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Planes, trains, and bicycle lanes

29 December 201702:20AMviking-raidtravel

Hello folks, and welcome to Amsterdam! Today's travel blog is transport themed. It's going to be a bumpy ride because I'm pretty tired, so please keep your hands and feet inside the blog at all times.

Planes

We took some.

before and after

Let's just not talk about it, okay?

Trains

I've always kind of joked that hostels are just a shelf for you to put your body on while you're not using it. If you're spending time in your hostel room that's not sleeping, you're doing it wrong. The place we're staying in Amsterdam takes that kind of literally.

train lodge

It's a bunch of converted train carriages, out by one of the city's larger train stations. Well, "converted" - they haven't even taken it off the rails, and the inside is pretty much exactly like being on an actual train. The reception area is a kiosk car, and the dorms are all sleeper cars. Which, if you've ever seen a sleeper car, means that my shelf to put my body on when I'm not using it is literally a shelf.

Naturally I'm on the top shelf, because that's where you find the most quality produce.

I'd include a photo of the inside of the carriage, but I neglected to take one before we filled up literally every square centimetre of floor space with our junk.

Bicycle Lanes

Amsterdam is famous for its bike-friendliness, but I wasn't prepared for exactly how bike friendly it was. There are proper cycle lanes, almost always separated from cars, and they run everywhere there's a road and some places there isn't.

With that physical infrastructure comes social infrastructure, a lot of unwritten rules and ettiquette. Bikes are treated as a legit mode of transport. They give way to pedestrians and are given way to by cars. If you take your bike on the road you get honked, and if you wander onto the cycle path on foot you'll get dinged vigorously. If a car cuts off a cyclist who has right of way, the cyclist is in the right and everybody knows it - or they would, if that ever seemed to happen at all.

This seems like one of those "well, duh" things, but I think it's pretty important. People chuck the example of the Netherlands around all the time when it comes to bike infrastructure. Politicians like to come and "investigate" it regularly, although you have to wonder if there isn't an ulterior motive there. But the actual physical paths are only half the story. The culture and attitudes are just as important, if not more so, and that's the part we're missing in Australia

So obviously, hardcore casual cyclist that I am, I had to try it, right?

bikes at dawn

Somehow I missed it on the way in (see previous comments re: planes), but in addition to train wheels our hostel also has some lovely bike wheels you can borrow. They're even attached to bikes! So while I was busy taking photos of our wheeled abode, Grace and Lochie took it upon themselves to rent three noble steeds to take us into town.

After some incredibly minor height issues and an ill-advised attempt to teach Grace to scoot a bike, we were off on a delightful half-hour long early-morning ride across Amsterdam. Without a single mishap of any kind at all, we managed to make it into the museum district and spent most of the morning at the Rijksmuseum.

When we emerged again the situation had deteriorated somewhat. While we were busy legitimately engaging with art, the weather had become decidedly more slushy. Grace was thrilled - slushy as it was, this was her first experience with snow. Childlike wonder filled her face! Followed pretty quickly by the rosy glow of soft, unprotected cheeks beginning to freeze.

Snow, as Grace has now learned, is not just cold in and of itself. It is also a strong indicator of a sub-zero ambient temperature.

But as much as we would have liked it, those bikes weren't going to ride themselves back.

don't try this at home

So that's how we ended up cycling across Amsterdam in the middle of a snow flurry. Which I think makes this not just Grace's first experience with snow but also her first ever snowsport.

we survived! just.

As far as snowsports go commuter cycling isn't one I'd necessarily recommend attempting deliberately - but I can certainly think of some worse ways to spend an afternoon in Amsterdam.

Not many, mind you. But some.

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