Friday, September 24, 2010

Tragedy of Berlin: Kicked out at Amsterdam

Ever wondered what it takes to have a near-utopian society? One of the factors is a strict system of regulations, the lack of which we have been misusing and complaining of ,for decades in India. After being harassed infinitely by strict Dutch regulations, due to which I got my VISA one day prior to my flight, I became victim to the same strict regulations yet again.

Given the choice of visiting any country in the world, although Netherlands would have been among a top few prior to my visit due to my love for the color Oranje, the topper would have been Germany due to its rich history, and being the host to the tyrant Hitler. Thus when I received the offer to visit Berlin for 3 days, free of travel charges I couldn't let my mind contemplate all the possibilities and succumbed to temptation to say Yes. It happened something like this.

One of my Post-Doc friends at the University knocked out-of-the-blue at my office, and informed me a girl who was supposed to go with him, was unable to come due to last-moment commitments and asked him to take anyone else along. Since the ticket was meant for youth (below 26, subsidized rates) he approached me with the offer. The offer was promising, with 3 days in Berlin only at about 60 euros. I browsed the net, making a list of places to visit in Berlin. Making up my mind to skip 2 working days and unable to face my Professor, with this abrupt decision of mine, I wrote him a mail later. The reply later on would bring a smile to my face, after the harassment later on in the night.

When I saw the ticket one hour prior to our departure, I realized how I had overlooked some obvious facts overwhelmed by the excitement. For instance, the name on the ticket was not mine. It had a Chinese-sounding name. Worse, it was prefixed by a Miss. Unable to decide what to do, I got consolation when my friend showed him the other ticket was booked against his name and we would talk our way out with the authorities, about the last moment cancellation by the girl. (According to us, it was obvious- who in his right mind would take a guy rather than a girl, given the opportunity?)

Thus at around 8 (CET- Central European Time) in the night, we left Delft for Den Haag (The Hague in common English) from where we had to board our Eurolines bus to Berlin. The bus was scheduled for 10 pm. We decided to enquire with the authorities before leaving whether it was allowed to do what I was doing, but there wasn't any tourist information for the Eurolines buses. Thus, when the bus arrived we rushed to the driver and I showed my passport, telling the truth. But Murphy played his cards, and the driver was one who didn't know a trace of English other than the word Berlin and allowed us inside. One hour passed until we were joking, and I was shedding off the panic. However, the bus stopped at Amsterdam which was at 11 pm, and we were supposed to get down at the Amsterdam Checking Bureau, who would provide us with passes on our e-tickets to cover the rest of the journey. The panic returned, just that it was worse. The guy at the Bureau knew perfect English, but was inconsolable to bend the rules and allow me to board the bus, since my friend explained the situation.

After pleeding a lot, the only thing he said was "Man, it's not me who makes the rules nor do I make the prices". And thus, my friend left me alone on his way to Berlin as I was stranded in the middle of the night in the capital and 15 euros away from Delft. Panic, repentance, lack of judgmental abilities- all enveloped me as I didn't know what to do. Determined to make the most of my 15 euros, (for my otherwise vacant round-trip) I toured the City Center for another 2 hours in the night. Although the markets and other touristic things were shut down at the later hour, Amsterdam's famous notorious areas were well-awake in the night. Young boys and girls make the night colorful with their hootings and all sorts of stuff in "The District", but somehow alone even that bored me after a while.

Sadly, I could never visit Berlin and came empty handed from this round trip, spending 15 euros for no purpose due to the temptation of saving 90 euros. Also, I encountered the stringent rules which didn't allow space for corruption and even sentimental black-mail, and which must have been a crucial factor in the progressive methods of Netherlands.

It was my worst day in Netherlands then, a tragedy and the only thing which brought a smile to my face on my return was the reply of my supervisor:

"Have a good trip to Berlin. Studying math is one thing, studying foreign contries is another academic experience."


Billi said...

how did you get back ??

Siddharth Bhattacharya said...

By train. As I said, 15 euros for an empty round trip, so I took the last train of the night at 1:45 am boarded to Delft.

Novacaine said...

Awesomely written. too good :)

Siddharth Bhattacharya said...

Thanks a lot :)

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