- Always park your bike next to a nicer bike. Not only does it deter thieves from touching your bike, but it also ensures that the person next to you won’t bang up and damage the already “vintage” at best quality of your bicycle.
- Learn how to bike with a person on the back of your bike (and learn how to ride on the back, also). Not everyone owns a bike. You will often encounter situations where you may have brought your bike but your friend did not. This means that you’re going to probably double up to get where you’re going. I have tried riding on the back. I lasted about 5 minutes before I was just too freaked out. Of course, the Dutch are used to it because they start riding this way when they’re very young. Allie, when she visited me, was a natural at riding on the back. It depends on how comfortable you are with sitting on flat metal bars and not being able to see where you are going.
- Multitasking is your friend. Yep, you can pretty much do whatever you want while you are biking as far as I know. You can text. You can listen to your iPod. You can smoke. You can paint your fingernails. Whatever you want as long as it doesn’t “cause danger.” Take that as you will. I have seen people do 2 or 3 of these things at once. Crazy.
- Your bike is like a pack mule, so use it. Balance is especially important with this one. I have learned how to bike home after a shopping spree- I put multiple bags on my handlebars, wrap them through my fingers and I’m off! It can get a little tricky depending on how heavy the bags are and how many you have, of course, but it’s much easier than walking home with all your purchases in hand.
- Trick out your bike and personalize it! Since most people’s bikes are used, and most of the bodies are brown/black/navy/grey, a lot of the bikes end up looking the same. Personalization makes your bike easier to pick out of a crowd and also gives it a bit more meaning to you. The personalizations range from really girly (stores sell fake flowers for you to wind around the handlebars) to really practical (extra lights, bells, seat covers, etc). You can also buy packs to go on the back of your bike, in tons of different colors or prints. It’s up to you!
- Become an expert in weaving- safely. I have to admit it’s hard to get used to this rule. I am pretty good with weaving when I walk (I’m a natural at walking around in NYC- you’ll only understand this skill if you visit the city). However, weaving when I’m on a bike feels much more vulnerable for some reason. If you wait for everyone and everything to cross your path before you continue on, you will pretty much wait forever. I’ve heard you can get a hefty fine if you cross through a crosswalk without a green bike sign, but most people do it anyway…within reason.
- Park with caution. Bike sheds are your friend. Bike theft is so common here, it’s a bit of a risk to leave your bike locked up on an outdoor bike rack for more than a few hours. I always lock my bike to something rooted in the ground, like a sign or a pole- but that’s also because I don’t have a kickstand. People can also get pretty creative with where they park their bikes. Sometimes it takes a bit of rearranging to get your bike to fit in a spot.
- You don’t have to be a vicious biker, but just know that others will be. This is especially true in bigger cities, like Amsterdam. Bicyclists will run you over. They do not care about your toes, legs, arms, bags- if you are in the way, and you don’t move, chances are you’re going to get hit. I don’t like to bike like this because I think this is why lots of people (at least back home in the US) find bicyclists rather annoying. Luckily, the locals understand this and most of the time, pedestrians will wait for cyclists to pass or they will just move out of the cyclists’ path.
- Bike tunnels can be really cool. Okay, this isn’t really a rule. Just something I’ve noticed. I need to take pictures of the massive graffiti bike tunnel on the east side of Eindhoven, so you can understand what I’m talking about! It’s stunning.
- Bike in groups- it’s more fun and more active than riding in the car. Biking to a certain location with your friends can be really fun. Conversations are filled with more activity, you can see and comment on more things as you pass them, you interact with others on their bikes. Not only that, you’re getting exercise. It’s a win on multiple fronts.
Writing a bit late on this, since Allie left on Monday, but I am so glad my lovely friend decided to come all the way from Sweden to visit me! Allie came into Eindhoven on Saturday, so I showed her around my town. We went shopping at the Saturday outdoor market in Woensel (and bought some awesome America shirts…while we were in Holland…haha). We ate lunch in the center, so Allie got to try the fries with mayonnaise. Allie is now a converted fan of the mayonnaise 🙂
We also did a bit of additional shopping in the Eindhoven center and then picked up some “Chinese” food- I use quotation marks because every outside food in the Netherlands has a bit of Dutch style to it because apparently, the Dutch are picky eaters. Also, their Chinese food is just different than the Chinese food you’d expect in America. Still very good though!
After a bit of rest, I took Allie out in the Stratum (street of pubs in Eindhoven’s center) to meet up with some friends. Highlights include being some of the only people dancing, as well as watching lots of karaoke in the karaoke bar- always entertaining.
On Sunday, we took a trip to Amsterdam! It was actually helpful that’d I just been there a week before, because I was much better at navigating the city this time. First off, we went to see the Anne Frank House. Like I said, it’s very powerful to be in the Secret Annex, where the Frank and Van Pels families hid during World War II. Everyone should see it at least once!
After the Anne Frank house, we walked through the flower market, where they sell pretty much everything, with a focus on tulips. After getting some snacks (fries and croissants, mmm) we went on a Canal Tour through the city, which was perfectly timed on the cusp of nightfall, when all the lights around the canal bridges look beautiful. The canal tour lasted an hour. I also highly recommend doing that at least once!
Of course, a trip to Amsterdam is incomplete without walking around the Dam and the Red Light District, so we made some excursions to those parts of the city as well. After lots of walking and a bit of dinner, we went to the “Xtra Cold” Amsterdam Ice Bar! We had to wear huge puffy jackets and gloves so that we could drink our beverages out of entirely ice glasses. Talk about cold drinks. The walls and the seating arrangements were also made out of ice- pretty cool. The eskimo bartender also apparently knows someone in school in Atlanta. He asked us what state in the US we were from before we made that connection. Talk about 6 degrees of separation.
After that, we took a late train home to Eindhoven. Monday I had to go to school to work on some projects, so Allie came with. We double-biked (the word I have devised that refers to someone riding on the back of a one-person bike). Allie has a picture of this in action. It’s pretty hilarious. Wish I could post it here!