In August when we were in Amsterdam we decided to finally partake in the most Dutch of activities: cycling.
There are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam, and the city’s infamous biking infrastructure came about in the post-war era after a number of vehicle fatalities involving children. Now cyclists pretty much have the right of way in almost all traffic situations, and rain or shine, cycling is one of the best ways to get around town.
But instead of fighting traffic with the millions of tourists in the city centrum, we decided to take a ferry across the River IJ in order to explore the area known as Waterland, a marshy countryside just a few kilometers north of the city.
We started at Central Station, where we rented the infamous red Mac Bikes pretty much every tourist rides. It was Saturday morning, and we got a late start, so by the time we’d had lunch, the rental line was long. However, the Mac Bike store shows an interesting and informative video on cycling laws and etiquette in Amsterdam that you can watch while you wait. The rental process was pretty easy, and the bikes were in good condition and super comfortable. (You can read more about Dutch-style bikes at this link, but to paraphrase Howlin’ Wolf, they’re built for comfort, not for speed.)
Then we pedaled to the other side of the station to catch the free bike-friendly ferry that takes you across the river to Amsterdam Noord. The ride takes about five minutes.
Once we were on the other side, we set off. Our goal was to pedal to Broek in Waterland, have a drink, and then ride back to Amsterdam taking a different route. This plan, however, was thwarted by two issues. First, we tried to follow these directions, which were terrible. Second, our bikes had to be returned by 5 pm, which, thanks to our late start, left us very little time to dawdle.
Still, we had an amazing time. The weather was perfect. It seems easier to get around the countryside by bike than car. Broek itself was like something out of a picture book. We saw the church of Zunderdorp and dozens of fellow cyclists and paddlers enjoying the canals. We saw a goat playground, horses and wild swans. On the way back, we stopped for drinks at Cafe ‘t Sluisje, where we watched a boy and his father boat through a hand-operated canal lock.
Then it was back to Noord, back across the ferry and back to Mac Bikes. Total distance: 22 kilometers. Total cost: 15 euro each (not counting adult beverages).
One of my dreams is to take a bicycle camping trip through the Dutch countryside. Now that I know how easy it is to get around the country by bike, maybe it’s time to start planning.