• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 23, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    Going Dutch

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Bless me Blogosphere, for I have sinned. It is far too long since my last post here. I beg your indulgence on the grounds of having moved house in recent weeks, as well as carrying out assignments in China, covering the Taoiseach’s trip there, and in one or two other places.

    Politics is important but sometimes things happen that put it all in perspective and underline the fragility of life.

    For example: my trip to China involved a fairly lengthy stopover while waiting to change planes in Amsterdam. I had been in Schiphol Airport many times before, but never took the opportunity to take a side-trip to the city of the canals.

    This would be my first time actually to see the place and the train-journey turned out to be only 20 minutes.

    Amsterdam is a lovely city but the train-station is not too user-friendly or at least tourist-friendly. On arrival, after much to-ing and fro-ing, I discovered that the house of Anne Frank was only ten minutes away by tram.

    The home of that wonderful, tragic young scribe is beautifully located by a canal – of course! – and, with the sun shining, one reflected that she must have had some good days amid all those sad ones.

    The building is covered with protective glass – presumably because of visitors chipping bits off it as a souvenir. There was a long queue to get in and unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait: hopefully next time.

    A beautiful statue in her honour is located nearby. A quick calculation showed she would be 83 if she had lived. But her memory will never die.

    Back again to the station where I found it very difficult to ascertain when the next train to the airport would be leaving. There was a timetable displayed but when I went to take one of the trains,  I wasn’t allowed to board because I hadn’t got the right ticket – or something.

    My basic point is that, even for a seasoned traveller such as yours truly, it was a fairly challenging experience just  to find a train to the airport and it involved having to queue up for information, which shouldn’t be the case with something so basic. Call me stupid if you like, but I don’t think my modest IQ was the entire cause of my problems that day.

    Given the general sense of  comparative disorganisation, I was not entirely surprised, although very much saddened, to hear of the recent train-crash which left 13 persons in a critical condition.

    It shook me, though, to think that I could have been in one of the carriages and maybe ended up with serious injuries as my manly (!) frame was thrown around in mid-air. I don’t recall any safety-belts on the trains to and from the airport.

    One always thinks of the Dutch as being impeccably-organised - something like the Germans – and of course the Government here is intent on bringing-in a Dutch-style health system to replace the much-criticised HSE. But the confusion experienced during my admittedly-brief visit suggests that the Dutch reputation for efficiency may be exaggerated.

    • JOD says:

      And to think most of Amsterdam’s stoner-tourists can make it back to the airport no bother but not a seasoned journalist. Must be something in those legalisation arguments.

    • JOD says:

      Amsterdam’s one of my favourite towns too. Gorgeous restaurants and views especially in winter and the museums..beautiful. When you look at Anne Frank’s house it’s hard to imagine such bestiality was let loose in such a beautiful city (and the Dutch were neutral back then too).

      Glad to read nobody killed in the train crash. Long wondered how it is that on other fastmoving forms of transport planes automobiles but not trains human beings have to be secured in their seats. Wondered aloud on these blogs long time ago the same when schoolbuses didn’t have seatbelts why they didn’t and did people not see the danger. Got told too expensive/technically difficult etc. by other posters on the breaking news poll until one tragic day some schoolgirls were killed in NAvan when their bus crashed and them unsecured in the seats were thrown out of and around in the bus God help us and it seemed thereafter the matter of seatbelts on schoolbuses quickly became academic because there were. Anyway your train link on your blog seems to miss the connection too I think this is the one it should lead to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/22/amsterdam-train-crash-dozens-injured I wonder did you ever eat in the restaurant in the Marriot there just off Damrak across the bridge from the train station it’s a long-established place I recall been incorporated in the hotel can’t remember the name but was a great place when I used go to the ‘Dam. They should really fit seatbelts to trains and make people wear them most of those injuries on Saturday would doubtless not have occurred were they so fitted.

    • Stephanie Kiely says:

      Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa , your back. You made me smile for the first time since Easter Sunday. I also was a seasoned traveller but that came to an end in 2008. I have never been to Anne Frank’s home and it is something I have always wanted to do. I am very interested in the history of that time although it is devastating to realize ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ which had been the norm in most of Europe for many years. The belief that ‘Might was right’ was a reality for the struggling people, mainly Jews throughout Europe. I have read many books on the history of that time and would, (I think) visit the many camps. I think however, it would be harrowing to say the least.
      God bless all those and their family’s who were on the train which crashed. Thank God you were not on that train.
      Must read the rest of your writings before bed. So, If I have night- mares, it is your fault. Perhaps I will stick to Vincent Browne instead! Regards, Steph.

    • JOD says:

      Also the Anne Frank link better reached here:http://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-franks-history/

    • JOD says:

      Restaurant Vermeer. Fantastic whitebait lovely old Dutch atmosphere. Apparently the hotel its incorporated in is now called the Brabizon. Thought it was a Marriott or Crowne Plaza last time was there very good hotel it was. Life on the road so long one gets confused. Especially in Amsterdam.

    • barber.a says:

      Welcome back Deaglán but just to point out, the Blogosphere cannot give you absolution..!

      @ 1 – hilarious……been there done that……got sense…….. anyhow, driving round the place, first time, the difference between Brussels and Amsterdam hits you heavy………like going from the Gothic mansion on the hill in Edward Scissorhands to fairy-tale pastel shady suburbia……at any rate the only good thing really in Dutch Land imo is the bicycles……that whole system is based on normalizing evil

    • jaygee says:

      Welcome back Deaglan.

    • Scarecrows of the Stipe says:

      @ 1 JOD

      Quality ! :)

    • KLH says:

      Ha. Next time folks are in Dublin Airport, try walking downstairs to find a train to anywhere in the country, like you can from Schipol. Or next time you’re in a train station (anywhere in Ireland), try finding an information officer who can speak any language other than their native one. And not being able to find a train to Schipol from Amsterdam Centraal? Seriously?

      Dutch politics is in disarray because they have too many political parties, and their rainbow coalitions do lead to unstable government, but trains? Irish rail (network and quality of stations and rolling stock) has been in decline for the past 30 years, while the Dutch have been upgrading theirs. As someone who has used both rail systems a fair bit, I know which one I’d opt for every time (although, admittedly, it’s hard to get a train from Schipol to Woodlawn).


    • @9: I did find a train to Schiphol but they wouldn’t let me on because I didn’t have the right ticket, apparently. I then queued up and found out about trains that would let me on!
      I just felt there was an air of confusion about the whole place and I saw little or no signage in English to guide me. Surprising in view of the fact that, as you point out, so many Dutch people speak excellent English.
      I mentioned that I didn’t see any seatbelts on the train. If there had been, all those people would not have been injured so badly.
      A train-crash should be a highly-avoidable occurrence.
      There is no train service from Dublin Airport but the bus-service to the city is very good. The general atmosphere in the place is also quite calm.

    • Scarecrows of the Stipe says:

      @ 9 “As someone who has used both rail systems a fair bit ”

      Same here as I used to live in Den Haag. I totally agree . Irish Rail are a joke compared to Nederlandse Spoorwegen

    • barb.ie says:

      moving house D de B……..wondering was it a smooth transfer………or would you go about it differently next time….any hints anyway best way to go about it……..must be terrible to be evicted, at any rate…

    • @12 Not evicted, Barb: totally voluntary. Try further south in Dublin for eviction drama.

    • KLH says:

      Fair enough, if that was your impression. I’ve never found it confusing.

      A bit much to expect signage in English though. The tops in European train travel is Germany and Switzerland, and you won’t find much English signage there, either. Neither will you find many seat belts.

      As for the crash, I didn’t comment on it, as I see it as wholly unrelated, and linking the perception of the station to the incident seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. The crash was obviously a major failure of the system. But I doubt that, when the investigators issue their report, they’ll ascribe much blame to a lack of English signage or seat belts, or an air of confusion perceived by some travellers at Central Station. I’m not here as a member of the Dutch Defence League, but just pointing out that these things happen, and linking them to a general view on the efficiency or otherwise of the country is a bit mad. As mentioned, the Germans and the Swiss have the best trains in Europe, and neither of those is immune to train accidents. Three were killed in Germany just last week, in one incident alone.

    • JOD says:

      Surprised it didn’t make the property pages top headline:

    • barb.ie says:

      @ 13 Deaglán…….I know you know I was deliberately linking two disparate things…just to be kind of topical….hope you enjoy your new home……..i’ve moved house that many times I don’t know where I am when I wake up sometimes !

      @ 15 — move over Tony O’R and Denis O’B !! JOD to take over Independent News & Media……….be brilliant..!
      (Spilt me coffee laughing…..thanks)

      Anyway we better all start talking about this fiskalpakt soon…..

    • JOD says:

      Pardon. ”..property page..”.

    • @14: With respect, I don’t think you would be so blasé if you had been on a train yourself in that location in the recent past. I am not overplaying the link between the confusion I sensed at the station and the subsequent train-crash, other than to say that confusion may be the common denominator.

    • Sean de Paor says:

      To draw comparisons between your inability to navigate a perfectly organised train station, and a train crash which left over a hundred people injured and one lady dead, is really quite ridiculous and bordering on insulting to be perfectly honest. As some previous commentator mentioned, our own transport system is far from perfect, and where in the world have you ever seen seatbelts on city trains? In any case, to draw conclusions on a nation’s efficiency based on a short stop-over, is not only absurd, but really rather ignorant. Hopefully your next blog entry will make more sense, a Dheagláin.

    • @19: Where do you get the idea that the station was “perfectly organised”? That was definitely not my experience and I don’t think it is too much to suggest there might be a culture of less-than-perfect organisation which was also reflected in the the train-crash. Just as a culture of lax security contributed to the 9/11 tragedy. I note your tone: “ridiculous … insulting … absurd … ignorant”. The word that occurs to me in response is: “arrogant”.

    • berao says:

      @19 S de Paor — Oh, I’m absolutely inclined to agree with Deaglán on this one. Deaglán is a seasoned traveller and has a long record re “sizing up” the political situation in diverse corners of the world. This kind of experience helps to develop a sixth sense and imo, if Deaglán correlates the confusion he felt at the train station @ Amsterdam and the recent tragic crash in that country then I’d be inclined to at least wonder about flaws that are developing in what had heretofore appeared to be a super efficient system………….personally, I have noticed an acceleration in driver’s aggression in recent times……not least bus drivers in our own capital city………lunatics…..and an increase in pedestrians getting knocked down……..

    • For the record: I travelled to and from China in economy class and the trip was paid for by my employer; It was not a ‘junket’ but a work-assignment and a demanding one at that, involving two all-night journeys and a heavy workload. Most of the Taoiseach’s entourage seemed to be in economy-class too, which is a change from the Celtic Tiger days for them.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Seems a bit of a waste of money (the IT’s and the taxpayers) if you ask me as I’m sure whatever PA resources are on the ground in China could have reported as accurately. I’m not sure why the IT had to incur costs which I find it hard to believe are not passed onto the taxpayer in some way however indirectly.

      I’m glad to know ‘most’ of the Taoiseach’s entourage were in economy as I would imagine it was embassy staff who did most of the heavy lifting and who are the ones who needed to be fresh as a daisy. The others were most likely there for the ride and to make sure Enda wasn’t asked anything too technical.

      I suppose moving house and the junket have you tired and that’s why you’re so ratty.

    • barbera says:

      As an Irish Roman Catholic, It galls me………those two snakes, Snake 1 Enda and Snake 2 Gilmore, snaking off to China bearing gifts for, and spouting plámás at, their new VBF (mar dhea) the Communist Party of China…….meanwhile that pair of vipers have stood over the closing of Ireland’s historic embassy to the Holy See at Rome.
      Begone you fork-tongued hypocrites whose ancestors hid under rocks while St Patrick was banishing the snakes from Ireland………

Search Politics