TAKE THE TRIP :WITH WANGARI MACHARIA
My trip to The Netherlands was a memorable one. I was definitely concerned about the weather as region is known to have terrible winters but was quickly assured that it was summer-time. Regardless, I packed some warm coats and Jerseys.
I was flying Turkish Airlines with a four-hour layover at Istanbul. I was a bit apprehensive as i was transiting through Atarturk Airport, which had experienced a terrorist attack just weeks earlier. I said my prayers and was ready and the trip. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), I got comfortable on my window seat and braced myself for six-and-a-half-hour ride to Istanbul.
My seatmate was an elderly Caucasian man. I learned that he was Norwegian while his wife was Kenyan and had come for holiday. He was a long-serving doctor running an aid project in Africa. As we enjoyed our chicken stew and rice, he continued to share hilarious tales that spanned more than sevenddecades of his life.
He completely oriented me about Netherlands and Norway before we decided to take a nap. I woke me to breathtaking scenery of Istanbul from a bird’s eye view. I took a snapshot of the gold plated landscape as the sun shone down the panorama.
The weather was sizzling hot but i was enjoying it, given i had left a freezing Nairobi. We finally landed at Atatutk Airport, Turkey’s biggest Airport and Europe’s third busiest .There were Turkish signs everywhere and the airport personnel spoke very little English. I also noted a few black people at the airpor , for most were locals.
The Ataturk airport is filled with restaurants, boutiques, book stores are coffee shops. It’s the kind of place you want to come when you really want a shopping experience. Before long it was time for me to take a long walk to my boarding gate, which was miles away in the vast airport, for my flight to Amsterdam.
My flight to Amsterdam was short and sweet. In only three and half hours we were landing. I could see Netherlands signature gigantic windmills swinging on the vast greenery ranches laced with white sheep. Most of the landmass lies on top of water which is approximately 100 feet above sea level.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the enormous Schiphol Airport, one of the biggest and busiest in the world. The most iconic place was the meeting point, a gigantic three-dimensional cube with a red and white checkerboard pattern. It’s a sculpture also fitted with seats where arriving passengers can sit as they wait to be picked.
I was picked and driven to my hotel. I stayed at a great hotel tucked away in a wooded area, far away from the Airport. The reception was beautifully endowed with historic snapshots of people and events. The entire place had a red carpet and amazing wall paintings. Overlooking my room was a vast manicured park with metal outdoor seats, an ideal place for a writer.
BY THE NUMBERS
141-The number of art galleries in Amsterdam.
1,281-Number of bridges in the city.
Cold A la carte
As i sampled breakfast the following morning. I realised I had to adjust my taste buds. Coffee was the drink of choice, and it was taken black with no sugar. The coffee was quite strong and I kept adding milk and sugar before i could ingest it. The Dutch are known for their love for bread.
On the table were all types of bread fruit wheat, including a darker brown type that reminded me of of ‘brown ugali’. Bread is eaten throughout the day and not only for breakfast. I missed vegetables, meat, stews and my favourite Kenyan tea. The sandwiches were accompanied with cheese.
I learnt that the Dutch are the tallest people in the world, with the average man standing at six feet. Even their women are quite tall as strong-willed. One of my female colleagues who towers over me is considered shorter there. Most people spoke Dutch and only reverted to English while addressing me. Most of my sightseeing was done in the car while being driven to various locations for work.
The roads were large and excellent but i found the many intersections quite confusing. Though there were blue signs everywhere, i noticed that people relied on Global positioning System (GPS) to get around. It made driving easier and saved on time.
The Dutch seem to prefer dressing in neutral colours such as white, beige, grey and black. Rarely did you see anyone in bright colours.
On my last day in Netherlands, i felt i had endured eating enough bread. I requested to to be taken to subway. I was dying to have my favourite meatballs sandwich, but i was disappointed when i only found various salami sandwiches. I opted for a chicken salami, which was more like eating bread with no margarine. And since coffee and juice had grown old, i chose mountain dew soda.
The fun bit was going for shopping. I managed to get some electronics and a suitcase for my future trips. And of course some ‘Lego‘for my children. As we were looking for the items I noted a number of boutiques we’re closed. Turns out that most locals prefer shopping online. Will definitely be going back.