I should let Bryan make this entry as I am curious as to his impressions of Amsterdam. I will designate tomorrow to be his responsibility.
We woke this morning, showered, dressed, and then descended our vertical stairs to have breakfast and go in search of a bike shop. Our bikes were still there! The breakfast we had was typical for most of the ones we have had at hotels and hostels except we had a boiled egg and there was a toaster. The guy running the hotel this morning was very helpful and gave us directions to what he felt was a good bike shop. He spoke flawless English, officially worked in Dutch, and was reading a novel in Spanish. I didn’t ask how many other languages he has also mastered. I’m envious.
We set off for the bike shop, finding it easily. Bryan had a list of concerns mostly centered around his tires. I wanted a tune-up and my back rack fixed. All they were happy to do and the bikes would be ready in a week for pick-up. Perfect. They were going to be our storage while we were on our cruise. Hopefully when we return everything will be done and we can move onwards to France by train.
Yes, after 2000 km on our bikes we are going to resort to another form of long distance transport. We are down to less than 4 weeks of our trip left and this isn’t enough time to see and do everything we wish. We expected this. Bryan is missing his computer but other than that I don’t think either of us is very homesick and ready to go home. In fact I’m thinking mid-November it will be winter, my car will possibly have a flat, and I need to fix that coolant leak that I was ignoring before I left. Car or bicycle, there are always maintenance issues.
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing some shopping. Bryan gave me leave to mail some things home after the cruise if I wanted to pick up a few more clothes not so sporty. So I bought a skirt and blouse and am eyeing up a pair of jeans I may pick up in the morning. Jeans are too heavy and bulky for normal travelling but as I am going to mail something home anyway …
Our evening started with laundry and the search for an internet connection where we could upload pictures. One of the places that looked hopeful was in a cafe attached to a gay hotel. Bryan had no clue but the collection of magazines I noticed explained why I received very strange looks from all the guys that were there. Still no luck. Amsterdam really has the computers locked down: either they are using internet cafe software or there are no accessible USB ports. Hopefully, when we move onwards we have better luck. I have lots of pictures and will probably will forget where I took them.
In the process of computer hunting we entered a couple of “coffee-shops”. Now you need to pay attention in Amsterdam to the difference between coffee-shops and cafes. A coffee-shop has been allotted a liscense to legally sell marijuana and hash and have costumers use these drugs on their premises without hassle from the police. We looked at the “Menu” of foreign and domestic products but did not buy. Cafes are not designated at such and are equivalent to our coffee-shops of home.
We had an amazing steak dinner in an Argentinian restaurant followed by some dancing in the blues club across the street. Alas we were chased out relatively early by the smoke. My eyes were stinging and Bryan’s chest was tight. I had made a bet that 90 percent of the people in the club were smokers. We never officially declared if I won or lost that bet but knew I had to be close. After the blues club we tried a salsa club. Less smoke but obviously an array of other drugs in effect. And a lot of grinding going on. We left after a bit. Unfortunately my shoes were too sticky on the floor and when I tried taking them off I was motioned to put them back on even though he floor was pretty clean. Of well. I may have to pick up another pair of more danceable shoes.
Amsterdam is THE city of bikes. I know Bryan has already commented on this. Bikes are everywhere. Crammed together is racks. Being ridden in kamakaze style down the roads and off the ferry ramp (watch out!) in people in business and more casual attire. Junky and shoddy looking bikes. I think the attitude is the junkier your bikes is, the better to perhap avoid theft. Poor paint jobs to stand out in the crowd of others. Definitely a means of transportation and not a prized possession. They say the bike theft issue is improving but still there is a strange discordancy of attitudes. People are annoyed when their bike disappears but are happy to pick up a “used” one for 15 Euros or so from a junkie looking to unload a bike. The circular pattern of supply and demand. The bikes of Copenhagen are cadillacs to these bikes.
Ahh and architecture. Amsterdam is a canal based city with the structure organized in in a semi-circle around the dutch rennaissance-style Central Station. The buildings and houses are tall with narrow frontage. Taxes were based on the width of frontage to the street so house went up instead of across. Stairs became almost vertcal to save space. It is a beautiful and intriguing city cast with a dull glow. The accents of gilt on some of the buildings definitely stands out.
Now Amsterdam has museums being the home of van Gogh and Rembrandt among many other. Alas we haven’t been in any of them yet but perhaps later if time allows. I have been to the Anne Frank museum during a previous visit to Amsterdam. It is always interesting to have reality confront the image that one develops during reading. I remember thinking the space of the hiding rooms was larger than I had thought.
I guess I have said a lot and it is time to move on. Amsterdam is a place of contrasts and definitely is a great place for Bryan and I to finally take break from our bikes and our tent. Strange to suddenly be restricted to walking in a city of bikes.