Thursday, January 17, 2013

Amsterdam Airport

Traveling to Minsk, we had to spend a few hours at the airport in Amsterdam between planes. What a great place! We could have spent a whole day there, as I think it’s the most peaceful and interesting airport I’ve ever visited.

We started at a juice bar, where we ordered a couple of fresh-fruit smoothies. Fresh. We can buy smoothies at Logan Airport in Boston, but I’m pretty sure they’re made from frozen fruit. Our fresh fruit smoothies tasted delicious and improved greatly on the uninspired breakfast we’d eaten on the plane. Fueled up, we went shopping. Our friend Irina would be picking us up in Minsk, and we wanted to bring her a block of Vermeer cheese. We discovered this cheese in Amsterdam on our way to Boston a few months ago, and it’s pretty amazing. I bought a couple of chunks at a gourmet store while Alla played with perfume samples elsewhere.

Satisfied by the comfort of having fruit in my belly and cheese in my suitcase, I wanted to follow the signs to the Meditation Center, and Alla came along. It turns out that this is a quiet oasis on the second floor, behind a series of hotels and conference rooms. As we walked, we marveled at how quietly our suitcases rolled on the bamboo flooring in the hallway. The Meditation Center’s anteroom has the same bamboo flooring and shelves for shoes. I looked in at the carpeted room beyond and saw that nobody wore shoes in there so I removed mine too.

When I arrived in the quiet room I saw a cluster of eight or nine Muslims facing Mecca, kneeling on little prayer rugs. The bookcase on the wall held a very wide variety of religious books. I didn’t look hard at them, but noticed Bibles in many languages. And at the end of the wall near Mecca I saw many more prayer rugs tucked into the shelves. As far as I could tell, I was the only Christian there during my hour’s visit, because Alla elected to go next door to the sleeping lounge so she could stretch out on a big padded recliner. I prayed for a while and then made some more progress on my project to read the New Testament in Russian during the first half of the year. An Indian woman came in with her yoga mat and began her own morning routine. As I left, the chaplain told me that his most common visitors are Muslims and Jews. I think it’s great to have a place where people of all faiths can worship together in peace.

Alla was certainly at peace when I found her. I couldn’t find her right away because she had pulled the hood of her jacket over her head. I scanned a sea of people and couldn’t recognize her. A beautiful stewardess not really reading a book watched me looking around. I tried not to make her uncomfortable, but she really was beautiful and it was hard not to look into her eyes as she watched me. Finally I came over and explained that I’d lost my wife. She just smiled, but finally from her vantage point I noticed Alla’s nose poking out of her hood. I came over and rubbed her head to wake her up. She slept so soundly that I wondered for a moment if she were OK.

Once Alla revived, we went downstairs to visit the art museum, a branch of a bigger museum downtown. At the airport branch, all the paintings were behind glass but it was still fun to stop and contemplate a few Dutch Masters in the middle of our trip. We stopped next at the massage studio, where a couple of travelers giggled as an aquarium full of little fish nibbled at their toes, another traveler got an aqua massage and a third leaned on a roller-massager. Finally we stopped at the library and browsed through a small collection of books in a huge variety of languages. We didn’t have any time to read one of them, but lots of people took advantage of the library’s iPads, where they could watch movies and listen to music.

I won’t bother describing the restaurants, florists and other wonders of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. I’ll just say that we could have stayed longer.

No comments:

Post a Comment