When In Amsterdam, Do As The Dutch Do, Straddle A Saddle
Cruising to or from Amsterdam? Why not do what the Dutch do and straddle a saddle? Hop on a bike and pedal your way through Amsterdam and the beautiful countryside.
Everyone, from crib to coffin, pedals a bike in Amsterdam. The entire country of the Netherlands is mostly flat and ideal for cycling, but the best part is that cyclists pedal along roads either with no cars at all (with tiny traffic lights for bikes) — or with drivers who actually pay attention to cyclists.
That is why Dutch cyclists are 30 times less likely to be killed than their stateside counterparts, according to Bicycling magazine. And that is why for tourists, cycling is a match made, well, in the Netherlands.
You can pedal in the city center, of course, but the real pleasure comes in getting out in the countryside. During my visit to Amsterdam, the rental agency, Mac Bike, recommended a route called “The Great Waterland Bicycle Tour.”
I followed the route, well described on the map, through Amsterdam, riding past charming canals, beautiful architecture, past pedestrians (and nearly over one or two who stepped in front of the bike) and alongside other cyclists and eventually found my way to the train station and the ferry across to Waterland, north of Amsterdam.
The ferries are free and transit every five minutes or so. A ramp lowers and you push your bike on.
In fact, I don’t think there is any public facility that hasn’t been set up for bikes. Even outdoor stairways, have a steel gutter to accommodate the bike’s wheels.
The ferry transit is only a couple of minutes, and I stood there among a throng of other cyclists waiting to reach the other side.
Once on the other side, I and the others pedaled off. After about an hour of pedaling past attractive countryside, I stopped for lunch in a beautiful seaside village, where I dined on a plate of mussels, french fries, salad, bread, applesauce and cole slaw.
Fortified, I pedaled again. I rode along a dyke through Uitdam and to the charming village of Marken, where the fishermen’s houses were built on poles.
The town is a tourist attraction, where all the homes are painted a dark green with red tile roofs.
During my ride, I learned at least two things about cycling in the Netherlands. The first was how to carry three ice cream cones on a bike. I saw a girl doing just that.
To carry three, she turned one cone upside down on top of the other so that she had only to contend with two cones in one hand. Smart.
I also learned how to carry twins. I saw a woman riding a bike with the front end having two wheels and a cart in between. Up front were the twin girls. I learned that this is quite common in the Netherlands.
I continued to ride to Monnickendam, a charming village, then to Zuiderwoude, where I could see the “Welcome to the town limits” and “You Are Leaving the town limits” signs as I pedaled in. There was a wonderful teahouse there.
I rode along the Amstel, past barges and boats to the small village of Ouderkerk ann de Amstel, older than Amsterdam. I stopped there to have an apple shortcake from a century-old bakery and a Witte beer at a restaurant dating back to 1624.
I picked my way back to the ferry. The complete circuit took more than six hours and was so enjoyable. I hope to do it again one day.