13 May 2012
AMSTERDAM STATION AND KINGS OF THE ROAD
One of my best friends is polio handicapped and can't walk without crutches, That's why I started to look in public places if they are also equipped for people with mobility problems. Unfortunately I realize that lots of public places are not adapted at all for such kind of problems. I always complained about the main station in Brussels, but compared to the Amsterdam station, Brussels is a "paradise" for handicapped people !
The building itself is beautiful and tourists bombards it with their cameras. But that is only from outside. Inside I couldn't find an escalator, had to carry up my little suitcase a lot of steps to get to the platform, There were no seats there or only two benches of course occupied by young people or men. Pregnant women or elderly people stood there and waited for the train.
I saw a man in a wheelchair and wondered who had carried him up the stairs when I noticed a hidden lift, not very well indicated at all. In the station there was no official employee who could give you informations where the platforms were and even where you could buy your tickets. Fortunately I had ordered mine via internet and printed out. After miles of walking around in the huge station hall, without finding somebody, I finally found an information desk ! There, a woman told me that my platform was n° 15b, which I knew from the information signboard, so I asked her where this platform was and she pointed behind her and said, it's there at the exit ! I asked if it was on the left or right side, because it was "b" and she looked at me as if I were handicapped, but mentally.
Finally I found the very well hidden platform, carried up my bag, stand there and waited that I took roots when finally the train arrived. And then nobody told you "mind the gap" as in the UK, and there was a big gap between the platform and the train steps. Big enough to fall in together with your suitcase. Fortunately I had no problems but some elderly people did and the man with the wheelchair were helped by two young men. Again nobody from the Station service was around.
Finally I found this compartment with red plush seats, which looked a little old fashioned but rather cosy and when the ticket controller came by, he told us that this train was almost 40 years old and we were sitting in the first class which now had become the second class. We all laughed ! It reminded me a little of the movie "The orient Express". At least the platform in Brussels was higher and there also were escalators and lifts for the handicapped or elderly people. I was a little surprised that with all the tourists who come to Amsterdam the station is so badly served. I saw works going on building extensions, but they could also do something to modernize the inside for people with reduced mobility.
Besides the old fashioned station, I noticed that
the kings of the road are incontestable the cyclists ! For them everything is there, special riding spaces on the streets, parkings "en masse" and they are all convinced to have absolutely priority and ride everywhere even on the sidewalks.
You don't risk to be overrun by a car, but by cyclists who are turning around you coming from all directions. The only thing you can do is jump aside when you hear a bell ringing. Poor tourists who are not used to that like me were jumping around not to be hit by a cyclist. They just don't pay attention and are quiet rude !
The police cool and relaxed had a little street chat, while the tourists did their safety dancing to avoid the cyclists.