Posted by: patriciamar | October 12, 2009

Vlissingen

Eating fries and fish and watching boats.

This is what life on the coast is all about here.  Yesterday, after returning from Dusseldorf on my last day of Eurail pass, I decided to make the most of it and take a little day trip while Matt was at class.  I dropped Matt off in Leiden (it was a joint rail pass, so I actually did have to escort him.)  I stopped quickly at the Super de Boer for croissants, cherry tomatoes, and a mini bottle of J.P. Cheney, and walked directly onto a train to Vlissingen.  This timing was actually pretty lucky, since a direct train to this particular city on the southwest coast of the Netherlands leaves only once per hour.

I spent the two hours and five minutes eating croissants and cherry tomatoes, writing, reading Harry Potter, and looking out at the Dutch countryside.  It was so nice to look out at the flat land, protected by the usual layer of clouds, and sit comfortably in a t-shirt and jeans.

Partway through the trip, a NS Rail ticket checker came to check my ticket.  I embarrassed myself slightly, looking up at some point and seeing him standing there staring at me… waiting.  Goede boek? he asked.  Ya, I said sheepishly… I am still not quite sure how long he was standing there before I realized it.

He then examined my ticket, and appeared quite concerned.  Where are you going? he asked, almost as to say… Do you really know where you are going?  You’re almost to the end of the line on a peninsula, and the next train back won’t be for a while.

Vlissingen, I responded.  The correct answer, of course.  And he left, probably pondering what such an odd person was doing taking a train to the other limits of the Netherlands by herself on a cloudy and cool Tuesday.

Eventually, we pulled into the station – literally at the ocean.  Thanks to the Dutch’s amazing water management and engineering, the train station can be practically surrounded by water on three sides and be in absolutely no danger of flooding.

Knowing I had to be back in Leiden to meet Matt and take him home sometime around 8:30, I checked the train schedule and found that I had 50 minutes to wandel (wander) the area and explore.  I soon found what I was looking for (the route out to the point) and headed over a set of two locks.  The set-up and organization was amazing, with two sets of walkways over each lock, both for pedestrians and bikers, manned with stoplights so that citizens would never be hindered by having to stop and wait, and would never be confused by which direction to go.

Once I passed over the locks, I headed past what appeared to be an Ocean Police Station, complete with a giant police boat, and headed into the tiny café before the long breaker and pier.  I picked up some calamari and a Spa rod (fried squid and bubbly water) and walked out to the point.  There were some young guys fishing, and I was greeted by a friendly young Dutchman heading home for the day with his catch.  It was a fairly odd sight- a man with a long simple pole and a few fish, speaking thick Dutch, and wearing an old Marilyn Manson t-shirt.

After about a half hour of staring out at the ocean and watching the huge barges pass by, I figured I’d better head back to the train station so I didn’t miss my train.  Although I was in Vlissingen for less than an hour, it was well worth the long train ride.  There’s something to say for these points in the world where you can sit and look at 350 degrees of ocean around you.  It kind of makes you forget the population density in the cities just a few hours away.  The Dutch always say, when you live in a place with so many people living so close together, when you get away, you really get away.  To the coast, to a peninsula, to an island you can only walk to in low tide, to the Norwegian fjords, or to the Scottish hills; you just find a place with no one, to survive sharing your space with everyone.

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