Sunday, 27 July 2014

Arriving in Les Pays-Bas ( or The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY in Eindhoven)

A foggy morning:  Wasn't there a monastery in front of my window yesterday?

I meet my mother in Moenchengladbach and we have an excellent lunch at an Italian restaurant. Truly good food at xxx
After bringing mother to her train back home, I wait on the station platform for my train to Venlo.  10 minutes before my train arrives, I realize that I still have postcards with German stamps in my backpack, so I quickly run out of the train station to drop them into a Deutsche Post box. Why the rush?  The train ride might only be of 20 minutes long, but it will take me out of Germany, since Venlo is in The Netherlands. 

Yes, these are old wooden railway ties at Moenchengladbach's busiest platform

No German train station without one of these close-by

Use of pesticides is frowned upon on German train platforms

It’s pretty much impossible to to see where the actual border is. But suddenly my cell phone (which has not made a single beep all this time in Germany even after I told the Wind representative back in June that I wanted my bloody phone to roam in Germany after no go last year) starts chirping with numerous messages about who just called me, who left a message, and all the usual Welcome to Holland, these are our rates here. I am in Holland and my phone works again. Go Figure.
The train that took me out of Germany
I also have to get used to chirping of another kind.  All of a sudden, everyone seems to speak Dutch.  The weird thing is, anyone who speaks English and German and listens carefully, can understand Dutch.  Understand but not speak!  But the vast majority of Dutch seem to understand English, which comes in quite handy ;-)

a thing of the past? (not my pic)
In Germany I have stayed away from the IC (InterCity) pseudo-fast trains and have taken trains that stop at every stop. Reason for that was that in Germany it used to be pretty much impossible to lift a bicycle into a regular train.  And even if you could lift it up the steep train stairs, there was nowhere to put it. 

So far I was fortunate not to encounter this (not my pic)
But the person at the Reisezentrum in Moenchengladbach (again no need to take a number ;-) booked me on an InterCity train from Venlo to Eindhoven. On the one hand it takes 25 minutes instead of the 1.5 hours on a slow train, on the other I have no idea if the Dutch are any better at transporting bicycles in their InterCity trains than the Germans.

I am pleasantly surprised.  As a blue-yellow bullet of a train approaches I am relieved to see little bicycle symbols next to the door next to me.  Even here I have to lift/push the bicycle up 2 stairs, but the bicycle compartment is quite roomy and well thought out.

I have some difficulty in finding my hotel in Eindhoven, even though it is only 2 blocks from the train station.  These old European cities have never heard of a rectangular street grid. 
nice inexpensive room right at Markt
 After a quick shower I head out again on the bicycle to see what is different in this different country.
The centre of Eindhoven is PACKED with outside sitting restaurants. This sign indicates what people do there.
The first thing one notices is the sparsity of car traffic.  Not so for bicycle traffic, though. Car traffic is so light that everyone, bicycles and pedestrians alike, jay-walks constantly. If you decide to actually stop at a red pedestrian crossing light, make sure you leave enough room next to you for jay-cyclists to blast by!
The bicycle paths (red) are so big, for a while I instinctively try to get off the road (red) onto the sidewalk (grey). Big Mistake!

A circular route around Eindhoven just for Fietsen

If there are almost no cars and plenty of bicycles, what do people do with them when they get to where they're going?

A sight far from rare:  Most streets are lined like this in the evening

Not a military cemetery:  An empty bicycle parking lot in the morning

When hunger strikes, a quick internet search reveals the best Indonesian restaurant in the centre of Eindhoven. I find Indonesia, the Indonesian restaurant, with the help of the GPS on my cell phone and a detailed map of the centre of town pre-loaded in my hotel. Yes, of course I had started walking into the exact opposite direction ;-)

I get a table at 7 pm even without reservation and am offered the buffet for 17 Euros (It ain’t cheap here ). I’m not really in an all you can eat of average food mood, so I go for a spicy fish on rice for 15 Euros instead.  Still not as cheap as I would like it, but one can’t really not try Indonesian food when in the Netherlands. Why?  Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, so the Satay sticks are to the Netherlands what the Curries are to England.

So much for the anticipation. Ready for the let-down?  The sauce on the fish was fabulous. For some strange reason I had expected the fish to have been cooked when the meal was prepared. WRONG! The fish was probably cooked a week ago, re-heated and covered in the fabulous sauce. It was dry, tasteless, and disgusting.  When I told the waitress she said "I'll tell the kitchen". What's the point?  The kitchen knows exactly what they did.
Looks yummy, but ain't !
So, unless you like re-heated old crap for big Euros, STAY AWAY from Indonesia restaurant in Eindhoven!  
A valid alternative choice?

Coincidentally, I just read on Google that some French blogger was fined 2000 $ because her review of a restaurant appeared quite high in the Google listings and damaged the restaurant's reputation. $2000? That would almost be worth it if no-one else had to eat crappy fish at Indonesia Restaurant in Eindhoven!

Fietsen = bicycles (Think Feet!)
View of the FREE bike storage entrance from the train station
The final item on today's agenda is to bring my bike away to be stored overnight.  This is Holland and I definitely did not expect any problems storing the bike in the hotel here of all places.  However, I am being educated.  I don't find the place that the hotel mentioned, but find the secure bike parking garage at the train station. They have guarded parkades for bicycles here !!!!!  While the parkade at the train station charges 1.25 Euros per day (i.e. 2.50 Euros overnight!), I find the other bike storage on my way back to the hotel. This one is free !

and the view from the other side

One might wonder whether it is really necessary to store one's bike in an underground parkade, but the 'No Beer' sign and these pictures (taken within a time period of 10 minutes) tell me that it's probably not a bad idea.

Also induced from the noise outside my window at 2 am and the barren streets at 9 am the next morning: the people in Eindhoven like to sleep in.
The centre at 9 am

 Turning a corner, I almost feel as if I was looking at the 'evil church' in Prague. But this one is a bit tamer.

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