Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cycling Europe 2016 : Amsterdam Cycling To The Windmills

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker -Europe 2016 / Cycling Europe / Amsterdam Cycling To The Windmills
                                                       AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                                    
Amsterdam Cycling To The Windmills
Amsterdam, Netherlands : 16th September 2016
Cycling Distance: 24.94 km.     |     Level: Easy
Time : 11:15 am - 3:05 pm
Time Taken : 3hrs. 50 mins. (including stops at the windmill, cheese farm, & various points of interest, photo-ops, regrouping & rest)

Route Recommendations :
1. Ride Conditions
    - Amsterdam's traffic is left-hand drive. For those coming from right-hand drive countries always do remember to ride on the right-hand side... i.e. Right is right! Same thing applies when crossing the rode, take note that traffic is approaching from left! Sounds confusing, it actually isn't, just take while to get use to it.
    - The route is fairly flat, and riding in summer is great as there is no need for thick clothing. The morning was quite cold and I used my raincoat as a windbreaker.
    - Cycling lanes in the city is busy with many cyclists, do give way and cycle on the right.
    - Also look out for the sharp arrows (like shark's teeth); if these are pointing at you at lanes intersection, yield to cyclists riding on the other perpendicular lane.
    - Observation: that bicycles are locked with thick chains and big locks.
    - Observation as a pedestrian: cyclist often don't give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, so do watch out for them.
2. Points of Interest:
    - Windmill De Zwaan (GPS: 52.30336, 4.90478).
    - Rembrandt Hoeve Cheese Farm (GPS: 52.31912, 4.9061), get cheese here at cheaper farm prices. Tip: the savings from the cheaper cheese more than covered the cycling tour cost.
    - the recti-linear canals within the city.
    - Amstel River with boats, ducks and other birds.
    - the farms in the countryside with cows and horse grazing.
    - Windmill Gooyer (GPS: 52.36679, 4.92615), an octagonal windmill with the Brouwerij 't IJ beer house next to it.
3. This is a guided cycling tour with the Mike's Bike Tours Amsterdam - Countryside Bike Tour. The charge for this tour is 28€, payable on booking or at the start of the tour.


PRELUDE

Whenever I am on holidays with non-cycling friends, I try to take some time off from them to do some cycling. This time round we were touring Western Europe, and I managed to squeeze time for some of-the-beaten-track cycling in London and also cycling along the Seine in Paris. Now we are in Amsterdam, and my cycling legs are getting itchy again ... much more itchier as Amsterdam, with its extensive cycling infrastructure, is touted as the cycling capital of the world. I just have to cycle here.
But with just little time to spare, I decided it was better to follow a cycling tour. My search sent me to Mike's Bike Tour, and wanting to see some of Holland's famed windmills, I opted for their Countryside Tour.
To the Windmills then!


THE RIDE



The route starts from the Amsterdam city centre and heads out to the Amstel riverside. Along the way are stops to view farmlands, scenic river views; visits to a windmill and a cheese farm.


11:15am - We rolled off and rode along the cycling lanes and quieter streets of Amsterdam's city centre; people were on bicycles everywhere, it seems to be the norm. Because of this, nearer the commercial centres, we had to ride single file on the right side to allow other cycling commuters in a hurry to overtake us.



We rode outward and across several drawbridges that spanned over the famed canals of the city. Every now and then these will open to allow taller boats to cross. Unfortunately, we did not pass any bridges that were drawn opened.



The cycling lanes in the city is superb and other than riding single file at busy areas, we learnt to identify these sharp pointy arrows that looked like shark's teeth. At junctions where cycling lanes criss-crossed, if the teeth are pointed you then you have to yield to cyclists coming from the perpendicular direction.



Cycling in the city with so many cyclists around was not much fun, it was like driving a car with lots of cars around.
But surprise... surprise! Within half an hour we were cycling along the lush greenery of the Amstel riverside. Amsterdam got its name from this river and was called Amsteldam which later was changed to Amsterdam. The river was very clean and the tracks here were tarred and smooth to ride on.



But today's weather was cloudy and cold; with a strong breeze blowing it soon became to chilly for me. Fortunately, I had brought a light raincoat along and used this as a windbreaker, convenient yah?



Along the river, at this area it was not as busy as withing the city centre. Every now and then we passed boats moored at the riverside.



And there were many animals around too, ducks swimming and ducks resting with their heads tucked in, keeping themselves warm against the cold breeze.



There were goats too, sitting idly.



On the landward side of the track were huge tracks of green meadow. Here cows and horses were grazing, and in the back ground could be seen some towering buildings, we were that close to the city centre. These farmlands were reserves set aside by the government to preserve the greenery around the river.



A short stop here to play with a Shetland pony; it seems used to having us cyclists around and very tamely fed off from our hands.



A large barge sailing down the river; the Amstel is used for commercial traffic too. But I think this traffic is controlled as we did not see that many large boats upstream here.
Hey! There's a windmill on the other side. Will we be visiting it?


WE DID! And took lot's of photos of the windmill - by itself, with our bikes, with us in too. A cute robotic grass cutter was puttering around the lawn surrounding the windmill.
This windmill is called De Zwaan - interestingly the windmills all have names. Not many of these old style windmills are around and I think giving them names sort of personalise them for affection which helps in their awareness and preservation.



We did a loop out from the river-side and rode along some sub-urban main roads and noted that the lanes are shared with motor-cyclists too.



Up in the sky, flocks of geese were flying trying to get into a perfect V-formation.



Heading back for the river, we passed by these link houses of newer design.



And ahead were farm houses, with tractors parked idly at one side.



One of these farms, the Rembrandt Hoeve Cheese Farm, was our destination. We parked our bikes next to a barn, inside were cows having their morning meal of hay. But watching cows munching away was not why we came here.


We crossed over to another larger building, inside were rows of shelves with Gouda Cheese lined up while being cured. Here we will learn how Dutch cheese is made.


Our host, the farmer, was a very witty character. He was very entertaining but bordered on being eccentric and was quite the ladies' man. And he could speak several languages and dialects; I was most surprised when he started speaking to me in a smattering of Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese and even Hokkien. When I asked for his name, he wittily quipped, "Lo Pan" which in Cantonese means "Boss". I later found out from his son that his name was actually Rou.


To one corner was this machine used for making Gouda Cheese. Here at the farms, cheese making is not fully mechanised and production is partly manual. Rou explained that the milk was curdle at 29°C at the first cut, and then at 36°C during the second cut. During the second cut, spices are added. It is then pressed for five hours to squeeze excess water out and then dipped into salt water for a day at room temperature. The surface is then waxed for storage. Good Dutch cheese can be as old as eight years. Another tip: farm cheese has rectangular labels while factory produced cheese has round ones.
The farm here caters well for visitors; we were given slices of different types of cheese to try - regular Gouda Cheese, Spiced Gouda, Mustard Gouda and smoked cheese. On exit there is a section selling cheese and souvenirs. I bought a couple of 1kg regular Gouda and Spiced Gouda at 11€ each, and two tubes of smoked cheese at 7€. It's much cheaper here at the farm, in the supermarkets it would have cost double or triple, and exported ones would probably cost five to ten times more. So my savings on the cheese purchase more than covered the 28€ that I paid for the bike tour. Hurrah!


Rou was a Jack-of-all-Trades. At another section he showed us how Dutch clogs were made. With a sample steel mould, the clogs are carved out from poplar wood with a parallel lathe. Dutch clogs follow international sizing, i.e. in centimetres.



On the walls were hung colourful samples of the clogs.



Smaller clogs were made as souvenir items, like this saving box.



We were wondering how comfortable this wooden clogs could be. Aaron, our cycling guide, showed us how comfortable they are, he cycles around with them.



It's time to leave the countryside and the Amstel. Bye!


Our route back was one that took us through a newer part of the city, one that passed by modern looking apartment buildings.



On last rest stop, at the Windmill De Gooyer. It was being repaired, that's why the fan blades are missing. Next to it is the Brouwerij 't IJ, a beer house that sells very good Dutch beer; short of time we did not go in to sample these beer.


Further along were the rectilinear canals of the Centrum District.

3:00pm - Our tour ends with this swinging gorilla mascot greeting us at Mike's Bike Tour shop; like him, we did indeed have a swinging time cycling at the nearby countryside.

POST RIDE NOTES:
At the Amstel riverside can be found a few of these maps which lays out a route for cycling or walking that traces the areas which the Dutch Masters walked along to get artistic inspiration.

Bicycles parked at public areas were locked with heavy chains are huge locks. Is bicycle theft that rampant in Amsterdam?

(For more photos of the ride, click here)


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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker -Europe 2016 / Cycling Europe / Amsterdam Cycling To The Windmills
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