The alarm clock I set for 7:00 am buzzed, I rolled over on the bed of my hotel room and looked at the clock.
It was 11:00 am and I knew there was no way on earth I was going to make my 11:45 am flight. I was staying at a hotel in Amsterdam and Schipol airport is about a 15 to 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal, the train station that you depart from to get to Schipol.
Feeling disappointed that I had missed my fight, I decided to head to the airport anyway to try to secure another flight back to Los Angeles.
I like to book budget airlines and spend money I would otherwise have spent on a flight on things to do in the city itself.
My flight for the trip was booked with WOW air and to my dismay on arrival at the airport, I found out they didn’t have a customer service desk.
Instead, I had to call a customer service number or go online where I had to book a one-way flight to L.A.
Unsurprisingly, my last minute one-way ticket to Los Angeles cost a lot more than my original return flight between Amsterdam and Los Angeles.
Still, in anguish from the extra unbudgeted cost of my flight back home, I wondered what to do. Amsterdam is not exactly a friendly place in January as the weather and its inhabitants are irritatingly cold so I decided instead to head to a new city I had never been in the Netherlands.
Most of my previous trips in the Netherlands were to cities in the north — mostly Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam. I went over to the train ticket counter and booked an intercity train to Eindhoven.
While on the train I booked a hotel room in the Stadhuis area of Eindhoven after referring to some blogs.
As usual, I did not really know what to expect. From what I read about Eindhoven, it was inferred as the Netherland’s most violent city by Dutch standards (which means its probably very safe at least compared to the urban jungle known as Los Angeles) and fifth in size population wise.
It also has a sizeable student population so I thought to myself. Eindhoven should produce a decent enough experience to hold me over until I catch my flight back to L.A.
On arrival in Eindhoven, I immediately noticed something bizarre about the way people were dressed. Everyone in the city, all the way from the train station were dressed in very elaborate costumes.
I wondered what in the world was going on because In the states, we have to wait till Halloween in October to don costumes en masse and since it was still early on in the year, I wondered what the Dutchmen in Eindhoven were celebrating.
On arrival at my hotel, I went to the hotel desk where the receptionist exclaimed in perfect English; You came to Eindhoven at the right time!!!!!
We are celebrating Carnaval. Perplexed, I inquired what Carnaval was and she said Carnaval was a yearly event held mostly in the southern region of the Netherlands that celebrates role reversal and the suspension of social norms.
The thought of the already festive Dutchies suspending social norms made my imagination go wild as I rushed to check in so I could join the festivities. I went to a store and bought the most outrageous outfit I could find and headed into the crowd.
It was 11 am and the streets that run through Stadhuis were jam-packed with people spilling out of every single bar on the strip. There was also a parade with floating figures sifting through the crowd as they jeered in a heightened sense of exuberance.
The music emanating from the bar ranged anywhere from Dutch folk music to hip-hop and EDM. It was a sight to behold for sure and after a couple of hours I was spent and decided to return to my hotel for a nap.
At 9 pm I woke up and looked out the window of my hotel and alas the crowds had multiplied in number. The crowd during the day seemed to be older but the crowd at night turned out to be geared towards the younger crowds probably supplied by the many universities in the area.
I headed back out again and it occurred to me that for the first time in a long time I felt like I was short. While the majority of people at the festival were under six feet tall a fair share of the crowd was freakishly tall.
To be honest, I had never seen so many tall people gathered in one place. It is not news that the Dutch are some of the tallest people in Europe and maybe the world on average, this, in itself only added to the spectacle of people in outrageous costumes sipping insane amounts of liquor and staggering around the streets.
I would spend two more days at Carnaval before heading back to Schipol to catch my flight back home and things only got crazier on Friday and Saturday. The Dutch are by far some of the most festive people I am yet to come across in western Europe and it is always a delight to be able to partake in their time-honored festivities. Till the next time…….Stay partytrailing.