Saturday, September 5, 2009

The City

Amsterdam is simply a majestic city. Like Copenhagen, the city is more than 800 years old. It grew up around a port on the River Ij, which is located just north of the Centraal Station.
Even since I was here in 2006, the station area has improved dramatically. Long known as a hotspot for seedy characters and a bastion for raucous, the station now teems with people on a mission. Its bursting with the hustle and bustle of people with intentions rather than the sketchy stagnancy of aimlessness. For what its worth, the city appears to have taken steps to make the whole centrum a bit more controlled. Politzei can be seen casually strolling in and around the red light district just beside the station, a scene of control amidst a culture that in some ways promotes indulgence.

The road to Amsterdam was a long one; probably around 1800 Kilometers. I didn't have a computer, and honestly, I was a bit too tired each night to calculate my mileage. But while the road was long, it was amazing.
Once I was in the Netherlands, these very helpful red signs pointed the way at every major intersection. I had a map, but it turned out to be little more than a confirmation for the signs. The routes throughout the Netherlands are incredibly well signed, and it's possible to take a bike path to almost every city and town across the country.
When I neared Amsterdam, I found myself on an off-road single track path, a pretty common feature of touring in Europe.
I think this picture is poignant, as sometimes life is like having a double wide trailer on a single track trail. In other words it's not always easy to move forward, but it is always possible. Sometimes it just requires a bit more effort.

I finally saw the sign I'd been waiting for since I left Copenhagen just outside the city:
My Dutch isn't so good, but I'm almost positive that this sign says watch for wandering sheep. I think this means I have officially arrived in the most bicycle friendly place in the Western world: They make the effort to warn cyclists of hazardous sheep.

Less than 10k outside of Amsterdam, I came upon a German couple bent over a bicycle lying on the ground. I asked if all was okay, and they responded with troubled looks and a clear "nay," things were not okay. Upon further inspection, the lady had crashed her bike into the barrier preventing cars from entering the bike path; she had bent the bicycle frame and fork in the crash restricting the handlebar movement. After a bit of grunting and pulling, we bent the frame back into place (sorta...) and the handlebars were free to turn again. Joyfully, the gentleman passed along his card and asked for a photo:
He offered his home to me anytime, a house just outside Nuremberg, Germany. We both left a bit happier than before I arrived.
The path into the city was smooth and wide open; though I arrived without a place to stay, despite having searched like mad, I found a great campground just north of the center. Tired but satisfied I set up my tent and began my travels throughout the city.
The first thing I noticed after beginning my walk through the city was that my shoes were probably the most tired object in my traveling cache. I think these photos tell the story:
I bought a pair of blue high top "chucks" at the local flea market and left these on the sidewalk just where they lay. A big piece of my trip is about learning how and when to let go. For these, my favorite slip-on Vans, the time had come to let go.

I've made some great contacts in the city already; bike polo, alleycats, cargo bike shops, racing shops, BMX/Freestyle shops, community bike programs; More bike culture than I know what to do with. I reckon I'll find a way to fit it all in.

This was the final picture of the tour:

View The tour from CPH to AMS in a larger map

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