Luchthaven Schiphol aka: Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, AMS
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My first time in Schiphol was in July 2000. I was 22 years old, and it was my first time traveling abroad. My pen pal Volker in Berlin, who was the same age as me, had invited me to spend a couple of weeks with him as he had just gotten his first apartment of his own. Since, I myself had been working in my first real job out of university, for the first time I actually had money to travel so I was excited at the opportunity to see another part of the world and to finally meet someone whom I had only known through letters the previous five years.
The best price I was able to find for a flight out of LAX to go to Berlin was on Martinair Holland to Amsterdam with a connecting flight on KLM to Berlin with an hour layover in between. It was my first time traveling so I didn’t realize then how foolish it was to leave such a short time between connecting flights. I started getting nervous in LA because the flight was delayed about half an hour before takeoff. Plus, I didn’t realize that I would have to go through customs in Amsterdam and recheck my luggage before going on to Berlin.
When I did arrive in Amsterdam, I though I might have just enough time to catch my connecting flight. The line through customs moved more quickly than I had expected. I had never been through customs before. The lady at the desk, who spoke English (I was worried about having language difficulty), just asked me what the purpose of my trip was and then stamped my passport with its first stamp. It seemed too easy. I proceeded to the baggage claim area where I realized there was no way I was going to make my connecting flight since it took forever before my bag finally came out. While waiting, I heard an announcement requesting that the passenger from Los Angeles report back to customs. “Which passenger?” I wondered to myself briefly. I may not have been paying full attention to the message since I was worried about rebooking my flight to Berlin and what Volker, who was supposed to pick me at the airport in Berlin, would think when I didn’t arrive on the flight I told him I’d be on. Since we never met before, I wondered if he’d think that I just stood him up.
After I got my bag, I went to the KLM desk and booked the next available flight, which would leave in a little over an hour, and rechecked my luggage. There were KLM flights from Amsterdam to Berlin every two hours. The ticketing agent didn’t even ask to see my ID or anything when I was checking in, which kind of surprised me. I felt relieved and thought the next thing I would do is try to call Volker, whom I had never called before, at the number he had given me and let him know I would be late. I also checked that I had all my documentation in order, including my passport. Suddenly, I was overcome with panic. I couldn’t find my passport anywhere!
What do you do when you lose your passport? The first thing I did was go to one of the information desks in the airport. When I asked the woman behind one of these desks if she spoke English she seemed almost offended. At that time I didn’t realize just how widely spoken English was in Europe and that the Dutch in particular pride themselves on their linguistic abilities. In any event, she told me that losing my passport was a very serious thing and that I needed to report it to the police. She told me where the airport police station was.
I was beginning to panic that I would be stuck in the Netherlands or have to pay a huge amount of money resolving my passport issue. It seemed like my trip was ruined before it even really started. I was a grown adult, but I still felt like a helpless teenager. When I got to the police station, there were two young officers behind the desk. One was a handsome young guy who looked typically Dutch and the other was a black guy who didn’t speak English as well as the other. I didn’t appreciate the ethnic diversity of the Netherlands at that time. I told the officers I had lost my passport. They asked me when and where, and I said I wasn’t sure but I thought it was probably when I was coming out of customs. Next they asked me my name and where I was from, and I told them. Then, much to my amazement, they pulled out my passport and returned it to me. I couldn’t believe that someone actually had the decency to turn it in. The white officer told me that I was an extremely lucky guy because US passports are very valuable on the black market and warned me to be extra careful with it and to try not to lose it again. I said for sure I would be guarding it with my life. I felt as if I could have kissed him, that’s how relieved and grateful I was.
The rest of the time I spent in Schiphol before my flight to Berlin was pretty uneventful. I couldn’t figure out how to use the pay phone in the airport to make a call to Germany and let Volker know I was going to be late, and I was too shy to ask anyone how to. Fortunately, when I got to Berlin Volker was there. He was surprised and a little nervous when I wasn’t on the original flight, but the KLM agent, who wasn’t allowed to divulge information about passengers, implied to him that I would be on the next flight in…over 5 years ago
it’s just such a clean airport. the signs are clear where to exit and the nicest of all – the suitcase karts are free! I’m used to having to pay a dollar for a kart. A very spacious airport with plenty of people all around to help. I had to buy a metro ticket – you can buy one from the yellow booths but you can’t use cash there – just a tip. Also, if you’re not so sure, it’s just best to talk to one of the people at the counter. Something I didn’t know until I got lost and it was too late: they call the subway the “metro” =)over 6 years ago
Partially due to how I arrived. Most places I’m used to arriving outside, schlepping through somehow with my luggage, the usual. Here, the train stopped at an underground locale. I stepped up, went up an escalator and I was in the airport. Now that’s what I call truly intelligent design. I’ll doubtless return again at some point; will be nice to see what it’s all like then.over 6 years ago
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