Got back from a little travel. Did Barcelona, some Italy (did it better last year), some France, and then Amsterdam.
Sigh. Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam…
Do I have to say it? I do, don’t I…Awwwww.
Seriously: why are your bikes so shitty looking? You ride them everywhere. I’m cool with that, really, I am. Initially, I was horrified to note that the vast majority of your bikes are single speed bikes with back-pedal brakes and step-through frames (here in the US, only a small number of grey-haired old ladies ride step-through frames and, in fact, step-through frames are also called “women’s bikes”). Then I realised the terrain is so flat, you don’t need low gears. With lots of other bicyclists, pedestrians, and cars to contend with, it’d be dangerous to go too fast (particularly on your numerous cobblestones, tram rails, blah blah blah). So you don’t need high gears either. I guess single-speed bikes do kinda make sense. And the step-through frame thing makes sense for people wearing long coats when it gets cold.
But then, we’re back to my main point: why do your bikes look so shitty? So many of them looked like badly maintained relics and rickety old fossils. I saw a few bikes with so much rust on the chain and sprockets that I needed a tetanus shot just from looking at them. I saw some bikes that were chained up but had tires that had long gone flat. Did their owners get liquored up one night and forget where they left them, and then were too embarrassed to ask their friends for help in locating them? I did see a few nice bikes, but they appeared to be owned by companies that rented them to tourists.
And what’s with the bike helmets, and by that I mean the lack thereof? I didn’t see one person (seriously) wear a bike helmet. Yeah, I know they look kinda dorky, but c’mon…
On an unrelated note, what’s with the English? I had little difficulty negotiating the other countries because of the prevalence of people whose English skills ranged from manageable to decent, but Amsterdam seemed to have a startling number of people with unusually good English skills. Really, the challenge seemed not to be finding someone who spoke English but rather was finding someone who didn’t. Is it required or something? In any case, bravo Amsterdam. Your English is certainly better than my Dutch. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t make hide nor hare of your language when listening to it, but when reading subtitles on your tv shows I had a much easier time guessing what was going on… the overlap between Dutch and English was more evident, especially as a former New Yorker (although New York has few Dutch immigrants these days, at least to my knowledge, it’s history as a former Dutch colony is evident in some of the speech patterns even today).
Loved your red-light district. What I found fascinating was not the fact that prostitution was legal and brazenly advertised, but rather the fact that the red-light district was also frequented by what appeared to be otherwise normal families out for a stroll or a bite to eat in one of the restaurants. They didn’t seem fazed of disgusted by the goings-on, or view either the purveyors or purchasers of sex as something they scraped off of their shoes. And your Sex Museum, a bargain at 4 Euros, was awesome. Once again, bravo Amsterdam.
Lastly, your weather was cold and rainy. So you’re gonna wanna work on that.