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Sunday, September 12, 2010

In A Hurry to Move Further East

I stayed on at the Brinker for about ten days, but there isn't really much I remember in great detail about the latter half of my stay.  Once Sue had gone, and shortly after the Italian girls followed, I was reassigned to another room, the one I had been in having been guaranteed to a single party of six.  My new room was of the same standard, but way in the back corner of the hotel.  This cur down the noise level from the lobby and adjacent bar, notwithstanding the closer a room is to the end of a corridor, the less traffic it gets.  Considering that drunken stoned teenagers and twenty-odds have a habit of being loud, and a select few of those to an obnoxious level, an isolated piece of real estate could be welcome.  Except that by now it was mid week and business had slowed down just enough to be lively as opposed to raucous.

My roommates, I never saw.  They existed as only towels hung to dry on the iron bed frame and the odd piece of clothing left laying about.  My final days in this part of town had grown into a routine.  I would wake up, shower and dress and be gone by nine thirty.  Getting up this early make the queue at reception for re booking the bed a lot easier to manage.  Breakfast was included in the tariff, but I usually went round the corner to the McDonald's right by the busy square for a McMuffin and coffee.  After that, I'd stop at a newstand for an English paper and head to The Dolphins for another coffee and a smoke.  My paper read, and feeling bored, I'd usually head back to the Brinker to read in the bar, have a nap in the early afternoon and get some drinking in after dinner.  Routines are good, but this was one I grew tired of quickly and so made up my mind to leave Amsterdam for a bit. 

This had been my pattern before.  In '99, after my initial four days in the city, guest at the severely bargain priced Bob's Youth Hostel (as an example, you could save a good amount if you were willing to sleep on the floor, avoiding the bourgeois distinction of a bed) the 'Dam had left me overwhelmed an my psyche screamed out for a more pastoral setting.  That year I had headed out to Appeldoorn, a town to the south-east, just about kissing the German border.  In 2000, I opted to head out for Arnhem.  Historically, it holds a lot of affinity for me as it was there that the British First Airborne Division fought and lost a hard desperate battle to secure a bridge over the Rhine in September of 1944.  Thinking that this would be a cool thing o go see, my mind was made up.  Early on my last morning, I packed my belongings, checked out of my room and made my way to the train station.  I'd be back in Amsterdam in a few day's time, but not to stay at the Brinker.  I'd find it again five years ahead and realize that not much had changed except myself.

There is something to be said about being prepared.  The only information I had about Arnhem's part in the war had been taken from the film "A Bridge Too Far."  A grand example of cinema and a fantastic story told well, it is hardly accurate to true history.  At this point in my life, I hadn't even read the book on which the movie was based.  I was going to seek history without knowing where to find it, and what I thought I knew was more likely fiction than true.  Given another seven years and much more thorough research I would return to Arnhem and vindicate my inner historian.  At this point all I could do was book into a tremendously expensive hotel across from the train station and wander aimlessly through a part of the city known as the Old Town.  I admired the Middle Age architecture without even realizing that most of it was reconstructed.  When the war came to Arnhem, it had been destroyed. Fact is, Arnhem was never liberated in the traditional sense. The fighting over the ten day engagement between British Paras and SS Panzer Grenadiers had so completely ruined the town it had to be evacuated, civilians not permitted to return until after the war was over.  It was a Sunday, and the whole place seemed asleep.  The next few days would be relaxing for me, giving respite for the frenzy that was Amsterdam, but not taking true advantage of the opportunity to fully experience Arnhem.

My hotel was far too expensive to stay on at.  One night had cost me near to what one week at the Brinker would have.  On the plus side, I had my privacy which was to be highly sought after following the communal living I'd just been through.  Though, the room was tiny, more like a berth on board a ship than a proper hotel.  I found Arnhem's VVV the next day and asked them to find me something cheaper.  I got a room at the Sports Hotel, part of an athletic complex well outside the centre of town.  After a failed attempt to rent a car, in that the salesman doubted my ability to drive a standard transmission (he was right, by the way), I got a taxi to take me out three and essentially isolated for  two days.  It was refreshing to be on my own, even for that short time, but living in single rooms wasn't something I could do perpetually.  A quiet few days behind me and I was ready to attempt Amsterdam again.  I would have an even wilder and unimaginable time out of this return, experiences that would pale what I'd seen and done so far, and then I would have to face a hard reality. 

I was running out of money. 

I'd arrived in Holland with a fair bit of cash on hand, and had a reserve in my bank account that I had begun to draw against, as well as cash advances on my credit card.  I wasn't keeping track of the money as I got it and had no way of determining how much remained.  Going to the bank machine began to feel like playing the slots, never knowing what the payout would be.  Only a matter of time separated me from carefree traveler to penniless foreigner, but as long as that machine spit bills at me during my morning withdrawals, reality was always something best put off until tomorrow.  I suppose I was ignoring the harsh truth that I would run out of tomorrows, and I hadn't even imagined how I would cope.

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