Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vomit defines the night train

Last night I rode the night train home from a party in the Hague, and per normal for the night train, I really wish I hadn't.

After midnight, regular train service through the country drops off to an hourly train between Rotterdam, Den Haag (the Hague), Amsterdam, and Utrecht. I had planned to leave the party in time to catch the normal train service, but knew the night train was there if needed. So when 2:30am rolled around and I decided to leave, I thought I had a smooth way home and wasn't at all expecting a 5 hour trip or multi-train marathon.

A bit like the Knight Bus from Harry Potter, the night train has some logic defying properties. For example, because the train leaves once an hour you would expect to need to leave an average of 30 minutes in your plans for waiting. But mysteriously it always ends up that I arrive at the station with 55 minutes to wait for the next train. Always. And last night was true to form.

Also odd, it seems the NS (Dutch rail service) insists that vomit be a part of the night train experience. Perhaps it's a lack of cleaning staff at night? Perhaps its the Dutch themselves who insist on this little decorating detail? One way or another, I've never taken the night train without encountering the evidence of some body's alcohol consumption. I ride the NS nearly every day. No normal train at 6am or 12am has ever had this problem... but the night trains at 1am and 5am seem to use vomit to proclaim "you are now on the night train."

And last night I learned that not all the trains even have conductors. I figured this out because there wasn't a station announcement when we pulled into Amsterdam. From within the brightly lit train I had to put my face to the glass to peer out to the dimly lit station. I was shocked when I realized where we were and went running to the doors just in time to watch us pull away.

Utrecht was a further 35 minute trip. I arrived after the last night train the other way had already left so had to wait an hour (again) for the first trains on Saturday to start. The stop train (named for what it does so frequently) took 50 minutes to get back to Amsterdam, around 7:15am.

In the end, it's a wonderful thing to have such a large part of the country tied together with 24-hour train service. Taxis over such distances are too expensive. And since no other trains are running, the night train service is extremely reliable. Unfortunately many of the reliable aspects include the smell and the mind numbing waits at crazy hours. If you're ever visiting Holland may I recommend to you, check the train schedules carefully and do your best to avoid the night train.


J. D. said...

I would do anything to avoid THAT situation! I hope it was a good party:-).....Mom

Minka said...

wow...I agree with JD...I hope the party was worth it :) I ratehr had an interesting run-in with the late-evening trains in Holland. They all of a sudden stop and don't cross the German border and there you are...forsaken at a train station. I had ice-cream with an umbrella while there :)

I Dive At Night said...

What kind of lousey tour guide would allowed such things?!?!

Oh wait, that was Eindhoven, I wasn't guiding. Uhm, ooops.