I was told that there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people. The main mode of transportation is done on two wheels, sometimes via motorized scooters but mostly on bicycles. I saw lots of smiling children riding in seats on their parent’s handlebars and partners riding on the back fenders of their loved one’s bike.
Amsterdam even has special bicycle roads built into their infrastructure. The traffic can be horrendous but if you’re willing to try it you must jump into it with a “can do” attitude. It’s sort of like driving in LA except on bikes in Europe. Not only are there bicycles everywhere, there are also lots of tourists walking on sidewalks, in bike lanes and on the roads. The surroundings are so gorgeous I don’t think they have any clue that sometimes they impede traffic. I didn’t realize this until I was riding a bike around town myself.
A bicycle shop next to the hotel rents bikes for 13€ for a 24 hour period so I thought, why not? The shop owner asked me to hop on a nearby bicycle for size but it was too tall. The seat would not come down any lower and I couldn’t reach the ground with the tips of my toes. The second bike he brought out was better. I could reach the ground with the tips of my toes, perfect for red lights I thought.
I climbed atop the bike a peddled to the ferry like a pro. I even blended well with all the riders exiting the ferry spilling out into the streets of Amsterdam. I kept thinking how wonderful having a bike was. Surely I’d be able to cover lots of ground and see many things. As the bike bounced around the cobbled roads it was evident I should have had my bell tightened because it rang the entire time with every tiny bump I cycled over which was constant. I felt like I sounded like a police car with its siren blaring and that everyone would know I was a tourist on holiday. I held my thumb on the bell to curtail the noise as to not annoy others.
WHOA! I said to myself at my first bicycle traffic jam at a busy intersection. As huge work trucks hogged the lane all of the other cyclists knew to just go around the truck. When I followed in their lead my skinny tire nearly got stuck in the trolley track. The bike wobbled almost violently as my legs flailed to find some footing for balance. Still I did not fall. I had impressed myself. The sometimes not-so-graceful Marissa had managed to survive this incident.
The first stop on my list of things to see was to pay a visit to the “I AMsterdam” sign. The map on my phone showed it wasn’t too far away. Surely I’d be able to accomplish lots of sightseeing on bike.Perhaps it was the clouds interfering with GPS but somehow I kept getting off course. One minute the map would show I was .5 miles away then after riding awhile when I’d stop to check it would tell me that I was over 2 miles away! After much frustration and riding in what seemed like circles within the same block of town, I finally made it to the statue a couple of hours later. The detour actually took me through some really neat streets with beautiful canals and quaint bridges that I would not have seen if I had not gotten lost.
Photos I took while lost on the streets of Amsterdam.
I rode by the flower market but did not get to stop because I stumbled upon it while lost and like a detective I was determined to find the right path. I rode through the Rijksmuseum but did not stop there either. My plan did not work out like I had expected but it was still enjoyable.
I made it back to the hotel in the late afternoon then did some reading by the window. Everyday since I’ve been here the day flies by with great speed that I hardly realize it’s past dinner time so dinner has been ordered off of the late night menu from the restaurant downstairs which has been mostly french fries for me.
Tonight I wanted to eat something different so after doing some searching on Google maps, an Italian place was only a short 4 minute bike ride away! The good news was that it was also on my side of the canal which meant I didn’t have to take the ferry and fight traffic.
I’m laughing to myself now because the crash was funny. Even though I didn’t have to board the ferry, I had to ride past the dock. As luck would have it I happened to ride by just as a rush of cyclists let out and merged into the lane with me. A few moments too late I realized through the sea of people biking that a man in front of me had completely stopped. It was too late for me to brake so I attempted to swerve to avoid crashing into him. I managed to not hit him but I over-corrected and my bike slid from under me and I under the bike on the pavement.
I don’t regret renting a bike despite falling off because this is all part of the experience. When we travel we learn so much about other places, people, cultures and ourselves. If we always knew what the outcome would be then life would be boring. Living is getting out there and trying something new. Living is failing and trying again. Living is getting back up when you fall.