Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As a cycling enthusiast, I have a deep appreciation for a city in which bicycles are the primary mode of transportation. Every road in Amsterdam is a bike lane. There isn't a railing or pole to be found that doesn't have a bicycle chained to it. People of every age bustle around on two wheels. Women in skirts and pantyhose roll around with baskets full of personal effects. Young men wheel around with their women sitting on the back rack. Elderly couples joyfully pedal through the park together. Families carry around as many as three children at a time in various retro-fitted and DIY home-made cargo carriers.
Amsterdam is sort of like bicycle heaven. This is not to be confused with cycling heaven, which (as far as I'm concerned) is located in Girona, Spain. The bikes here look like they've had better days; squeaking and rattling with every pedal stroke and smothering the cobblestone with the rubber of underinflated tires. There's a charming element to the idea that there isn't an embedded signal of status in the bikes that people ride. They all look and sound junky.
The lack of emphasis on the aesthetic is understandable; if bikes here are valued because of their practical merit, I can see that it would be unworthy of expending ones resources on appearance. But, for this same reason, the seeming epidemic of flat tires and squeaky chains is surprising. Maybe they don't know about lube here? Or maybe the supply/demand dynamic for lube is thrown off by the thriving red light district. As a Christmas good deed, I feel like going around and pumping up everyone's tires.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Exploring the Netherregions
After two years of picking and 'planning' Christmas vacation, this year, I left it to Erik.
I'm the sort of person that likes to buy my airline tickets in August, and then research my destination through the fall so that we can arrive as prepared as possible. The good part of this approach is that I can uncover some gems that I might not otherwise come across. The bad part is that it reduces the element of surprise.
Erik is the opposite in his approach to vacation planning. Until December, I had just assumed that we would be sticking around for the holidays. But, then he started talking about looking at some last minute destinations and, on Sunday night, we got serious about looking.
It was ultimately a toss up between the Bahamas and the Netherlands. The Netherlands won. Three days later, we are here in Amsterdam for Christmas Eve.