Not 10 minutes later I was exactly where I didn't need to be, and I had literally no idea how I'd come to be there. I'd curved left with the road. Why was I now on the far right edge of the map?
Cartographically challenged. Got it. Then, at the main train station where I'd ended up accidentally, I looked at another map. Ha! My map was wrong! I felt much more confident, though somewhat concerned that wrong maps were being distributed.
Yeah ... my map wasn't wrong.
The problem, I'm discovering, is far worse than not knowing how to read a map. My problem seems to be that I can't tell right from left. I literally have to have the map facing the same direction I am to not go the wrong way.
Oh, and the confusion wasn't over yet. I'm in The Hague now, which happens to have a beach. I wanted to go. Had I gone the way I was supposed to, I would have run into the tram I needed to take to get there. But I'm at a train station, right? There are trams there.
Except trams in the Netherlands don't require paper tickets. Instead, you buy a chip card and load money on it. You scan for each trip and money is subtracted. This would be fine, except I had no idea where to buy these cards.
More wandering around lost. All I see are train ticket machines. Finally, about 20 minutes in, I see one that says it sells chip cards. It takes a couple of time-outs, but I figure it out and pull out my wallet to pay -- only to discover it only takes coins or European credit cards, neither of which I have.
No big deal. There's a chocolate shop in the station; I go buy a few tickets and get change. Except I need $20 in coins. She gives me $7. Other places don't make change. It is the train station, after all.
I give up, curse myself for not having cash at the hostel so I could just rent a bike, and start walking while thinking these chocolates were nowhere near as good as Amsterdam's. As you can probably tell, I am really loving The Hague right about now. The beach is three miles away and I started going the wrong way. It's a gift, I tell you.
Right about this time I walked past the tourist office and go inside. They sell these cards. She directs me to the nearest tram station. I get to the beach.
There's a lot of shopping and eating and gambling going on at Scheveningen, but I took off my shoes and walked in the shallows up the beach. My mission was to find a secluded enough spot to allow me to cross skinny dipping off my bucket list.
Alas, I did not.
My fourth biggest challenge, after finding my hostel, finding downtown and finding a chip card was making my top bunk. It was complicated by the fact that there's a comforter and a comforter case, much like a pillow case. It's weird. It's also nowhere close to military corners, but it'll do.
This morning I went to the Vincent Van Gogh museum. I'll admit it was less for enjoyment of art than for the realization that this is a significant cultural opportunity that I may never have again. I can guilt myself into doing weird things.
Tomorrow I'm exploring The Hague (military tribunals happen here. I'm here to get my geek on.) Then on Tuesday it's off to Germany!