It took me 3 hours to get from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to The Hague and only 6 ½ hours to get from Chicago to Amsterdam. Considering The Hague is only 40 miles from Amsterdam, you might be asking yourself, what took 3 hours! Let me start from the beginning…
I started out in Chicago where there were severe thunderstorms and a tornado warning that forced everyone into shelters, rooms w/no windows, etc… Luckily there was no tornado, but it created a bit of a backup at the airport. Security and check in were both shut down for 30 minutes during the warning and when they reopened the lines were long. The priority access lane was backed up past the economy check in counters. I haven’t seen that before at ORD.
My flight was running about 30 minutes behind schedule, which was understandable. We boarded the aircraft (which seemed to take forever) and were finally on our way. Soon the pilot announced that we’d be arriving in Amsterdam early! Not just a little early, but a full 50 minutes early. It always amazes me how you can depart 30 minutes late and still land on time or in this case early! Well, sure enough, we landed early – 60 minutes ahead of schedule.
I was through customs and baggage claim by 9am. I made my way to the trains. I’ve taken the trains in the Netherlands many times so I was pretty sure I’d be in the Hague by 9:30 or 9:45 and would have a full day in The Hague. Well, that’s where things turned a little crazy. It seems that department of transportation picked this very week to conduct major track renovations – great timing! Therefore there were no direct trains to The Hague. Oh no!
I bought a ticket (which by the way I had to pay cash for since they now ONLY accept credit cards with chips & pin smart card technology for train tickets) and asked for directions. I was told to take the 9:05 train on Platform 1 two stops and then switch to the next train. I did that and 10 minutes later I was at the next station. I asked for directions from there. I was told, get on the 9:15 train on Platform 7 five stops and switch to the next train. By this time I was a little confused with all the switches, it was pouring rain now and no announcements were being made in English. An elderly couple started providing translation for me. They were from Washington DC and very nice. They offered to let me tag along with them and they’d get me to The Hague (where they were both originally from.) I did that and 10 minutes later I was at the next station. I then boarded that train and was told this train goes to The Hague. Yay! I would be there by 10am.
After about an hour and 10 or so stops, we pulled up to a station, a few announcements were made, a lot of people got off the train and then the train started rolling…backwards. We were going in the wrong direction. What was going on? Were they switching tracks? This couldn’t be right. The elderly couple asked a conductor what was happening. He said, “We made an announcement; this train is no longer going to The Hague. You should have gotten off at the last stop. We’re going back to Amsterdam. WHAT? Amsterdam? I just came from Amsterdam. OMG how could this be happening. So we rode the train back to one of the stations where we could switch and get onto a train that would take us to the Den Haag HS station (the non primary station in The Hague.) At this point, I didn’t care what station I ended up in, I just wanted off the train.
To make the whole situation more comical, I was dragging – and I literally do mean dragging – my 58 pound suitcase which United kindly tagged as “heavy” with a bright orange tag. It was quite heavy by the second train switch…by the fourth train switch I wanted to throw it out a window and buy new clothes!
Three hours after I left the airport, having seen pretty much all of the Netherlands on the train, I finally arrived in The Hague. How am I getting back to the airport you ask? I’ve booked a shared car service for about 30 Euros and it will be worth every penny if I don’t have to lug that suitcase on and off the trains!
I’ll have plenty more from The Hague this week!