Biking Chaos through Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Within my two trips to Amsterdam in my earlier college years, I did all the touristy Red Light district activities, but never had the "local experience" especially since I could never get the courage to bike through Amsterdam. As a child, I never learned how to ride a bike due to my brother's bike crash when my dad specifically stated NOT to ride. Biking in Holland (The Netherlands), is essential to local life. Over 50% of locals ride their bikes to work and Amsterdam has been known as one of the friendliest bike cities in the world... so... why not overcome my biking inability in this city?! Well, what I thought was a good idea, was kind of a good idea, but a bit of a bad idea as well; A bad idea because I was stressed and in fear most of the time on the bike, especially since every train, car, bike, and anything moving was on a mission to kill me, but a very good idea, in that I survived and got to experience the local way of transport on such a beautiful day.
Mazen, a kind of new friend who has many mutual friends from work but I have not personally met before, were both attending a similar course for work. We decided to come in a day early to Amsterdam go to the Anne Frank Museum (something that I never could do the two times before in Amsterdam) and mostly spend more "local" experiences within Amsterdam, which included riding a bike around the city and eating real Dutch food!
We began our day renting bikes from the hotel (very cheap, about $15/day)... Because the Dutch are the tallest in the world, their "normal" height bikes were for people who were six feet tall... It was a struggle for me since I am only 5 feet 1, so I had to run with the bike and jump on. Sometimes I was not so lucky and completely missed the seat while jumping on and straight up fell on my ass on the street (I have a huge bruise on my butt to prove it). People around me were terrified of me on a bike since it looked like I was going to crash straight into them... fortunately I did not!
I practiced biking along a not so busy street until Mazen gave the final approval that I was ready to be released in the real world. I was extremely nervous, but we made it to the Albert Cuypmarkt outdoor market without too big of complications. This market had all sorts of random things, from groceries, to flowers, to mismatching socks and shoes, to tourist gifts, and much much more. Beware though... I bought a purse from a man who said he bought from Paris, but when I opened the purse it straight up said "MADE IN CHINA".... wow... fail haha.
After a nice stroll along the market, we rode our bikes to the Anne Frank Museum. TIP: purchase tickets ONLINE BEFORE... you will wait in line for hours if you do not! It is the same price too (approx 12 euros). The museum was not what I expected in that the home was much larger than I imagined while reading the diary. I had a very eery feeling remembering the suffering and isolation that Anne had expressed in her diary... There are no noises other than the footsteps of the line of people in front and behind of me. It was a very dramatic and chilling museum, but just was not fitting for this amazing, sunny, happy day that we had outside...
Mazen and I were relieved to get out of the stuffy museum and go enjoy the day outside. We continued on our bike ride along the city to find a local bar to have some drinks and Dutch food. Along the way we would stop by pretty neighborhoods with canals and colorful flowers for our Amsterdam "canal photoshoot"... Mazen hated it, but on the inside LOVED it... hehe. We ended up stopping at a poppin' little place called De Blauwe Pan and sat in the outdoor seating to enjoy the last of the sun and people watch. We ended up sitting next to a lesbian couple (why do lesbians like me?) who suggested all the fried Dutch snacks: bitterballen, kroketten, frites, kaastengels... all very oily but oh so delicious.
After our snack, jet lag started to settle on the both of us and we both needed to nap badly. We stopped by the tulip market by Daam Square on the way back to the hotel, but it did not impress me at all, so we literally left after 5 minutes. Mazen's friend, Jerel, from high school lived locally in Amsterdam, so we planned to meet her after our nap.
Jerel took us to a very trendy hotel bar that was decorated in sort of an industrial style "man cave" decor. This bar was actually where they filmed the "The Original Cool, Holland" video, which was a bit exciting. We had a bottle of wine, and decided to venture out for some french fries at the Chipsy King... Chipsy King, HANDS DOWN, has the best frites in DA WORLD... Awesome as a snack and a main meal :). Then we headed over to to a local bar area to Cafe Belgique where we sat at the bar talking; Mazen and Jerel were catching up as well as me getting to know Mazen and Jerel better. We headed out to a more clubbing scene to Dansen Bij Jansen, the most famous local student bar with cheap drinks and house music. We got our dance on until we were exhausted! Mazen headed on his way home and Jerel let me ride on the back of her bike back to my hotel. It was quite an adventure seeing that we all were not in the right state of mind and we were riding a bike in the streets of Amsterdam.... against traffic! haha
Jerel was craving falafel, so we ended up stopping. Ironically, I went to this restaurant the last time I was in Amsterdam, but I did not enjoy it at all. I am not sure what has changed since then, but this felafel was amazing and satisfied all my late night munchy cravings.
It truly was a great full day of local Amsterdam activities! I even got over my fear of riding bikes in this chaotic city (kinda...)! Sadly the next day was cloudy and gloomy, but we had a great breakfast and headed to the station to meet my friend Bert to head out to Emmen for work!