|An Orange Excursion||
Me on a bike...yea, well it is what it is. It is truly the only way to get around Amsterdam, it's quick, efficient, and when you have one that doesn't scream "TOURIST" you are truly part of the city. Let me be the first to tell you, that the whole notion of "never forgetting how to ride a bike" is at a whole new level here. Riding is one thing, but paying attention, learning when to go, and how to use pedal breaks again is one huge challenge. But yes, after almost a week with a bike, I can properly say, "Ik kan vrij goed fietsen."
Pretty much every picture that I have taken on my ventures thus far have been via bike travels. It is the only way to do Amsterdam. I really can't stress it enough. You get your lane (sometimes), own stoplights, and hell, even cars slow down for you. Technically pedestrians have the right-a-way, but it becomes very apparent that bikes are king. When one comes however, remember to lock up, as a kid in my study abroad group found out, he did not have it for more than 10 hours. Lock up the tires, find a nice pole, and try not to forget where you park it!!
Now here is where I would like to express my passions for something that I have been called "snobbish" for. That would be, beer. I refuse to drink "lite" beers, they simply are abominations, and American mass produced "beer-water" as they say over here, is crap (snob comment there....). But it is quite interesting that beer, at any venue, costs less than a glass of tap water. In fact, even at the student cafeteria, beer was served, and it was cheaper than any other drink. Heineken is the main brand, and they also own Amstel, but believe it or not, they have many other varieties, like an Oud Bruin, Dubbel, and a Witte-form of Amstel. All are pretty good, but anything that says "Trappe" (that is, brewed/made from traditional Trappist monks during the medieval ages is infinitely better than anything possibly on both continents). Also, the Dutch really do not have a "beer tradition," there are a few Pilsners, (Dommelsch mainly) but everything seems to be imported from Belgium. Not that this party is complaining, but it is quite interesting that the Dutch talk down on the Belgians as, "onze disfunctionele buren" but seemingly let the whole beer monopoly slide right off. Now the Dutch will drink beer at any sign of free time. Free time before an event---bar; An hour between trams---bar; Raining (common theme here)---bar; even before going to a party that is already diluted with liquor and beer, oen must properly sit and sip your vlaasje, kleintje, or vlacht. Yes, I said sip. A typical Dutch excursion to a bar lasts anywhere between an 1hr-3hrs. And you'll only have about 2 beers. Its all about taking ones time, not looking at watches, and enjoying company and the beer. Now, here is a typical beer size and glass that a restaurant will give you:
Yes, that is my rental cell phone, no much smaller than an IPhone, and that is what you get to drink. It is just enough to get you through a passing rain storm, a very intense Dutch political debate (they love to talk it), or just enough to hold you over until the next one!! All-in-all, biking and beer is quite unique here. It is all very well thought out (the little things they take care in, such as market hours, food packaging, space usage, the uncaring for how you are dressed and look) and different than from our American society. Some things are weird, some still get me, such as why they do not replenish bread at grocery stores throughout the day, or why they must FRY EVERYTHING. But I do enjoy the talks, the good beer, and the fact that I have a quick, fun way to get around without ever having to pay for gas or worrying about parking! (Below is my "Green Lantern" as its been dubbed, due to its green hideousness, and the fact that it practically glows at night)