Today is my last full day in Amsterdam. Two weeks ago the doctor said that after two more weeks of wearing a boot, I can try using shoes. He was very light on details (I think socialized medicine is kind of a crap shoot on whether you get a doctor willing to go in deep with you, or one who is just working through a large case load). So, I’m basically easing into it, completely paranoid about re-fracturing anything in there. Stepping lightly. Still limping, keeping weight on my “good foot” (cue James Brown).
So, last day in Amsterdam, foot is free, what to do?
A bike ride, naturally. Now, the esteemed Mr. Yammy had advised that I should check out some of the surrounding villages if I want to get an overdose of quaint. Looking up said villages, two of them looked quite promising: Monickendam (close, on the coast, very quaint) and Edam, because dude: it’s named after Cheese. Or vice-versa. Either way: cheese. I bet they hand you a cheese round to gnaw on at the city entrance.
So, looking in my normally reliable Maps app on the Surface, I mapped out a path which came to around 14 kilometers. Sadly, while it includes directions for walking or driving, there’s no biking option (though presumably the walking option is similar). Still, to be sure I fired up google maps which DOES have a biking option. This directed me to a ferry that would be good to start the journey with, and also made me think I could “drive” the entire route in google maps using their street view before leaving.
So it was that I was huddled in my hotel room, clicking on virtual streets and seeing the seasons morph rapidly between winter, fall, spring and summer with every click. A little disorienting, but enough to show me that the roads are not bike-hospitable once you get outside of the city. Sadness.
However, Google assures me that a path exists, and I must reason that they don’t have mapping vehicles driving on all bike paths yet, so perhaps there are paths that are just not visible to the mapping cars that create their street view. So it was that I set out the in the morning with a mission to explore the countryside by bike. On my newly mobile foot (assisted by pedals, of course).
First decision: what bike to get? The rental options are “Hand Brake” or “Dutch”. Well, I’m in the Netherlands, and a complete cheapskate, so I’ll go with the local / cheaper option: give me Dutch!
Ah, yes, a mighty green steed! This bike, like the ones we rented in Spain, is not your wimpy, weight-reduced, high-end shifter, carbon fiber this and dura-ace that. No, this is a sturdy frame of steel and iron. A hardened, ruggedized, possibly even weaponized example of a bicycle. And the Dutch option means you can only brake by stepping back on the pedals. Just like that training bike you had when you were five. Awesome.
So, what to name it? The Green Hornet? Too obvious. The Hulk? Well, it is large, green and mighty, but I don’t think it’s really of heroic, Avengers proportions. It needs a name with a bit of Dutch flair to it. And it will be slow. So I thought I’d name it the Dutch word for “turtle”. However, I didn’t want to be yelling “Come, faithful zeeschildpad, we must away to the horizon!” every time I mounted it. So, I settled for “Vrijheid”.
And just like that (and nine euros) we were off!
Quick aside: found this restaurant near the bike-rental place. Finally a name I can really get behind.
Now getting out of Amsterdam, you are forced to realize you are not the only person on a bike. No, far from it. Most everyone is on a bike.
But eventually I reach the central station, where presumably I can get on a ferry across the water. Here I am promptly stopped by a couple of policemen who tell me I must walk my bike here, or face an 80 euro fine. Apparently it’s a “walking only” area. My assertions that this was patently preposterous because we are, after all, in Amsterdam, God’s own country for biking, were met with less enthusiasm than I hoped for.
Regardless: soon I was on a ferry, which you just hop on and don’t have to get a ticket or anything:
And as soon as the ferry took off, I realized I was on (how do I do this all the time) the wrong bloody ferry.
No worries, it got me across the water. I’m sure if I find the canal I was going to follow and ride along, everything will be fine. This positivity lasted for a short while, during which I just enjoyed the spectacular ride I was on. Seriously, I have never seen anywhere like this. Bikes are a first-class citizen here. The paths are beautiful, in perfect repair, wide and accommodating. There are hundreds of them, it seems like you could probably bike anywhere in the country if you wanted.
However, as the path changed from “wide-and-perfect” to “kinda-narrow-and-okay” to “you-don’t-belong-here”, I was forced to admit I might be lost. Luckily there are many signs around. Unluckily, they seemed to be angry at me or something:
Happily, it was around this time that a man and his wife flagged me down and asked me directions in Dutch. Side note: everyone here speaks Dutch at me. I need to work on seeming more… foreign? Anyway, after I explained that I was pretty much lost as well, I found they are from Arizona and come here for five weeks every year. We’ll refer to them using the Spanish method for male / female designation: Arizono and Arizona. So we banded together, Arizono got directions from another woman passing by (who happened to be from New York), Arizona and I exchanged pictures (below) and we were on our way.
We got lost a couple more times. Once ending up through a gate and into a police impound lot, where we were most certainly not supposed to be. Note: the phrase “yoo-hoo!” seems to be a common Dutch way to get your attention. I explain this to point out that having a large Dutch policeman run after you yelling “Yoo-hoo” removes any possible fear from the situation.
However, lost escapades or not, I don’t think you can be on a bike in the Netherlands in summertime and NOT fall in love with the place.
I even got some pictures of the local farms, where sadly the air turned slightly less pure and slightly more, well, dungy.
Worth noting with the sheep: you know those videos of screaming goats? Yeah, well I tried that out on the sheep. The closest one yelled back. This caused the two nearest him to bleat and yell. And so it erupted and rolled back through the meadow, like a wave. I listened for a while, then decided to take off before a Dutch farmer could come running out with a pitchfork to reprimand me for talking dirty to his flock.
Eventually I did reach multiple quaint towns. I ended up not going to Edam, because Arizono informed me that he had been there last year, and explained in very serious and disappointed tones, the lack of cheese. We both agreed this is a huge problem.
Monickendam though: worth the trip and as quaint as advertised:
After Monickendam, I headed back and briefly explored a place called “Waterland”. Turns out they didn’t have to stretch their imagination too far for that name.
In conclusion: should you find yourself in Amsterdam, take a day trip outside the city. It is stunning. And the biking is easy. This is no crank-fest like you’d do in the Northwest in the states. There are no hills. None. The most challenging incline you will encounter is the slight rise as you go over a canal bridge.
Also, since Senor Yam’s recommendations are now 3 for 3 (whisky bar, quaint towns, beer café), I have to recommend that should you ever find yourself in a foreign country, you should engage Yammerino Advisors of Travel (YAT) for all manner of travel ideas. Thanks Yams!