Bike Trip Part 3: Haarlem to Amsterdam

After going from The Hague to Zandvoort and then from there to Haarlem, our bike trip continued on Saturday. As fine as the weather had been on Friday, as bad it was on Saturday. When we were about to leave our hotel, it started raining. But we were prepared. Wrapped up in rain gear, we cycled through rain and winds towards Amsterdam. Actually quite a nice ride, mainly through the countryside, but with that weather we could only appreciate if there was no rain or wind that day and not how nice the landscape looked. When we arrived in Amsterdam it had stopped raining and we found our place to stay easily: the Maria Alberta, a boat near the main station. We had booked a three bed cabin and here it was not too bad this time, that it was just the two of us, as like this we had at least some space to spread our luggage.

The owners are very lovely people and told us where we should go and what was there to see on this particular saturday. They also marked it on a map and gave us some more tips and with that we started to make our way through Amsterdam. We took our bikes to get around more quickly but it would be just fine to walk as well.

From the boat on the Oosterdok, we made our way down to Waterloo Plein where a fleamaket was suppossed to be but unfortunately it was all touristy stuff that you find on the usual “alternative” market all around the world, I guess.

Then we rode along the grachten, the Amsterdam waterways, where Herrengracht, Keisergracht and Prinsengracht are very beautiful, until we reached the Westerkerk where we finally left our bikes to start walking. Outside of the canal ring, so west of Prinsengracht, is the Jordan, an old working class quarter turned in the place to be due to gentrification.

Now some of you might voice your protest on how bad gentrification is. Sure, it might be, but on the other hand it is a natural process in human geography and the thing that bugs me in this discussion is that people who complain most are not the poorer people living there being driven out of their neighbourhood due to high prices but it’s middle class people who moved to that quarter in the first phase of the gentrification process and that now realise what is happening and don’t like living with people like themselves. I just needed to say that as it is something that happens in Dusseldorf too and I can’t stand those people complaining on a very high level.

But on with our tour. We started in South Jordan making our way up through the cute little streets, stopped at the Noordermarkt, a Saturday’s Farmer’s market and went a little bit shopping on Haarlemmerdijkstraat. It was ok, weatherwise, with only some rain once and again. We always found a place to stay when the rain came down. Only on our way back to the boat we got soaked when we tied our bikes to a bike stand instead of running for cover in our boat. We managed to dry our pants, Ulrike’s socks and shoes and my handbag, but my shoes were so soaked I decided that they would not come back with me to Germany anymore.

That evening, wearing the best we could find, with our “town clothes” still being soaking wet we had dinner first and than took a walk in the red light district. I expected other people around but not that huge masses of tourists, squeezing through the narrow lanes in the old city center where prostitues sit in small window cabins waiting for customers. This is surely a touristic attraction but I got a bit claustrophobic in the small lanes with that many people and I didn’t feel too morally well. After all these women are sex workers and even if human trafficking and similar things are forbidden in the Netherlands and prostitutes can join a union, it still is not the nicest job to have to be sure.

Sunday saw even more rain. It was literally raining very hard every 15-20 minutes for about 5 minutes. This made it hard to get anywhere. We took our bike but had to stop whenever it started raining again not to get soaking wet again because we had nothing to change anymore and were to take the train home that evening. In Ulrike’s case it was even a night train. This was reason that after a great big breakfast (included in the price for the night and super guestfriedly served on the boat) we started a museums day. With the Rijksmuseum too big and still under renovation (plus I had been there before), the Van Gogh museum expensive (and I had seen this one too) and the Anne Frank house basically inaccessible due to long queues with out an online ticket, we decide to go to the Historisch Museum of Amsterdam. It was a good choice. We had lots of fun seeing nicely animated films, displays and trying out bikes or clothes from Amsterdam in the change of time.

After that we made it without rain to a cafe a bit outside of the canal ring, De taart van m’n Tante. It was a superkitsch place, but with amazing cakes! After that, as it was still raining again and again we used the reduction our first museum ticket of the day gave us to see an original upperclass house on the Herrengracht, the Museum Willet-Holthuysen. After that I left Ulrike to start my journey back home as from Amsterdam it took me even more hours and changing train twice to get home (a bit annoying when you know that there is direct train taking less than 2 hours but you can’t use it because of the bike).

Concluding, Amsterdam is a nice place with areas like the Joordan and possibly many more to explore, big museums and lots of history. But it is also an extremely touristy place which for me made it very exhausting. But I would go back there anyway to explore some more and maybe seeing the Rijksmuseum after the great opening next April when it should be fully restored.

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