As the Katie Melua song goes:
“There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
That’s a fact….”
I wonder if instead of Beijing, the songwriter actually meant to say Amsterdam….
They are everywhere and are completely integrated into the Amsterdam way of life. Men in suits ride them to work. Ladies hitch up their skirts to get on them. Dad’s take their kids to the park and students pick up their groceries – all on bikes. There weren’t very many mountain bikes or cycling helmets that I could see. All the bikes seemed to have some functional way to carry things or people around – a basket on the front, two panniers on the side, somewhere for a little person to sit by the wheel. You can hire bikes from everywhere and there are bike lanes on all the main roads and even dedicated bike traffic lights. This coupled with the fact, I’m sure that driving and parking in the city didn’t look very easy, made it seem like there probably wasn’t far off 9 million bicycles in the city….
The infamous Amsterdam Red Light District was on the list of places to visit and we wandered through one evening. It’s not as seedy a place as I thought it was going to be. There are lots of tourists doing exactly what we were doing. The most surprising thing to me was that the red light girls appeared to be “normal”. I don’t know what I was expecting (maybe a big “prossy” tattoo on their foreheads?) but most of them looked like someone that could work with me or I might see at the gym or maybe would be a neighbour or something.
It was a relaxing trip. A vast majority of it was spent wandering around the canals. The food was good, the hotel was funky and the weather was favourable. There were lots of interesting shops and markets to potter around. Anne Frank House was moving and it was an amazing experience to see so many famous Van Gogh paintings in one (very crowded) building. The new library was a beautiful space and the views and food from the top floor cafeteria were both very nice.
But the company, (it goes without saying, really) was the best part of the trip! Blah.