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Earlier this week, we offered up the above sweater and wool hooded coat from Cloth Logic to the reader who sent us their most harrowing travel experience. Interestingly, quite a number of them involved Amsterdam in some way, all with some hellish highlights—or lowlights, depending how your look at it.
Contenders included a reader whose airline went bankrupt while he was in London and Amsterdam, plus a frozen ATM account and canceled flights; a family traveling to Melbourne on September 13, 2001 who spent 12 hours at LAX with their one-and-a-half year old, along with more hours waiting on the runway in the plane; a long car/bus/train/bus/train trip from France to Italy with tunnel trouble; and a supposed 'first class' business trip to Moldova, which involved little sleep do to an active couple in the next room, porn on the TV in the restaurant (only place to hook up computer), and what looked to be escort transactions taking place.
But our winning travel disaster goes to the bloke who was traveling to Europe for the first time for a six-month trip by himself, flew from LA to Amsterdam with final destination Budapest, ended up waiting 17 hours in the Amsterdam airport, had his luggage catch on fire, only to finally arrive in Budapest and find his hotel was shuttered for the winter. The entire harrowing account after the jump.
I did not have to reach too far into the memory bank to recall this near hellish experience.
I was on my way to Europe for the first time on a 6 month trip by myself. The plane left LA for Amsterdam on time and everything seemed fine to get to my connection to Budapest, Hungary. All that changed once I landed in Amsterdam. It was late October so the weather was already cold ( 29F). My flight to Budapest was scheduled to leave 70 minutes after I arrived in the Netherlands. A dark, menacing storm that dumped 11 inches of snow on the airport tarmac in two hours delayed my flight 4 hours. That 4 hours turned into 7 hours which later turned into 17 hours due to the fact that the snow removal equipment was not working properly. Arriving into Budapest at 3 in the morning, completely delirious from being at an airport for almost a full day.
This is where is gets good. The Budapest airport is cold... not in temperature but in a World War II kind of way, think fake wood paneling on the wall and bad florescent light fixtures. I put my checked luggage into a duffle bag and sealed it with a zip tie so no one would pilfer through it. Lacking a knife to open the zip tie I borrowed a lighter from the Hungarian guy smoking next to me. Instead of simply melting the zip tie so I could get to my luggage, it decided to catch fire and shot a 9 inch flame into the air. Blowing as hard as I could to extinguish the flame, I carefully brought the whole thing outside and dumped it in the snow.
Getting into the cab with the smell of melted plastic all around did not make the Hungarian cab driver very happy. I arrived at my hotel and realized there were no lights on, a couple in the back seat in their broken English told me it was closed for the winter. The cab driver decided to start yelling at me in Hungarian because that meant taking me to another hotel. With direction from the nice local couple in the back seat he dropped me off at the dirtiest most foul, colder then Chicago in January, Hostel in Budapest.