Alright, a post without heavy content! I know that yesterday’s was probably a bit boring to those not interested in sustainable developments, architecture, or hydrology, but this one is just going to be a nice little rant about my first impressions of the Netherlands 🙂
The day after our Malmo tours was spent mostly traveling – planes, trains, and bicycles! We got to start out with a walk to the train station, all of us loaded down with all our luggage… I am so glad I took Marc’s instructions to be self-contained over cobblestones very seriously! I’m loving the backpack life!
Then we got to cross the famous Oresund bridge, which is famous for both the engineering and the diplomacy involved. The 5 mile long bridge leaves Malmo, touches down on a man-made island (which has an interesting biological and ecological story as well), then transitions to a tunnel before stopping at the Copenhagen airport. Definitely geeked out a bit… I might not be majoring in structural engineering, but I can appreciate a great bridge 🙂
After a fun flight (during which I learned to either avoid or travel to Falls City, OR, depending on how I feel about CRAZY redneck towns… Thanks Taylor!), we landed in Amsterdam, trained to Utrecht (difficult with lots of luggage during rush hour, but not impossible), and arrived in time to get our bikes.
First off, I had zero expectations for Utrecht… going to be honest, I don’t think I had ever heard of the city before reading the syllabus for this trip. But oh my goodness, the city was absolutely stunning. GORGEOUS canals everywhere with thousands of people dining along the water. Beautiful brick buildings as far as I could see. A cathedral towered over the square with our hostel. Thousands upon thousands of bikes, parked in garages in double layers, along the canal in stacks. Complete sensory overload.
Second, we got new Dutch style bikes (upright, step through, baskets in the front). They were so much heavier than anything I have ridden. After the last week and a half, I can ride a bike. Maybe not compete in a downhill mountain bike competition or in a road race, but I can get from point A to point B. This thing almost took me down. I was wobbling like I needed training wheels. They only had three speeds, and the biggest issue – pedal brakes. These bikes were incredibly difficult to stop. It is not instinctual to pedal backwards to stop. I found myself constantly reaching for the hand brakes, only to find that the one we did have was simply not very good. Our debrief the first night in Utrecht was primarily complaints about these heavy bikes.
Lastly, the bike network seemed to be absolute chaos. It seemed that bicyclists went anywhere and everywhere they pleased. I have been talking like we rode miles in the system and discovered all these awkward things about our bikes, but really, we only lasted 5 minutes in the system on the journey between the bike shop and our hotel. I didn’t realize how safe and organized Copenhagen really was until we got to Utrecht.
While these bikes and the system made us all really nervous the first night there, we felt a bit better after enjoying dinner right on the canal in the center of the city. Of course, we only put ourselves through that since it was a great place to observe thousands of bikes, not because of the view. Promise.