Amsterdam: a tale of high winds and fear of flying

John van Weelden @john_w

John van Weelden @john_w

The storm has been raging for two days; the autumn leaves that had been lying on the ground like damp confetti are now in flight. They blow around, violent swirling micro-tornadoes.

We have been sitting out the storm in a large trendy Amsterdam bar; we have comfortable window seats, so we sit, drink, smoke, and watch the unrelenting rain and debris blow about in the wind outside. We are not alone; the bar is full of other storm refugees, some are worried travellers like ourselves, others are well-dressed locals. We all have one thing in common… no one wants to go outside!

Our flight back to the UK is not until the evening; we trade concerns about travel disruption, discus the possibility of having to spend another night in the city. Time passes, more beers are consumed, and daylight disappears…

Eventually, and with trepidation, we leave the security and warmth of the bar and walk towards Central Station. The famous trams of Amsterdam stand still and dormant; the electrical leads that fuel them have been damage by the storm. As we walk, we see people blown from their sturdy Dutch bikes; ambulances rushing to various scenes, ancient branches falling from trees and heavy lead roofing flapping in the wind. I stop briefly and find myself looking into a warmly lit bar, inside a businessman sits at a table, a waitress wearing nothing but the smallest of swimsuits serves him drinks, I pull the collar of my jacket up around my neck and walk on.

The Train station is in chaos, we read the hastily assembled information boards, no trains are running, there has been flooding on the tracks. Hundreds of rain soaked travellers unhappily roam around the large dimly lit building, it feels as if we are on a film-set of a 1940’s movie.

The public address system barks into life and crackles out information, we listen but we do not understand. Eventually there is some information in English; the speaker informs us that pickpockets are taking advantage of the situation and that all flights out of Schiphol Airport have been, until further notice, canceled.

We decide to travel to the airport via Taxi; we will sit out the storm in the warm dry comfort of the departure lounge. At the Taxi rank 150 other people have had the same idea, the queue is long, it stretches like a serpent. We decide not to queue. We walk back into the city… we have another plan!

Eventually we find what we are looking for. The hotel is large and expensive; we enter via automatic glass doors and speak with the person at the desk. We tell the overworked receptionist that we have just checked out and ask her to order us a cab. It works; she smiles, picks up the phone, and arranges a taxi to take us to the airport.

We travel along the Dutch motorway at high speed, gusts of wind batter our car, the road shines like black gloss paint. Nothing is said.

The airport resembles the train station, damp, chaotic, and busy. We check the display boards; most flights have been cancelled, unbelievably ours is displayed. I start to feel unwell.

‘Check in’ is quick and painless, it takes only a few minutes, we make our way to the departure lounge. The waiting area is clean and bright, I stand near a large window and peer through the polished glass at our aircraft. The plane is small… too small, it looks like it will hold no more than sixty passengers.

We board the aircraft on schedule; I locate my seat and buckle my seatbelt. I hear two stewards speaking, they discus the storm and how bad it has been. I wish they would stop talking.

The captain speaks to his silent audience, he tells us that “it might be a little bit bumpy, on the way up”, I hear a bout of nervous laughter from someone sitting behind. The plane taxies towards the runway, it moves into position and then the engines roar, we start to gather speed.

The aircraft shakes, my legs feel light, and then the wheels leave the ground.

I close my eyes.

Posted: by Leeroy.

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