Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trip to Europe 2010



I was invited by old friends to their wedding, that toke me away in the last week of Ramadan to Holland, second visit to Europe, and it is again to Holland, first time was in 2003, when I have been chosen as best journalist in a workshop held in Al-Ahram Regional Institute for Journalism, the workshop was funded by the Dutch embassy in Cairo and they invited me and another colleague to Holland, in 2003 trip I've met my former professor, Nasr Hamed Abo Zied and interviewed him.

In 2010 trip it was a wedding that I decided to compine with a summer vacation, I flew to Amsterdam through Bucharest, because the Romanian Airline Tarom gave me the best price for the ticket.
From Amsterdam's Schiphol airport I toke the train to Rotterdam for 11 Euro, I found my host Jannet waiting for me in Rotterdam Central Station, then she bought my ticket to Rotterdam Blaak where she lives, we arrived to her wonderful apartment that overlook a market, we toke a short rest and we headed to the lunch at the groom beautiful apartment overlook Maas river in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam is a city where 600,000 people live, only 313,765 of them Dutch and more than 150,000 Moroccans and Turkish people, even the Mayor of Rotterdam is originally from Morocco, his name is Ahemd Aboutaleb.

The wedding was amazing, I should write a post about it, and it would probably titled, Marriage Dutch way - and my vacation,which was included trips to Amsterdam & Brussels, was fantastic, I did somethings I've never did, like entering hash shop in Rotterdam - oh, no not for smoking but for taking pix- after the guard insisted to see my ID to make sure that I'm over 18 years old - BIG SMIL IN MY FACE NOW - I traveled from Holland to Belgium by train,that costs my 37 Euros. Brussels toke my heart out from the first sight but then again, it didn't toppled San Francisco in USA, or Wakra in Qatar as places I wish to live and work there.
It has an ancient beauty, and it is sort of one-day-enough-to-visit place.

I wasn't fasting in the day of traveling, which lucky the day of wedding, but I did fast while traveling in Amsterdam and Brussels, because I although knew that travelers are premised not to fast, but since it was for-fun-travel, I wasn't sure if I could not be fasting or not.

However, once I arrived at Brussels central station, the smell of coffee, chocolate and pastries was beyond imagination, so this conversation toke place in my mind:

Sabah 1: come one .. eat, you ARE traveling !
Sabah 2: NOP, 1-It IS Ramadan. 2- you are NOT sure if you could not fast while traveling for fun or not.3- NO food for you until it's sunset ( PERIOD)
Sabah 1 ( with a sad face) : OK !!

I spent the day in Brussels walking, hanging around, taking pix, I ride a public bus, I always do take public transportations in new cities to see how real people live, it is wonderful quite place.

Last train that could take me back to Rotterdam was at 9:22 pm, Iftar time was 8:15, so I got a chance to enjoy Belgium French Fries, which is called in Belgium "frites". Brussels is really expensive place the medium frites costed me 2:50 Euro - too much - and Cheese cake costed me 3:50 Euro ( OMG).

The most wonderful part of my whole trip to Holland and Belgium was people:

1- My host and new friend Jannet, wonderful Dutch women, devoted Christian, mother of two, who agreed to walk with me down streets of Rotterdam till 2:00 am in my traveling day, just 12 hours before my flight take off to Cairo, she showed me the Famous departure spot where millions of immigrants left Europe in mid 1960 to the USA, in addition to other two walks in the Rotterdam, ah, forgot to say Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe,

2- Lannert: Jannet's son, who, in his early early 20s, works as a network administrator, studies and swims, I'm too short comparing to him, but my dream to have a son tall, smart, and nice to others like him.

3-The sales person in the store in the Brussels central station who - noticing me eating and running to the train because it was Iftar time - offered me dates and insist to give me more and more. ( nothing more amazing than random acts of kindness)

4- The mid twenty newly-wed Saudi couple I met in the platform in the Brussels Station heading back to Rotterdam, I love med-class Saudis so much, they are kind hearted people, I showed them my photos in my laptop, and shared with them my dates - they were visiting relative in Dan Hagh, Holland and having a honey moon in Europe, and they - just like me - traveled in one day trip to Brussels, the Bride works as a teacher and the groom has another job, the problem is their jobs are in different two cities in Saudi Arabia with one hour flight distance, and to get the bride move to her original city where her home, her family and her husband, something needs some connections.

5 - My new friend from England Peter, who I met in the wedding,, Peter lives in UK and doing charity work in Eastern Europe, he lives in the birthplace village of Shakespeare ( I still need to email him back, will do it after I finish this)

6 - The Dutch Train attendant, who was so nice lady, when the Saudi couple didn't find their tickets for a while, she was nicely telling them, " take your time, I will be back"!
That made me think "Why my stereotype about traveling in Europe by train will include a tough arrogant attendants who will snoopy asking my passport to check if I have a visa or not ?" I think Dutch people really are nice - of course some of them are not - but all - I mean all - Dutch people I met are really sweet.

One more thing about the train attendant, when she entered our cabinet where me, the Saudi couple and  Korean young lady studying architecture in UK were setting, the scene was like that:

The attendant: What do you smell ?
Me ( confused ): I don't know !!
The Saudi young man, and the attendant in the same breath: Hash !!!
The attendant: Yes, Somebody smokes hash !!

I though she is accusing us of smoking Hash !! but she wasn't, she was approving the point that there is someone in the train smoking hash, and she was making fun in a second saying " oh, I'm getting high:)
The hash smoker was another man from UK in the next cabinet, the police came and asked him to leave the train.

Jannet invited me for ice cream from the most famous ice cream shop in Rotterdam, I will ask her the name is case somebody decided to go to Rotterdam to eat ice cream :)

I didn't spent much time with my friends who got married Klaska and Koen, of course, it was their time to spend time with each other not with their friends, but I will try to convince them to come over to Cairo, to hang out in the Old Land of Pharose, but I'm so grateful for them to share their happiness with me.

I have a Japanese friend, Kiko, my tour guide in Japan, who got me to promise her to invite her over to Cairo if I got married, I don't know if this is one more reason for not to get married - yap, ticket would cost over $ 11,000 - or I just can't find the tall enough man to give me Lannert's height son, or it's just so much fun to stay independent and keep flaying ?

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