We set our alarm for the earliest time yet on our trip—5:30am (ouch)—and it wasn’t even to get up and make an early start on our bikes 😦 We had a more depressing 8 hour train journey to Amsterdam to look forward to instead. But, considering it was still raining and the journey would probably have taken us about 2 weeks to cycle, we were happy to convince ourselves we’d made the right decision.
Getting a train into a new country is nowhere near as fun as cycling in and we felt like we’d missed out on so much of Germany and Holland that we vowed to return at some point on two wheels. On the train with the buildings whizzing past outside the window, you miss so much: the little villages, the café stops in middle-of-nowhere towns that no other tourist would ever usually visit. Still, Nev got pretty excited when the train stopped opposite the VW manufacturing plant where his little car was made in 1985.
Getting off the train in Amsterdam was chaotic to say the least. There were bikes EVERYWHERE and they were all moving pretty fast, paying no attention whatsoever to traffic lights. It wasn’t far to our hostel but as cycle-friendly as Amsterdam is, with massive bags on our bikes it was a fairly stressful 1.5 miles.
Our hostel was right in the middle of the red light district, surrounded by bong shops and naked ladies in windows.
We spent most of our time in the city just taking in the sights.
We thought it would be apt to end our journey in Amsterdam, often touted as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Whilst there were an insane amount of bikes, multi-story bike parks and lots and lots of cycle lanes, apart from this uber-hipster wooden bike and a guy who looked like Snoop Dog riding a super bling pimped out chrome bike, most of the bikes we saw were just your run-of-the-mill, rusty-in-a-trendy-way town bikes.
We walked through the park where we spotted this “find fence” for people to peg up things they’d found in the park, which I suppose is better than the usual method of putting any random shoes and other finds on the nearest wall.
Why do so many people seem to lose one shoe? Who doesn’t notice the loss of one shoe??? As well as shoes and quite a few keys, there were also quite a lot of twigs, leaves and even stones pegged up. Oh, Amsterdam.
We also went to a coffee shop for some fresh mint teas and to sample some of the local cuisine.
After that, we spent the rest of our day eating pizza and having an afternoon nap, trying to ignore the church bells that were ringing every 15 minutes and at one point didn’t stop chiming for 25 mins. I think they were experimenting with some funky bell rings too. At one point, I’m pretty sure they were playing the A-team theme tune.
Having cycled for so long through the bargain that is Eastern Europe, we were struggling to find reasonably priced food anywhere, but we did discover that all the cheese shops offered free samples, so we thought it only right to try every single cheese in every shop we passed. One of them even had desert in the form of waffle and chocolate samples. Mmmm free food.
With a bit of online research, we managed to find a good Dutch restaurant called Hap-Hmm just outside the main city that wouldn’t break the bank. When we walked into the warmth of the restaurant off the rainy street, it felt as though we’d walked into someone’s house. It was super cosy and the menu was full of lovely homely comfort food too, perfect in the rainy weather! We both went for the “Grandma’s Meatball” before walking back to our hostel in the more seedy part of town.