exhibition without paying for the train. The NS in its infinite wisdom had only put up a three wagon train to the north, so when I finally made it into the train there was standing room only. All the way to Assen, standing room only. Two hours of standing in a train with a gazillion people reading their free booklet since it was also their free ticket. And my iPod crashed and wouldn't start again. No music for two hours standing.

every soul was reading their book
people were even sitting on the little tables the other side was jampacked too
Any way, I got to see my parents for about two hours before I had to go back if I wanted to come back on the same day. On the train back to Amsterdam the crowd wasn't too bad; I managed to get a folding seat on the balcony and there were only five or six people standing in the car. After Amersfoort station luxury erupted: allmost everyone got off and there were seats to sit on and legroom to stretch legs in! I made it to the ThaiCoon restaurant around dinner time and had a great meal. The female chef there advised me to shave more often. She likes it better that way. I've adjusted the poll accordingly.
almost empty on the way back...
UPDATE: according to the TV news tonight over 200.000 people travelled today on their free booklet/ticket. There were also two trains with jazz orchestras playing on the train. The one I was travelling on you couldn't fit a skinny guy with a mouth harp...

6 comments:

Juf Jo said...

The chef is always right.

Nicole said...

Oh the humanity! I don't know what is worse, the Hindenburg or a crowded Dutch train full of penny-pinchers. I can't believe you had to stand all the way to Assen! Well, I can believe it, but it's just so horrid. I can't imagine the noise these people must have been generating. Utrecht train station is seriously the central hell-mouth.

Vincent said...

I reckon the chef needs glasses...

Anyway, your trip sucketh much mate. Bad on the NS not to have plenty of coaches ready.

Did you at least enjoy the book?

Juf Jo said...

Traveling on the Hindenburg is brilliant!
Its just that one accident it had... but I'd prefer to travel on a zeppelin to a train anytime.

Dont get me started on the NS...
I know I sound like a broken record... but it was better in the 1930s' ;)

Nicole said...

You're right about a zeppelin, it was quite luxurious, it's just that one final voyage I was referring to indeed.

Oscar said...

The 'boekenweek'? Neah, that'll never attract extra Dutch people to use the train. No, not even the free train ticket will do it. Really... *sigh*