Well it’s been a few weeks since my last trip. The beginning of July was spent in and out of the simulator and enjoying the hot humid Hong Kong summer.
Today’s flight brought me to Amsterdam. After some confusion as to who would rest first back in Hong Kong before we left, this trip entailed the usual pre flight duties, followed by a much needed 5 hour nap in the bunk. We departed at 12:10 am from Hong Kong, so this rest set me up nicely to fly the last 5 hours into Amsterdam. I got into the seat just after crossing the Mongolian border into Russia. It’s easy to forget how big China and Mongolia are, as more then 5 hours are spent flying over these countries before entering Russian airspace. Much the same as flying from coast to coast in North America. And we went north, the shorter way to cross China!
The flight was very uneventful, spent most of the time chatting with yet another new coworker of mine that has been with Cathay Pacific for years. We compared notes on restaurants and buying cars in Hong Kong. It was smooth sailing for an early arrival into Amsterdam’s Schipol airport at 6:05am Amsterdam time. We arrived at the hotel and with the other 3 crew members with family in the area, I was left to find something to occupy my day in Amsterdam. First things first, free coffee and pastries in the hotel lobby, and of course a quick nap.
This is only my second trip to Amsterdam so I found myself back at the only grocery store I know of at this point. As I would be alone for lunch and dinner, I decided a picnic in the hotel would be an easy way to relax. Fresh cold cuts, some cheese and crackers, a tomato, and a fresh loaf of pumpernickel bread. All set. Now, where to go.
Our crew hotel here in The Hague is across the street from the United Nations Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I walked up to the heavily guarded front door with my passport and a desire to witness something unique. Being a Criminology major in University, I thought this would be especially interesting, perhaps it might re-kindle my old desire for the subject.
I went through two relatively quick security checks and found myself sitting behind a glass wall looking at a room full of Law Professionals, and I can only assume, a few guilty men. The other observers (about a dozen in total) were a mix of staff from the building, and what I could only assume were journalists and perhaps students, as they were frantically taking notes.
We all wore headsets for translation purposes. Although the defense lawyer was the only one speaking a foreign language, the judge, and witness being questioned could speak English, although I suspect it was not their first language.
It was an interesting experience observing a witness being questioned about a helicopter crash in 1995 and an evacuation of a village later that year. I had no idea who or what the trial would be about until I walked in, and afterwords researched what I could online to fill in the blanks. I discovered that the gentleman I sat closest to (and who was surrounded by three armed guards) was a former Colonel General of the Army of Republika Srpska. This well dressed old man about 15 feet from my chair was responsible for the siege of Sarajevo, and the Serbanica Massacre, where more then 8,000 people were murdered on his orders. This represents the largest mass murder in Europe since the end of World War 2. Fifteen feet away. Bullet proof glass separated us, but here was one of the biggest War Criminals in recent history, in a building designed for court proceedings for the conflict in the Former Yugoslavia. And here I am looking for something to do on a rainy layover in Amsterdam.
Unfortunately the court adjourned a short while after I arrived. But as I plan my morning tomorrow before our 2pm departure back to Hong Kong, I think I will head back there at 9am to hear the first hour of witness testimony again. Why not? It’s a piece of history. It has proven to be an excellent way to spend an hour or several while in Amsterdam. I know I will make the effort to observe the courts on most layovers here. I have never even been inside a court room in Canada. But this proved to be a very unique experience that I will appreciate for a long while. Just spending a few minutes reading about one person can produce an incredible string of thoughts. The most pronounced being grateful for growing up in Canada, and not in the former Yugoslavia, or any other War torn region of the world.
On another note, I have been scheduled to complete my conversion training on the 747-8F next month. So I have promptly bid for Anchorage flying in September as our freighters pass through there daily in hopes that I can post a pilot report on one of the worlds newest airliners very soon.