The Dutch are bad. Real badass.
Last weekend saw what must surely be the last of the good summer weather. Sensibly, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and explore on Winthrope and Matilda. Callum took the nice, proper pictures with the posh camera (post to follow) but here are some shots I decided to take on my phone mid-cycle…
In the background of the next shot, you can just see the tops of some city buildings in Amsterdam.
I would like to introduce you to Matilda…
She’s my mighty steed around town and although not as big as some bikes required to carry lanky Dutchies from A to B, she’s fairly fast for an oma fiets (that’s grandma bike for those who don’t speak Dutch).
Nice and bright compared to a lot of the other city bikes, she’s easy to spot in a bike crowd….
Callum on his bike, Winthorpe. No longer a spring chicken, Winthorpe can wheeze a little but once he gets going, he’s quite the speed demon.
This one may puzzle a few of you. I’ve promised you a bike, yet there doesn’t appear to be one in the picture… Some clever soul decided to camouflage their bike, that way no one can take it. Genius.
Apologies for the pun, but I’d already used ‘on yer bike’ in a previous post. This series of posts will highlight the brilliant, broken and… bisexual(?!) bikes I spot in the brilliant city of Amsterdam. (I think the bisexual criteria may be hard to fulfil but it was an interesting ‘b’ word to choose.)
This first example was parked alongside a canal (where else??) and certainly helped to brighten up this little piece of the ‘dam.
Flowers are a popular choice of bicycle accessory, some people play it safe with on a couple of clip-on roses, whereas others go the whole hog and transform their bike into a moving jungle. I liked this one because the owner has decided to shun a theme and chucked on whatever the hell they liked.
Note the spoke beads: if you grew up in the UK you may remember getting these free in Kellogg’s cereal boxes. Ahh, the 90s.
There is a vast variety of cafes to choose from alongside the canals of Amsterdam. We have tried but a few of them as we are invariably drawn back to Lef.
In fact, we have both ordered the same sandwiches each visit. Four times in total. A tuna, capers, rocket, pickle and red onion ciabatta:
And a mozzarella pesto thing:
There’s something Dutch about this photo:
What would lunch be without some coffee…
A great place for a quick lunch; the service is always speedy and we’re sure that the other sandwiches taste just as morish… but we need to try them first. And their brownies, they look gooood.
You can find the steepest stairs in the world in Lef on Wijde Heisteeg, in The 9 Streets.
The Dutch are crazy. For cycling. Type in ‘bikes’ and ‘Holland’ into Google and you’ll get more than 15 million hits. Then move over to the ‘Images’ tab and you’ll see why… Done it? Yeah, as I said, the Dutch are crazy for cycling. There are an estimated 700,000 bicycles in Amsterdam and each year 1 in 7 are stolen and 25,000 end up in the canals.
An online, free encylopedia (which shall remain nameless) has also informed me that 38% of all journeys in the city are made by bicycle. If you took ten minutes to stand and watch all the cyclists go by then you would quickly understand how this fact translates into reality. Mothers and fathers with two, sometimes three, children in the front; business men in suits; friends sitting on the back of others’ bikes; teenagers playing music from their iPhones; kids on their way to hockey practice; pensioners; out of breath tourists who have quickly realised how unfit they are – this is Amsterdam’s rush hour traffic.
Aside from being an incredibly convenient way to travel, bikes seem to be an outlet for creative expression; a symbol for who the rider is, or what they like. A good example is the bike pictured below: does the owner have anthomania or, perhaps, a large desire to attract bees?
For most English people, bikes are something you had as a child because you weren’t old enough to drive and cycling was faster than walking. Now they live their lives in their cars; relying on them to get to work, take children to school, run errands, go shopping, take day-trips, see friends and get home from the pub. Exactly the multi-faceted role which the bike inhabits over here. Except with a bike, you can drink and ride.
For me, the image which most typifies the Dutch obsession with bikes is one I often encounter on my weekly walks: a lycra-wearing pensioner on a racing bike flying past me. Every time it leaves me feeling out of breath and with the startling, shaming, realisation that they would easily beat me in a race. As would their grandchildren.
A word of warning: if you visit Amsterdam (and you should) then do not expect Dutch cyclists to be polite. Or even to obey the rules of the road and stop at a pedestrian crossing that’s displaying the green man. They have places to go, people to see. They will direct an angry, solid ringing of their bell at you but that doesn’t mean they have any intention of slowing down, or even swerving. Only today, a fellow pedestrian had the gall to be using a crossing at the very spot a swift cyclist was careering towards. I wasn’t surprised that a minor collision occurred but I wasn’t expecting the hearty ‘Sorry!’ which sounded from the offending cyclist. Perhaps I have judged them too harshly…