Today we shall leave Paris for Amsterdam taking the Thalys train departing Gare Du Nord at 10:22 a.m. arriving Amsterdam Central at 13:42 p.m. One of the reasons we’ve chosen to stay close to Gare Du Nord is the proximity of our Hotel Richmond to the train station which is within a couple of minutes walk.
However, arriving at Gare Du Nord, we found out there was a rail strike in Amsterdam and there will be NO train services to Amsterdam today despite purchasing our tickets three months in advanced. The distinctively dark red Thalys train was nowhere to be seen in the station. We went back to our hotel to seek the manager’s advise and we decided to take Eurolines bus instead. The bus terminal is across town and the next available bus is at 3:00 p.m. What suppose to be a 3½ hours train ride became a 7½ hours bus journey with an hour stop in Brussels.
We arrived Amsterdam well pass 10:30 p.m. We got off at Eurolines bus terminal at Duivendrecht in the cold of the night. Luckily, the Duivendrecht train station is within walking distance but was enough to make my fingers numb due to the cold winds. A 20 minutes train ride and we reached Amsterdam Central station where we then took a taxi to our apartment.
This is when our nightmare started. Although we have informed the apartment’s management that we will be late due to the strike, I did not follow-up to inform of our new arrival time. At 11:30 p.m. in the cold night, we were at the door of the apartment management office. They were closed and telephone calls were not being picked up. After 20 minutes outside the door we came to terms there is no one in the office and hailed a taxi to take us to any hotel nearby. The driver was kind enough to call nearby hotels to check availability of rooms. Unfortunately, ALL hotels are fully booked due to the King’s birthday and the tulip season at Keukenhof. Even a €400 room was not available.
Seeing our anxiety, the taxi driver drove us to a Turkish restaurant, ‘Shoarma Mesut 2’ for us to have our meal and plan things out. He told us the restaurant has wi-fi so we may be able to check for rooms on-line. He was so kind to drive us to the restaurant but he refused to accept any fares. Probably he pity seeing me hungry and shivering. At the restaurant we had our meal and I told the waiter of our predicament. He too assisted us in calling hotels as far as Schiphol but there were still no rooms available. It’s now well pass 1:00 a.m. in the morning.
I was now desperate and my mind was racing to figure out how to overcome this situation. There were three alternatives:
1. Sleep in a mosque – but it’s already locked, it’s well past the last prayer time.
2. Go to Shciphol and sleep in the airport – may be cold as well, due to air conditioning.
3. Find a warm hotel and sleep in the lobby’s sofa – if they allow.
As I was trying to figure out more options, a colleague of the waiter, Mr Alim Yalcin approached us and offered us to stay in his house after the shop closes for business at 3:00 a.m. He is staying with his wife and a small son and after assuring us that it is not a bother to his family, we accepted his kind offer. Mr Alim cycled to his house while we took a taxi and by 4:00 a.m. we finally got to sleep in that cold night.
Next day by 7:00 a.m. me and my wife were ready to leave as we do not want to bother Mr Alim’s wife to make breakfast. We plan to take a bus or taxi to our apartment but Mr Alim insisted to drive us there and in ½ hour we reached our apartment. We were so humbled and touched by the kind deeds extended to us and I shall never forget this heart warming experience. As a gesture, we gave something for his son which he reluctantly accepted. May god bless him, the taxi driver and their families for assisting me and my wife in our time of need.
God tested us. And for our patience and clear thinking, provided a solution. It also reminded us to be back down-to-earth.