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Sunday, August 17, 2014

There are no STOP signs in Amsterdam!

This is Amsterdam

Imagine this: Your partner says to you, "we are going on a trip tomorrow." She indicates that the temperature will likely be a little cooler than where you are, but that is all the information you have.

You think that you are going on a road trip, but comes the time to leave home and your son is driving the car, so no, you will not be taking a road trip as he takes you to the airport.

I should explain that my wife and I have been playing games like this for years. Mainly she decides where she wants to go on her vacations and I go along for the ride. I don't do details so she tells me what I need to know, when I need to know it.

So, we are at the airport standing in a long line that branches into three. The line on the left is headed for the Turkish Airlines desk. I know my wife wants to go to Turkey. I don't, but if it turns out we are going to Turkey, so be it.

The middle line is going to the EasyJet desk, but they are not showing where they are going. That's not helpful to me, or presumably to anyone else, but that is now the line we are in. The line to our right is going to the Transavia airlines desk, and its destination is Amsterdam. I look at those people with envy because Holland is the one place I really want to visit. We have many friends there, and I have been promising myself for a long time that I would take a trip to see them in their homes.

At the last minute my wife says we are in the wrong line and we shift over to the line for Amsterdam. Yeah!

What a fabulous experience we had in The Netherlands. I could write a book, but I will summarize:  for those of you who have already visited, you will know that the city is made up of canals and bridges and musuems, and lots and lots of bikes. In all of Holland there are about 16 million people and 16 million pedal cycles. Coincidence? In Amsterdam there are an estimated seven million bikes, with about 700,000 on the road at any one time. That's the problem.

The city's roads are narrow; they are crowded with pedestrians, trams running down the centre, followed by buses, and all those damned bikes. Added to that are the cars and trucks that are very much in the minority. The net result is that as a pedestrian you are put on high alert and become paranoid. That continues even after you've left the city and the country.

I'm not sure when I first realised it, but there are no STOP signs in Amsterdam. Not a one! True, there are a few light signals on the major roads, but with all those bikes going in every which way without slamming into one another, its a miracle. There are lots of close calls, but I never saw one collision, and that includes the tourists on bikes.

I can honestly say that Amsterdam is a unique city, from my point of view. It's Venice, but  with a ton of bikes, and a Red Light district that has become institionalized. That can only be found in Amsterdam!

Perhaps its the creed of The Netherlands, that being one of tolerance, that is reflected in all that freedom. WoW!

Copyright (c) 2014  Eugene Carmichael