Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fribourg to Basel to Amsterdam

I have safely arrived at Amsterdam. I am currently working on about 3 or 4 hours sleep. I'm all messed up! I'm doing pretty well, though, all things considered.

The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel costs too much, and I didn't have enough spare change to contact the hotel. I started with 3.00€. I used the stupid pay phone, and ate up 3€ with about 90 seconds of phone time, including two wrong numbers to a law firm in Amsterdam. What a rip off. I tried to use the credit card, but the telephone didn't like any of the ones i presented. (didn't give it my Exxon Mobil card. :) )

The Stupid American Does Not Know How To Use Phones
If you're not familiar with phones in Europe, let me give you some advice. Learn how to interpret a phone number written down. The string of digits that somebody writes down is not necessarily the string of digits that you need to use to get to that destination. The Europeans are tricky and will assume you know when to leave off a country code, or when to add the secret "0" to the beginning of the number. I have not deciphered this secret code yet, so I can not share the secrets yet.

I do know that the number written on my itinerary for the hotel says: "31-206-075555" I do know that if you pick up a phone here in the airport, and dial those numbers, you don't get anything. I also know that if you leave off the '31', then you get this law firm, with a very nice lady who, after I called her back the second time, took the effort of finding the phone number of the hotel, and she gave it to me. 020 607 5555. Uh. But that's not the number on my itinerary. D'oh. The random extra zero gets me every time.

In 2003, I once had a Swede explain it to me (when i was in Sweden and suffered similarly) but it made about as much sense as describing colors to a blind person, I guess.

I looked around and decided that maybe the laptop would be the best attempt -- found a wireless for 10.-€ for a full day's. Now that I'm paying for a full day's, (and I got what I needed), I felt the need to "get my money's worth" and send some e-mail. The cell phone doesn't work here, either. I think I needed to ask for some sort of "super-secret-International calling code" for my phone.

Using the Internet, found a bus station route that costs 3.50€ instead.

I guess I should have done a little research about this last night, but last night I was reserved to use cash to pay for a taxi. I converted 150 dollars in traveller's checks to Euros and only got just over a hundred. With a trip to the airport and back at 45.00€ each, that doesn't leave much left! I know the company would reimburse me, but it's the principle of the thing. Now using Taxis in New York is much easier on the pocketbook. Taxis everywhere else seem to be way too much.

I got up earlier than I was supposed to. I set my alarm for 0600, but woke up at 0515 instead. Found myself lounging around the bedroom looking for ways to kill time. I had everything packed, and wasted time. Unfortunately, breakfast didn't get started until 0700, and my train out of Fribourg left at 0704. :( I really enjoyed the breakfasts there. The hotel was very cheap. I paid like 600 chf for a week there, including two meals. I think I will spend approximately the same at this hotel in Amsterdam for only two days. (!)

The guy who sat next to me on the train from Fribourg to Bern wore WAY too much cologne. I guess that's better than the WAY too much body odor that I was sporting earlier in the week, when I realized that all of the stores were closed, and I didn' t pack any. the train station from Fribourg to Bern was very busy. I don't have any idea what it is like going the other way.

I guess I'm going to have to get used to that train station, eh? I will most certainly be stopping in Villars sur glane, as the train is a direct route from Bern to Fribourg, without any intervening stops. I guess I'll have to get myself a nice little scooter. Maybe there is a bus that will connect me to a point close enough to my new office.

On the way to Bern, the train car I chose was a "quiet please" car, and it was more quiet in that train car, than it would be in the desert. The only noise I heard was the occasional shuffle of the newspapers around. No talking was permitted, and they even had a little diagram that asked you to not use your IPOD, as that would be considered too loud. The trains are very well protected against the noise, and they are amazingly quiet.

The train ride from Basel (north of Bern, right on the French border) was delightful. I switched trains in Bern, and spent a nice quiet ride looking at the scenery, and reading my book that the people from Network Relocation gave me.

The airport at Basel is considerably larger than the airport at Bern. The Bern airport is about the same size as Champaign-Urbana. Just big enough to start pretending to be a real airport, but bigger than an airport without any scheduled commercial services. The airport at Basel would be ... I guess on par with Norfolk or Richmond International.

The flight over was nice, I spilled my orange juice all over myself, and the bulk of it ended up in the seat-back pocket -- which was surprisingly water proof! The orange juice sat in the pocket and slowly leaked out the corners. I felt awful about the mess. It happened as I was reading a duty free magazine (Boy that's boredom), and knocked over my orange juice with the magazine.The flight attendant was very nice about it.

For snack, Swiss Air served a very nice sandwich consisting of a pickle, some mayo, and some swiss cheese. I know my wife wouldn't like it, but I sure liked it. And it was surprisingly filling.

The announcements for landing -- this is weird -- I can't remember if it was English or German. I'm getting that comfortable with German again, and now I'm spending most of my time thinking in German, instead of thinking in English. I knew it wouldn't take me long to re-adjust. I was just surprised it would take only a week. there are a lot of words I don't remember. Like the word for "spill", and the word for "slap", take, become, include, guess. I bought two full sized dictionaries, I figured my wife might need one every now and then.

At the Duty Free airport, I purchased some chocolate. I realized that the chocolates I really wanted were all chock-full of nuts. So I put a lot of them back. I searched for some nut-free chocolates, and then I realized that nearly all of the chocolates have nuts in them. The M&Ms seemed safe, but there's not much point in buying those in Switzerland.

I had to do a very detailed search to find some that didn't have any nuts at all. I found some finally. I got a value pack, too, which had a variety of them, so hopefully the family enjoy the different flavors. I guess it's a good thing that these people like their nuts in their chocolate! It will make that bakery next door not so terribly tragic about the amount of chocolate I would otherwise be destined to eat.

All right my bus is coming, I'd better go now.

Directions from Bus station to my Hotel

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