Amsterdam is a bicycler’s paradise, this is already well known. The city (and the whole of the Netherlands) has done everything in its power to make bicycling through Amsterdam a pleasant experience. Except one thing: Most major streets (and some lesser ones) have traps that gobble up bike tires. Some people refer to these traps as “tram tracks”, but I know in reality that the tram system must be subsidized by bicycle repair shops across the city.
I fell victim to one of these ingenious hazards last week. On Thursday June 2nd, it was Ascension Day, a public holiday in the Netherlands and Germany (hence, I had the day off). My wife, unfortunately, had to work, so I decided to spend the day riding around the city ‘op mijn fiets’ (on my bike) checking out some neighborhoods. We had found several apartments on funda.nl that were for sale, and I wanted to see what the area around them was like.
I found the first apartment easily enough, right near the Carre theater on the Amstel River. From there, I cycled up towards the Blauwbrug (Blue Bridge). While waiting for traffic to pass, I spotted an opening and went for it. As I crossed the tram tracks (at a 90 degree angle, no less!) I heard a “whoosh!” and my bike suddenly felt weird. I got to the far side of the road, and my rear tire was completely flat. Luckily for me, there was a bicycle rental/repair shop right across the street, and they were open, so I took my bike there. They said “come back in 4 hours.”
Hmm, here I am stuck nowhere near my apartment without a bike. I debated hopping on the tram to go home, but what fun would that be? I decided to walk to the apartments and check them out anyway. What should have been a 45 minute bike ride around the city turned into a 3 hour walk, but the weather was sunny and warm. I found a nice bench near Fredericksplein and relaxed with a bottle of Albert Heijn cola. I even found a kapsalon (barbershop/hair salon) that was open, and got a much needed hair cut (more on that in an upcoming post).
All in all, I’m rather glad my bike had problems. I got to spend much more time observing and experiencing the neighborhoods than I would have had I just cycled through them. Walking around Amsterdam seeing everybody outside enjoying the weather really reminded me of why we picked this city to live in. It’s really quite a beautiful city, especially once you get away from the bars and coffeeshops and red light windows. I think we found the neighborhood we want to live in, we’re just waiting on some paperwork to go to the mortgage people before we contact a makelaar (real estate agent) and start looking officially.