Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Out of the ferry and into the Amsterdam

It was raining a little when we disembarked in IJmuiden, but the sun was
starting to break through. And thankfully there was a stiff tail wind to blow us the 20 km (yeah kilometers) to Amsterdam. IJmuiden is a large port and revealed an industrial side of the Netherlands that we had not seen before. There were dozens of smoke stacks belching smoke and steam. There were also many of those chimneys with flames coming out of them - burning the extra gases produced by oil refining I think. The steel gray sky, the mist, the horizon of smoke stacks, and the typical fishy smell of a port mingled with whatever the pollution the innumerable factories were emitting combined left me slack jawed. Newark, NJ and Gary, IN came to mind. When we were in Scotland, someone told me of a saying from the industrial revolution regarding factory towns, "where there is smoke, there is money.". This view of the Netherlands was one that we knew necessarily existed, but one that we had missed on our previous rides.

After our passports were stamped, we simply followed the signs to Amsterdam. Along the roads of the Netherlands, there's usually a smaller road, separated by grass or a curb. So we didn't bother to do more than look at a map while we were still in Newcastle. Follow the road along the canal? And true to form, there were smooth, clearly marked bike paths all the way to the city center - in marked contrast to our experiences in the UK. Amsterdam, I am yours.

Ramona and I did have a mini-meltdown in communication that started with an unheard comment about an unexpected left turn and ended with some swearing and bad feelings. We did, however, arrive at Marieke and Paul's flat in Zeeburg by crossing the entire Centrum of the city without too much fuss and with only two glances at our map. Anyone who has been to Amsterdam can recognize this as a minor miracle.

One thing that I forgot about riding in Amsterdam is that the horribly disturbing ominous grinding, clanking, and/or rattling noise is not coming from your bicycle. It is coming from the bicycle(s) that is approaching you rapidly from behind. This happened to me a couple of times on our way into the city. The first time, my heart dropped through the bottom of my stomach, because the sound was really bad - like someone had just shoved a polo mallet into my back wheel and my panniers were about to fall off because my rack had melted and was dragging on the ground. But no, a moment later, a handsome man passed me and said, "impressive", in Dutch which we of course could not understand, so he repeated it in English which was refreshingly clear (after the UK). The noise was probably a combination of the crate he had on the back of his bike moving and clunking around as we went over a bump and the normal every day squeaks his bike was making.

- rolling post

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