Thursday, July 27, 2017

Holland, Take One

The mandatory aping of the painting photo
Holland is known for bicycles, maybe, and for Vermeer, of course, and for cheese, and for Heineken. Also tulips. Perhaps as the birthplace of Van Gogh. Oh, and Rembrandt too. So when we went to Holland a few weeks ago we planned to do some cycling, see some Vermeers, eat some cheese, etc.

We opted to skip the Heineken. Scott developed quite a fondness for Skuumkoppe beer instead.

What we discovered is that the seats on Dutch rental bikes are far less comfortable than those found on our bikes at home and also that Dutch bikes, in general, are insanely heavy. Somehow, we were always riding into a headwind on our longer excursions and, come to think of it, on some that were supposed to be pretty short as well.

Dutch rental bikes, Round 2: Our trusty steeds of Texel
Next time, I swear I'm bringing Bessie. And I sort of feel like there will be a next time because riding in Amsterdam was mighty fine. Who has the right of way in all situations? The cyclist. You get to be a pretty damned alert pedestrian walking in Amsterdam, and I can't imagine what it's like to drive there. Oh, wait. It's probably like being a cyclist in Seattle. A driver who hit a cyclist in Amsterdam would probably be torn limb from limb.

The thing you don't expect so much, maybe, is that that tulip business is a blind. The national flower of Holland is clearly the hollyhock. They grow absolutely everywhere, including along the sidewalks in central Amsterdam. And most hollyhocks, it seems, contain a few very hardworking bumblebees who are seriously coated in pollen. They put those mason bees to shame, I tell you.
One of great many bee-hosting hollyhocks
The other thing you see a lot of in Holland are cats. I could, I think, be very happy living in Holland, though Gradka would probably get tired of having to chase so many interlopers off the premises.

A frenzied turf war on a quiet street in Den Burg on Texel
Cocktails at Vesper
Of course, we also saw a number of new birds (and some old friends who clearly were as surprised to see us as we were to see them), a great many sheep, a handful of goats, and a pig named Walter. Perhaps one of these days, I'll order my thoughts and share some of those, along with the helpful travel tips that I was mentally compiling while in Europe that somehow abandoned me entirely somewhere over Iceland.

Four tips that I can remember just now:
1) Stock up on your ginger beer before getting on the ferry in Den Helder.
2) Your ov-chipkaart will work on train travel as well as on mainland trams, metro, and buses, but not on Texel.
3) Order the green beans with miso dip at Vesper. (Mmmm, Vesper . . .)
4) Which reminds me of a fourth tip, courtesy of Jules, the very helpful bartender at Vesper, eat at d&a hummus bistro. Delicious and cheap!
Preening Eurasian oystercatcher (Zuiderzee, Texel)

For a much more literary account of our time in Amsterdam, see Scott's account here.

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