After arriving to a chilly high of 50 degree Ferienheit Amsterdamrent we had to wait around for about an hour for the first metro to the station where we would catch our train to Groningen, in the north of Holland. Nothing was open not even the WC; we had our manditory 50 Cents but still couldnt get in to take a leak; luckilly we found a Starbucks that let us use the bathroom.
Besides a trip to Amsterdam I was coming to the netherlands to visit a friend Stella, who I met when traveling in Barcelon at the same hostel where I met my Japanese friends. When we got to Groningen we were a little earlier than Stella and I agreed to but I figured I would call her anyways. like I have done in the papst I politely asked a pair of girls in a cafe if they could make a call for me, using their cell phone. They looked a little annoyed and told me to ask the guy working at the cafe; he only had an internal line. In the past I have never been turned down besides the guy in Croatia who was scared the mob may be tracking his calls. I wonder if their reaction may have something to do with them being with a friend. I have always asked a lone person.
Since noone was being helpful i went looking for a payphone and found a little triangular booth with a green phone inside, inserted my one Euro and stared at the machine bewildered. I finlly found the button to switch languages and entered the number but only reached a mesage saying that the number doesnt exist and my one euro coin was ejected. I tried again and again in various combinations with and without what appeared to be the country code and left unable to retrieve my coin although clearly i still had one Euro worth of credit.
back infront of the cafe a girl was kind enough to dial the number for me but only found the same message i had already heard. Just as she was hanging up the phone I heard my name and looked up to see the red brown flower child locks of Stella as she hopped off of her stereotypical dutch bike.
Our first concern was getting some wheels. Right out side of the train station there was a shop where we got hooked up with a pair of three speed bikes. The guy explained how the built in lock worked and said, “do lock them up; if they are stolen you owe us 750 Euros”.
We left the station carrying our backpacks pedaling past small red and brown brick buildings down car sparse streets. When we arrived at Stella’s house we put the chains through our wheels but didnt lock the bikes to anything, which only keeps someone from riding off on them but not carrying them off.
After some anise flavored sweet bread and coffee we went out to check out the town, stopping at the cafe where Stella works to pick up her wallet, which she forgot during her last shift. teh town is pretty small. We parked the bikes near a big tower of the main church, again only locking the wheel. we strolled around checking out some house boats along a canal. we made a loop and ended back at the main plaza where a huge pipe organ on wheels was blaring the wedding song while a crowd stood around the bride and groom.
We were going to wait for Lotte, Stellas travel buddy I also met in Barcelona, but she still had a little while until she finished working; she was babysitting a little girl who was bossing her around telling her she must pain with her and do this and do that, Lotte wanted to do was read a book. while Lotte caved to teh demands of a 6 year old we climbed a ladder of a set of stairs to the second floor diningroom of a cafe off of the main square and ate the largest grilled cheese in all of Groningen.
After lunch we fought off the food coma longenough to ride home but crashed immediately. when I woke up, groggily making my way down the spiral stair case to find Stella, her mom and Lotte in the flower filled garden patio talking. I brought down the remaining Polish chocolates and the 200ml bottle of honey vodka. They offerd me a typiclly dutch candy; a black liccorice that is slightly gummy and super salty. It was aweful, after a few seconds she said I could spit it the bushes; Thank god!
After a while we had some appetizers while we waited for Stella’s dad to get home from work. When he got home we had a huge diner with a beet and eddible flower salad, baked potato casserole and meatballs. For desert we had… they told us a joke what is a dutch desert with 36 leters? : flaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. basically its a play on pronunciation and the desert is a thinner version of pudding that comes in vanilla and chocolate. thankfully the Polish chocolates I offered were enjoyed, that was more chocolate than i could have eaten in a year. Stella’s dad, Jerald came out with some shit glasses and we opened up the bottle of honey vodka and talked the rest of the night away listening to some funny dutch music like ……………….. Rinus Met Romana Op De Scoter.
Frank and I went up to the office which they converted into our room, putting down two futons and laying out sheets, towels and blankets. The room was freezing with the oen window looking out over he front yard and sidewalk where Stella said it would be safe to leave the bikes; they were gone; all three. I never panicked assumng that Stella’s dad moved them around the back of the house. Frank hadn’t yet noticed and I didnt say anything to him. When he came down Stairs to say good night to everyone he had a concerned look on his face and asked about the bikes; they were safe and sound behind the back yard gate.