"Purmerend" Purmerend by spacetraveller

Purmerend Travel Guide: 7 reviews and 23 photos

Just outside Amsterdam

Purmerend, like so many millions of unfamiliar places on earth, was not a destination I had heard of before I had the pleasure of visiting it. By unexpectedly ending up there, my beliefs that the Road will ultimately take you where she wants you to go were, once again, confirmed.

Yes, you as traveller must take that first step. You must decide to leave the comforts and security of home to exchange the familiar with the unexplored, to trade the predictability of routine with the unexpected adventures of travelling. But if you're open enough the Road will show you what she believes you must see. My visit to Purmerend is proof of that.

After spending some time in England I went over to Belgium. I arrived there a few days into January. Although it was apparently one of the coldest winters in years I spent a magical week in Brugge, or Bruges, as some people prefer to call it. I stayed in Snuffel youth hostel where the staff, the other travellers, the locals and the local beer were all great.

A friend of mine, let's call him Jim, met up with me a few days before we left Brugge. We were travelling on a very tight budget and since we wanted to get to Amsterdam as cheaply as possible we decided to hitch-hike. We were fortunate that Road gave us a beautiful sunny winters day on which to leave.

Up to that point I had mostly used trains to get around and we didn't know what to expect from trying to hitch rides in Belgium and eventually Holland. We soon found out that the cold prevented people from stopping. But, slowly and patiently we neared Amsterdam.

Outside Antwerpen we waited for a very very long time. Finally we got a lift that took us close to the border of the Netherlands. We had told each other that we wanted to be in Amsterdam by sunset. At that point our progress was so slow that we no longer believed that we would reach Amsterdam before darkness settled over everything.

Luckily Road had other plans for us. She must have noticed that we were getting tired, that the cold of the late afternoon was becoming unpleasant. She also must have sensed our excitement of reaching Amsterdam. She also knows that the easiest way to help a traveller is to send another traveller as helper.

If I remember correctly, we were still wondering how long we would have to wait for our next lift when a panel van stopped next to us. As if through magic it appeared from nowhere.

In fairly good English the driver wanted to know where we were going.
"Amsterdam," we said in unison.
"I'm going passed there," he said. "Let me just put Amber in the back. He's not very fond of strangers."

The man got out while we were wondering who Amber was. Our question was answered when he led an Alsatian that was barking angrily at us to the back of the van. The dog must have been aggravated because of losing his seat next to Albert. He probably couldn't understand why his owner would offer his seat to two complete strangers.

After throwing our backpacks into the back of the van we got in and Albert drove off. He wanted us to tell him about our travels. It was obvious that he didn't just want to make conversation but that he was really interested in not only our travels but also the country we were coming from. He also told us about his travels throughout Europe when he was younger. Like us he also never travelled on a big budget and he understood what a lift meant to you when you wanted to save the money you would have spent on transport to use for something else.

Albert was returning from Antwerpen where him and his wife went for business. She had left from there to go and visit some of her friends in Paris, but he had to return home. While we were still talking he asked us where we were going to stay. We said we would find a youth hostel somewhere in Amsterdam as soon as we arrived since we knew it wouldn't be too busy during that time of the year.

He asked us if we didn't want to come and stay in an empty warehouse that they were busy renovating. There wasn't any furniture but he knew we wouldn't mind sleeping on the floor since we had travelling mattresses and sleeping bags. We accepted his invitation with big smiles on our faces as we entered Amsterdam just at the moment when the sun started touching the horizon. We knew we were being looked after by Road and that she had sent Albert to come and pick us up.

Not long after arriving at the warehouse we went with Albert to buy a case of Grolsch beer, bread, cheese, cold meat and yoghurt. Although we offered to pay for some of the food he didn't want to hear about it. "You are my guests now," was all he said.

Back at the warehouse he told us that it was his birthday.
"How old are you today?" we wanted to know.
"Forty," he answered.
That was a good enough reason to open some beers. While enjoying the refreshing taste of that great Dutch beer we also ate with Albert, appreciating the food that was quickly filling up the hole that the day's travelling had left in our stomachs.

Later that evening we went to a local pub where most of the other locals we met offered to buy us drinks. The next morning we woke up with a slight headache. Albert arrived at the warehouse from his house. We told him we wanted to go into Amsterdam. He showed us the bus station and gave us tickets for the bus. He also explained to us how to get back and gave us a set of keys for the warehouse.

For the next week we stayed there, spending most of our time in Purmerend, but also occasionally going into Amsterdam. The sunday afternoon Tonnie, Albert's wife returned from her visit in Paris. We were invited for dinner at their place and she also offered to wash our dirty clothes.

Every day Albert bought us a case of Grolsch, cheese, bread and yoghurt. In order to thank him we helped to paint a big part of the warehouse. Another day we drove with Albert and helped him to carry furniture and some old tiles they had bought.

Until today their hospitality is what I remember the best. They gave us so much and all they wanted in return was a little bit of our time. Albert wasn't travelling too far any longer and he still wanted to hear the stories other travellers had to tell. The reason why he helped us came from one of his own travels as a young man in Spain. Soon I'll write his story in my Purmerend travelogue.

Exactly a week after arriving we left the warehouse with sadness. They took us quite far and left us at the side of the road to continue our journey. We waved at them as they left. That was the last time I saw them.

  • Last visit to Purmerend: Jan 1993
  • Intro Updated Nov 22, 2004
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Comments (1)

  • pieter_jan_v's Profile Photo
    Nov 23, 2004 at 9:06 AM

    Great story; read every bit of it. A case of Grolsch per day; no wonder you had an headache! PJ

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