Excuse me while I take a moment to swallow some heavy-duty Tylenol (to stop the pulsating banging in my head) washed down with something even stronger to subdue the need to kill anyone who comes into my field of vision.
The reason for this complete meltdown of calm and serenity?
A 32 kilometre (19 mile) round trip which has taken two and a half hours with road-rage inducing traffic through semi-rural Holland. The tragic thing is there was no heavy traffic, except for when it couldn’t move by virtue of the planners who love to cause chaos for us mere mortals. You leave home expecting a straight forward journey and wham! you end up in road-rage-ville.
The thing is, if you live in some far flung corner of the planet where traffic is horrendous, you accept it, plan for it, work your way around it. Here in Holland that is just not possible.
Before everyone starts taking the moral high ground and muttering on about the excellent public transport systems here, could I jump in and point out that to get to where I had to go there is no public transport route by road or rail. We are also dealing with, I believe, rolling bus strikes and road closures with little advance notice and even less sign-age. In your innocence you know nothing about it until you hit roads closed and barricaded with the kind of concrete blockades last seen during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
The problem with Holland is cars are viewed as less important than anything else, which in the main is no bad thing, unless you’re trying to get from A to B in a timely fashion avoiding overnight stays on a trip to the next town.
One real issue I have is that you’re funneled to follow specific routes dictated by the powers that be. There are no familiar ‘rat-runs’ through side roads when traffic is grid-locked or there’s been an accident. No sireee. In normal circumstances this is wonderful as residential areas are car free and safe from frustrated, enraged drivers.
That’s normal circumstances. Our small town has two routes in from the south, one in the middle and one from the north. This week both southern routes in and out are closed. Actually this has not been an issue; advance warning was given, alternative routes planned, loads of signage so no-one was caught out.
Heading out this morning to the east I expected no problems; a leisurely drive on a glorious morning through verdant pastures to the next town,Voorschoten, skirting Leiden and over to Leiderdorp alongside rippling canals with pleasure cruisers bobbing jauntily along, flags flapping in the breeze.
All went well till Voorschoten; a lively town whose main intersection is light controlled. Well, not this morning it wasn’t and chaos was not the word I would have used, but it will have to do. Finally getting clear of that with the help of deep breathing and chanting ‘serenity now’ under my breath, I fair whizzed along the next two hundred yards through open countryside, feeling the peace – just as everything ground to a halt ahead and the view to the horizon was a sea of gridlocked cars shimmering in the heat-haze of hot engines.
The hold up? Traffic lights which, instead of changing to green and staying there for the optimum time to allow free flow of traffic, had glitched; they turned to green then straight back to red. Assuming the driver in the lead car was alert, three cars could cross on one light change with two technically breaking the law by doing so. If the lead car driver panicked, stalled or had dropped off for a moment everyone was screwed.
Once through that, the road ahead was clear for 15 yards before traffic ground to a halt for a bridge to go up. It’s quite common here for entire motorways to be brought to a standstill while the road is raised to allow large barges, sailing boats with tall masts and similar go under the road. So here we were in gridlock city waiting for one ******* sailboat to transit under the road. Those on board seemed to be having an incredibly jolly time, kicking back, going with the flow – which at that point on the river was about a mile an hour. It wasn’t just me; several white-van men surrounding my vehicle were tearing handfuls of hair out and making obscene gestures which, if I understood their meaning correctly, were physically impossible.
Four hundred yards beyond that a standstill again for the Amsterdam /Den Haag train to amble across in front of us, the barriers descending a good ten minutes before the train arrived and only being raised as it disappeared over the edge of the horizon – in Holland that’s one hell of a long way.
One mile from destination I started to relax, turned a corner and oh ****, the road was closed ahead. Not just closed; barricaded, dug up, no way through. No prior warning, no clue how to detour and the ******* SAT NAV at home. Bugger.
The journey home was as eventful and no way to deviate from the route. As I said before, rat-runs through residential areas are verboden. There was nothing to do but sit back and stick with it.
The good news; I managed a complete manicure while waiting for one light change outside Leiderdorp and found a great music CD which Missy and Harry had installed for when they’re sent off to the store. Great dance music which played at full blast took the edge of fantasies of firearms aimed at traffic lights, road signs, jolly sailors and people asleep at the wheel.
Only that’s illegal too; it’s an offence to have sound blasting from a vehicle even if all doors and windows are shut, as the nice police officer informed me as I was pulled over minutes from home. Really, it’s just too much
No wonder certain drugs are legal here.
Give me driving in gridlock Holland or the M25 during the rush hour anytime conpared the lunatics on Turkish roads. Apparently the Turkish driving test consists of getting in the car, turning the ignition, driving 100 metres in a straight line, turning round and driving back again. It explains everthing! I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. I hope you’ve recovered from yours.
Hi Jack, I hear you – once travelled from Istanbul down to Tekirdag, on the Sea of Marmara, in the early hours of the morning in a beat up taxi. Of course no headlights, until a car was coming from the other direction also without lights – then our driver switched ours on. (How did he know?) All of this on a cliff top road with sheer drops into the sea. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I guess the driving here’s frustrating because we don’t expect it to be! Thanks for stopping by – your name was mentioned over lunch yesterday – it’s a small world!
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Can’t believe you were stopped for loud music emanating from your closed car. Seriously?? Has this police officer actually gotten out and about?? Sorry, I think he pegged you and your car as ‘easy expat’ bait.
As for the pop-up traffic jams, I’ve learned to keep a book in my car. Or I go over my to-do list, play ‘how many Dutch words can I understand on the radio’, think ahead about birthdays, etc.
Believe me it was emanating . . .
What a bloomin’ nightmare…….and that’s why we have bikes and take drugs!!! Hup Holland!!!
At least a nightmare has an ending, even though it may not be a good one. This scenario was more like Groundhog Day . . . !
it is because they are all so used to riding their bikes, they forget how to drive the car !!
This is so true! Plus the Dutch seem to be happy to while away the cars in traffic jams!