Ikea in a Dutch blizzard

So last Friday, I decided that I would try to find the Ikea. The bedding they’re selling here was 52 Euros, and I figured I could find cheaper at Ikea, and then having my own sheets would make me feel a little more at home. I used Google maps to figure out how to take the bus down to Ikea, and it couldn’t have been easier – get on bus 71 at the University, take it all the way to Stadscentrum, and Ikea is a little walk from there, but should be visible.

I should mention that last Friday was a snowpocalypse in Utrecht. I would estimate that maybe 5cm of snow fell over the course of the entire day. In Canada, this is a normal amount of snow, and in February, we’d probably be thrilled about it because, a) snow means it can’t be too cold outside and b) 5cm is not a lot of snow.

Not in Utrecht. The city nearly came to a grinding halt. People had no idea what to do, the buses weren’t running on time, there are no plowers/salters out (plus in the City Centre, you can’t really plow on cobblestone!). Me, being Canadian, did not think to factor this in. I figured it was an ordinary day.

I went out to wait for the bus at the Botanische Tuinen stop. All the bus arrival times here are digitized, and buses go both ways, unlike in Leth Vegas. So there’s a sign at every stop (both directions) that lists the buses and when they should arrive at the stop. So bus 71 was 14 minutes away. It wasn’t too cold, so I figured I would just wait. 14 minutes… 13 minutes… 12 minutes… 14 minutes… wait, what?! So after the sign jerked me around for a while, I waited a total of 25 minutes for my bus and was frozen. So I clambered on, and rode the bus to Stadscentrum.

To take the bus in the Netherlands, you use an OV-Chipkaart. You put a balance on this card, and then you swipe it when you get on and off. Failing to swipe off, as I’ve done, charges you 4 Euro. The amount it charges off your card is based on the length of your ride. Turns out Stadscentrum was about half an hour away. Perfect.

But I arrived! And there was no Ikea in sight! Only a bus terminal for city buses and a tram terminal. Thanks, Google. So I asked a man selling deep fried cheese if he could tell me how to get to Ikea. Thankfully, he could. “Oh, it’s easy! Just get on the tram towards Centraal and go back five stops. It’s called Kanalalilanenalian.” So I tried to say it back to him. “Oh, I get off at Kanalaneilalalalall?” He just smiled at me, the way Dutch people do when they realize that there’s just no way my tiny Canadian brain can wrap itself around their mile-long words. Yes, he says. That’s close enough.

Back on the tram! Turns out it’s called Kanaleneiland. Still can’t say that. So I get off, ready to find the Ikea! And… nothing. By this time it’s snowing pretty hard, making it difficult to see very far in front of me. The snow is up to my ankles, and in a terrible packing job back in Canada, I brought two pairs of canvas TOMS. My feet were ready to fall right off and I was absolutely freezing. And I could not find Ikea.

So I trekked into this nice furniture shop, leaving puddles behind me as I went. I asked the lady there if she spoke English and if she could help me find the Ikea. She gave me great directions. At least, I assume they were great. The Dutch also have this habit of what my friend Megan calls “the snake arm.” They just throw out their arms and say, “Oh, it’s so easy, go leftleftrightleftright” and they do the snake arm. And after you ask them to repeat themselves four times, you just give in and pretend that you understand.

So I headed off again. I followed about half the directions and that’s where I stopped understanding. I’m in front of a place called Carpet Right, but I have no idea what to do now. So I approach a man having a cigarette in front of his office.

“Excuse me, do you speak English?”
“That’s great. I’m really lost and I need to find Ikea. Can you help me?”
“HAHAHAHAHHA lost in the snow?!”
Shut up, shut up. “Yup, lost in the snow. Can you help me, please?”

Turns out it was a right at Carpet Right, and if I just kept heading down, I would find it. I just couldn’t see it because of the Dutch mini-blizzard that I was walking in. By this point, I was cold and wet and miserable and debating whether or not I should just cry and curl up into the fetal position until medics came and saved me, but in the end I found Ikea. And I bought fries and chicken noodle soup. And they charged me 30cents per packet of ketchup.

If only my saga was over! But no. When I was done at Ikea, I carried my comforter to the tram station to get back to Centraal. Once I got there, the 11, which goes to the University, is supposed to come every five minutes at peak hours. JUST KIDDING, I waited 30 minutes for it. Have you ever been so cold that your feet go entirely numb? It’s like you’re floating. You have no sensation in your feet so you just float along like a ghost. It’s great, until feeling comes back in the form of intense, searing pain.

So that was my journey to the Ikea. It was awful. But the snuggly bedding that I bought was wonderful.

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