When travel was fun: Visiting the Dutch Aviodrome
Far from today's budget airlines that cram in passengers and luggage, travel was once a unique experience, as expat Amanda discovered at the Dutch Aviodrome.
If you haven't been to the Aviodrome in Lelystad and you like planes and travel, then it is well worth a visit. We've been a few times now yet my sons have so much fun each time with lots of new things added. You can also make rondvluchten and get to see the Netherlands from a different angle (which I did for my 30th birthday). But I digress.
What struck me the last time we visited was the fact that air travel once seemed exciting and fun. That is certainly not how I have experienced my last few budget flights while being hoarded around in cattle class. In fact, last time I flew the short trip from England to the Netherlands I, along with many fellow passengers, were using words not fit for a child's ears as we were shoved from queue to queue waiting for a delayed plane. When it finally came, passengers had to try to hide bags within bags because the flight was full. We were all given extra brownie points (actually meaning less scowls and less abrupt communication from staff) if we could make our baggage disappear completely. Standing at a boarding gate with hundreds of sweaty, angry, late passengers is not the fun you hope for on a Wednesday night. But this is flying 'now' and the Aviodrome shares the flying 'then' with visitors – a world of difference.
The Aviodrome offers visitors a historical look at flying and the growth of KLM, the Dutch national air carrier. Admittedly some of the the earlier flights did make me question safety here and there, but the nostalgia behind the idea of flying as you walk around the museum pieces is phenomenal. I could feel the buzz that those early air travellers must have felt (and perhaps a little of the fear).
Flying has become so every day for us, especially for expats. Most of the time it's to get us from host country to passport country. Sometimes, for a change, it's to go on holiday. To be honest, I'd rather take the car – no worrying about baggage, entertaining bored kids when the flight is delayed or having strange people clamber over you to use the toilet.
But imagine how it must have felt when it was all so new and unknown: the packing, the boarding, the flying and then finally the destination. The question, "Will I make it home again?" raging in your mind.
There's a sign hanging in the Aviodrome, a kind of customer announcement if you like, letting passengers know they should dress warmly for their winter flight, and that extra blankets were available. Looking at the windows on those early planes, I am sure those extra blankets were frequently used.
Despite the fact that air travel for the general public was in an early phase, and comfort probably wasn't optimal, there was at least an element of excitement hanging in the air when passengers got onto a plane. It wasn't a huge commercial exercise, it wasn't about reducing leg room to fit more seats or making passengers pay extra.
In any case, my point is this: next time you are in a budget airline pre-boarding queue, remember it wasn't always like this. Aviation wasn't always about a 'cram as many people on as we physically can' mentality. Flying was once only about excitement, discovery, adventure and travel. Remember too that flying wasn't just about the destination – it was also about the journey.
And if you haven't been to the Avidrome then put it on your bucket list – it's worth a trip!
Amanda van Mulligen is a British expat who has made the Netherlands her home. She has three Dutch sons who are tinged with Britishness, and a pure bred Dutch husband. She is also a published author, freelance writer and blogger. You can read her blog at Expat Life with a double buggy where she scribbles about her expat way of loving, living and parenting. You can catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Thumbnail credit: Archangel12.
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