Tulips at the Amsterdam flower market

Oh the tulips at the Amsterdam flower market

Last year, E and I visited the city of Amsterdam primarily because I had never stepped outside the airport after 10+ years of flying through it. And it was great. Amsterdam is a fabulous city and a real European treat. I only wish I could say the same for its airport.

There have been many memorable visits to Schiphol…I don’t think I’ve ever felt traveling anxiety the way I’ve felt it at AMS. It’s hard to distill, but here are the top three recollections.

  1. Amsterdam architecture

    Amsterdam architecture – the hooks are used to move large pieces of furniture.

    The time I ran the entire length of the airport. I really need to write a post about my trip home from studying abroad (yes, the same trip where #3 on this list happened), but for the sake of this discussion, I’ll just recap the very quick portion spent at Schiphol. Traveling home with my dad from Paris, our first connection was at Amsterdam. Naturally, we were late getting in and, knowing that we still had to connect at JFK (this trip is the singular reason I never connect if I can help it. Triggers the PTSD.), I was worried we’d be stuck overnight in Amsterdam or New York even if we didn’t get on the plane to NYC.

    AMS is a “one terminal” airport which can be helpful because you don’t have to take a tram between terminals but unhelpful if you get in at one end and have to get to the other. Which was exactly the case here. Because we had flown on a commuter-type flight from Paris, we weren’t near the international departures. As my father had recently had angioplasty, I took it upon myself to run ahead. Literally. Like a crazy person. I got to the podium and begged the gate agent to let us on, breathlessly telling her my father was coming and throwing around “heart condition” to gain some sympathy points. I looked (and felt) like a maniac, but we did make the flight.

  2. The time we spent an hour in the basement of Schiphol. En route home from Hungary a couple of years ago, we connected through Amsterdam. I’ll have to do some sleuthing as to whether there’s tension between the two countries, but it sure seemed like we were put through the ringer. First, we had to deplane on the Tarmac. Second, we were herded onto a bus and driven to the terminal. Finally, we were left in a teeny room, barely big enough to hold the 200 or so people from the flight. It became apparent that we’d be going through security again before being allowed into the main terminal (even though we had clearly gone through in Budapest). Sigh. There were two security staff working one conveyor so it took about an hour to get through. Thankfully, our flight had arrived slightly early so we had time to waste on these shenanigans.
  3. Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam

    The Anne Frank Museum. Incredibly powerful.

    The time I thought we were going to have to call the State Department. Ok, this is a bit of a cop out since I already wrote an entire post on the time our passports were mis-scanned and we were pulled aside while our national identity was clarified but I think we can all agree this is about as bad as it gets. There’s nothing like being detained (ok, ok, that’s overstating it) like thinking you will be detained in a foreign country to make you want to never leave your house again. If I thought I looked like a crazy person in story one, I was even worse in this predicament as on top of the near-meltdown, I was rocking a horrible (and attractive) case of sun poisoning. Don’t be jealous.

I’m really grateful we spent time in the actual city of Amsterdam. Aside from fearing I would be run over by a bicyclist, it was an amazing time. And it makes me loathe AMS just a little bit less.

Amstel River, Amsterdam

A view from the Amstel River.