Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hansel and Gretel

Now I know how poor Gretel felt in the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, for that is what happened to us today – we got lost. We were driving down to the town of Maatricht, to the south of Holland. We reached the town easily enough. It’s a very nice little place and very European – with many cobbled pavements, little bars and cafes with chairs on the pavement, a river running right through the city and many other such typical European features. To add to the authenticity, Maastricht is a contender for the title of being Holland’s oldest city.

We walked around the town centre and discovered that there was a shopping festival going on then. This put Navya and me into a state of great excitement but since it encited exactly the opposite reaction from Mihir, our next step was the Maastricht fort. What would have taken less than 30 mins took us a little less than 2 hour because, surprisingly, there were absolutely no directions to the fort and the route was so convoluted that the more than dozen people we asked inevitably got confused and mixed up their directions.

In fact, we took so many wrong turns and turned back and drove around in circles to such a great extent that I saw Mihir angry for the first time ever. To make things worse, by the time we actually reached the fort, it was closed. We then set out for the little German town of Aachen. We first took the wrong lane and after going quite a distance, had to turn back. We then missed a lane and had to go around in circles for a while. While I can understand how frustrating and annoying it must have been for Mihir, who was driving, the positive outcome was that we ended up driving a lot through the actual towns and villages instead of just the highways.

By the time we reached Aachen, its famous cathedral was closed. There was an opera about to start but it was too long and expensive for our taste. So we wandered around the little town. We seemed to run into an extraordinarily large number of mad men. We also encountered an equally extraordinary number of strange statues, none of which we could decipher. We finally wandered into a little chapel where a service was being conducted, completely in German – after a while, the entire congregation sang in German – it was so beautiful and so lovely – I think its an experience I’ll always remember.

We had dinner at a tiny pizzeria and when we walked back to the parking lot, were quite taken aback to see that the entrance was locked. While we debated over whether to spend the night at a youth hostel or by one of the many statues or a pub (Mihir’s suggestion, of course), we luckily discovered another gate to the parking lot.

We had an eventful drive back home – we were stopped by the police!! Since I checked lights, seatbelts, doors, windows, speed limits etc I knew we were in the right and it must have been some minor mistake – so I was more worried about the fine we had to pay than any other consequence. It turned out or lights were too bright – the police showed us how to dim them and let us off without any fine.

Just an observation: In keeping with their so called tradition of being very ‘open’, the Dutch have large windows and seldom close their curtains so all and sundry can know what’s going on inside the house. It also rains everyday in Holland though the outcome is some wonderful rainbows.

1 comment:

pm said...

Hey,
I got last week when I went to pick up my rental car from the airport. The return journey was supposed to be 12 miles and 20 minutes. Instead, I got lost, roamed around for 120 miles (that's 200 kms for God's sake) and almost 3 hours. I was very frustrated too, at the end of the journey.

The next day, I got lost again while going to the office, driving 1 hours instead of 20 minutes. Yesterday I was going to blockbuster to return some DVDs. I went to the place, couldn't find the shop. I was successful only at the third attempt.

Moral of the story: I am buying a GPS system very soon. :-)

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