Alban's Blog

Careless in Amsterdam

I booked the perfect train, not too early, not too late, only one change, and the best: incredibly cheap (49 Euros in first class from Amsterdam to Bremen). Only mistake: the ticket was only valid for these specific two trains stated on my ticket. This is why I jumped up from my delicious little breakfeast with friends from Chicago (Larry Kirkegaard, yes, related with the philosopher, an accoustician who succesfully re-invented the sound of the Royal Festival Hall in London and many others) at the Bagel&Beans place around the corner from my hotel in order to catch the perfect tram to my perfect train.20 Minutes before departure I arrived at Amsterdam Centraal, but I couldn’t find the train towards Germany at 10:58. I double-checked with my ticket, et voilá it wasn’t Centraal but Amsterdam Zuid, the station which was only 6 minutes away from my hotel. I dashed to the taxi stand, jumped into a cab and we raced the 7 km to the right station, 2 minutes before the train was supposed to depart. Happy End? Running with a suitcase and cello ain’t fun, I assure you, and it was quite a distance from the street corner to the platform, especially since I missed the escalator and ran two flights of stairs up with my heavy equipment.

The train was standing right in front of me when I appeared on the platform, and about 150 m to the left I still saw people boarding it. I quickly moved forward, tried to open the door – no chance. I ran to the next car, thinking that the first door was broken, again no luck. In the meanwhile the last people had entered the train and inspite me having had eye contact with the conductor and the train staff on the platform, the train started slowly moving away from me. Oh, you have no idea the fury I felt inside – it was more than that, it was the deepest feeling of loss and abandonment from my earliest childhood. To miss a train is one thing, but to be left behind, left out, it is sooo humiliating…. I had a rare outburst of anger when the train was passing me, through my suitcase on the floor and used not a very nice curse-word.

I know, I am making a bigger deal out of that than necessary, but I probably have to admit that this might be some garbage from my childhood I might want to have a look at. Whatever it was, I was nearly in tears because of this inflexible behaviour – not even the lady at the ticket office wanted to write onto my ticket that I was there in person, just seconds too late. My poor wife calmed me down over the phone and I finally used the 2 hours wait to finished reading my latest book, “Child in Time” by Ian McEwan – deeply moving book which made me forget my little travel mishaps.

Once on the train my believe in humanity was reinstated by a very understanding train conductor who believed and accepted my story and thus my ticket even though it was invalid for any other train than the missed one. He showed exactly the flexibility I was missng from his colleagues before – people being afraid of breaking rules, reminds me of some very sad times in Germany about 70 years ago…

My crazy September is almost over, after Mexico, the Philippines, benefit concertos, Amsterdam I just finished my first concert here in Bremen, a rather fresh and enjoyable Brahms Double with Baiba Skride and Markus Poschner. Baiba and me didn’t spend more than 30 min working on the two soloparts together, which was possible only because we felt this beautiful piece in a very similar way: not too Germanic, not too fat, not too muscular but with lots of tenderness, subtile nuances and (again the word of this blog) flexibility and spontaneity. And Markus led his orchestra in very much the same direction – can’t wait to hear the recording (Radio Bremen will send it Nov 19) and maybe get the shock of my life because there is no guarantee that I’ll find it boring and meaningless, never mind how meaningful I felt during the concert…. 🙂


  • Michael Chen

    I believe there is a book, if not a full out documentary , in these Blog entries/stories you
    are telling here. Remember to save and archive them all for later use!!! :))


  • Dave

    I once purchased a discount ticket between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. I boarded an 8:40 am train. When the conductor came to check my ticket, I was told that this particular ticket was only valid between 9 am and 3 pm and had to pay a 50 Euro fine for my mistake!

  • Alban

    Hi Michael,

    well, I feel I am neither interesting nor important enough to publish a book with my silly little write-ups here, but I am sure in a couple of decades it will be great fun to re-read some of these texts. You are right, I should archive them if only for my grand-childrens sake 🙂

    I am fully aware, Dave, that I got extremely lucky in having met a train conductor who didn’t charge me for a completely new ticket (this would have been his duty actually, but he was a “Mensch” and saw the whole picture, which is rare, but it happens!). Sorry for your 50 Euros!

  • David Nice

    I could tell you a long and possibly to others very boring story about rolling bleary-eyed off the Lufthansa flight from Chennai to Frankfurt, finding I’d left the onward boarding pass for my partner inside The Brothers Karamazov on the plane, discovering that someone must have swept through and chucked it out. Result – two hours of hell in FranzKafka airport, the two of us losing each other (no mobiles then), but worst – the cold inflexibility of the Lufthansa staff. I mean, a boarding pass is a piece of paper, right, and it’s all on the computer?

    But no, we missed three flights back to London and had to pay an extra 200 euros for replacement tickets.

    I’m afraid that experience did enlighten me as to a certain part of the German psyche.

  • Julia Nilsen

    Alban! Your entries are so entertaining and even enlightening, please write us another about new adventures!


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