Friday, January 12, 2018

Cycling Europe 2017 Days 9 & 10: Cycling In Amsterdam

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Cycling Europe 2017 Days 9 & 10: Exploring Amsterdam By Bicycle
United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands & Germany : Days 9 & 10 - Tuesday & Wednesday, 5th & 6th September - Exploring Amsterdam
This is part of cycling tour of Western Europe, covering Amsterdam.
Cycling Distance - 16.70 km. (Only Amstel River  ride)     Level: Easy.
Cycling Time : N.A.
Time Taken : N.A

This is page 8 of a 13 page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D8 Amsterdam 1           |         Go to Other Days     |      Go to D11 Arnhem >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
        On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is flat goes mainly along the Amstel River  and is very flat.
    For planning cycling routes in Europe, Cycle Travel which has a very user-friendly cycle travel trip planner, routes using this planner can be saved and also converted to GPX format for use in GPS devices.  

3. Weather
    AAmsterdam, the day weather was fairly cool average of 19°C with a high of 23°CNight temperature averaged 13°C. Wind speed was moderate, averaging 21 kph with gusts up to 35 kph. Fortunately there were overcast skies to afford us some shade.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather and Weather Spark.

4. Places of Interest
De Gooyer Windmill (GPS: 52.36681, 4.92616).
Amsterdam Central Station (GPS: 52.37912, 4.90027).
Basilica of St. Nicholas (GPS: 52.37658, 4.90109).
Magna Plaza (GPS: 52.37362, 4.89046).
- Dam Square (GPS: 52.37306, 4.89263).
Fo Guang Shan Holland Temple (GPS: 52.37372, 4.90009).
Amsterdam Red Light District at De Wallen (GPS: 52.37186, 4.89586).
- The Oude Church (GPS: 52.37436, 4.8982).
Dappermarkt (GPS: 52.36219, 4.92778).
Windmill De Riekermolen (1636) (GPS: 52.32405, 4.8937).
Rembrandt Monument (GPS: 52.32363, 4.89428).
- Rembrandt Hoeve Cheese Factory (GPS: 52.3192, 4.90637).

5. Food
Lunch Day 9: Chinese ala carte dishes at Nam Kee Chinese Restaurant (GPS: 52.37368, 4.90027).
Lunch Day 10: Turkish sandwiches and kapsalon salad at Banketbakkerij Afrah Fes (GPS: 52.3636, 4.93436).

6. Accommodations
    We stayed at the Amsterdam Stayokay Zeeburg (GPS: 52.36525, 4.9355). We had pre-booked online a 5-Pax Family Room @ €109 per night with an en-suite bathroomAs it was unclear whether the hostel allowed foldies into the premises, we initially folded and bagged our bikes before taking them in.

7. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We got pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three under the All-in-One #15 deal for only £15/= from one of their outlets in Bristol (GPS: 51.45735, -2.59074). This plan lasts for 30 days and allows for 5GB Data, 3,000 minutes of call time & 3,000 text messages within the system. More importantly it has their "Feel At Home" which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countires (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

8. Communicating with Locals
    In the Netherlands, almost all the locals can speak English.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

9. Navigation
    As Bill had pre-planned the route and had loaded the GPX route file onto his Garmin GPS unit. I was the assistant navigator and had loaded the route maps onto my unit too.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE

The previous day had been an interesting one, one of riding in Kinderdijk, a heritage place full of windmills; and the to Gouda, the for some cheesy experience. This next two days will have minimum cycling as we wind down and take a short break in Amsterdam.

THE RIDE


 Cycling route: Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburg>Dappermarkt>Windmill De Riekermolen>Rembrandt Monument>Rembrandt Hoeve Cheese Factory>Banketbakkerij Afrah Fes> Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburg.
The route heads to and run along the Amstel River passes a windmill and to a cheese factory. Beautiful farmland and riverside scenes along the way.
The route around the city is not plotted, but points of interests are shown.


It's time to take our buddies who have not been to Amsterdam for a tour of the city's old central district; riding out from our hostel we rode pass one of the few windmills within the city. This is the De Gooyer Windmill, the tallest wooden mill in the Netherlands at 26.6 meters high. It is registered as a Dutch national monument. The name dates from the around 1609, when the mill was owned by Claes and Jan Willemsz, two brothers from Gooiland. The Gooyer consists of a stone foundation topped by a wooden octagonal body. Although the blades are functional, they no longer operate any grinding mechanism.



Next was Amsterdam Central Station, the main train station of the city serving intercity and inter-country trains. Amsterdam Centraal was designed by Pierre Cuypers, who is also known for his design of the Rijksmuseum. Built in 1882, the station's architecture follows that of medieval cathedrals.


Nearby, is an indoor bicycle parking. Amsterdam is renown as the cycling capital of the world and has a high population of bicycles that are usually parked outdoors subjecting them to theft. It is quite common to see bicycles locked with heavy chains and looks. This two storey bicycle parking shelters the bicycles from inclement weather and let owners leave behind any worries of theft. Also, there is a maintenance workshop within. Owners can subscribe to monthly or annual season passes which also allows them to park here and at affiliated parks.


The girls seems to enjoy cycling here, observing the going abouts of the local cyclists. They were also mindful of the rules of cycling at these busy lanes, i.e. keeping right for faster cyclist to overtake, and stopping at "shark tooth junctions" to give way to cyclists coming from other directions.

The Basilica of St. Nicholas, across the harbor from the central station. I like this cathedral, it rises tall between lower neighboring buildings. This church is named after Saint Nicholas, who in Dutch is called "Sinterklaas"; the name after which Santa Claus evolves from.



We rode down Nieuwendijk Street, the oldest shopping street of the city, stopping ever so often as many interesting things caught our curious eyes. The girls were most intrigued by shops openly selling colorful condoms and other sex aids.

At Dam Square for a quick photo shoot. This is a town square in Amsterdam, and is surrounded by notable buildings such as the neoclassical Royal Palace, which served as the city hall from 1655 until its conversion to a royal residence in 1808. Beside it are the 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the Dutch National Monument. Frequent events held here make it one of the most well-known and important locations in the city.


Another building which we found to be very impressive was the Magna Plazabuilt in 1895 this building was the main post office, and is current a shopping mall. The brick exterior is heavily decorated with variations of dimension stone, and framings for all windows and doors. Across the roof edges are a large number of dormers, each with their own crow-stepped gable. Due to the pear shaped crowns on top of the towers the building is colloquially named ‘Perenburg’.


Lunch was at Nam Kee Restaurant, which serves on of the best Chinese food in Amsterdam, this was a very welcomed change for us after ten days of Western fare. They have very good roasted pork and duck.... and SUPER BIG wantons!
Interestingly, opposite the restaurant is a Chinese temple, Fo Guang Shan Holland Temple, one of the few Chinese temples that can be found in the Netherlands.


We were out again in the evening; the girls & Meng went for a canal boat ride while Bil & me waited at a nearby bicycle parking building. Then it was out to view the infamous nightlife of Amsterdam at the De Wallen district. But first a dusk view of the canals, with the Basilica of St. Nicholas shining brightly in the background ...


... and a visit to a church withing the district; The Oude Kerk (Old Church), founded around 1213, this is the oldest building and oldest church in the city. I find it intriguing that the oldest church is situated at the area where the oldest trade is being plied; there must be some meaning there somewhere.



Down the road were glittering neon signs of shops offering shows. This one is called "Moulin Rouge" similar to that one at Montmarte but offering more than raunchy cabaret dances.


Raunchy street at De Wallen, ahead are the red-lit girlie shop windows. This is as far as I dare to take photos as it is prohibited to take photos of the girls.
Along the streets of this district were many shop windows with red lit lights where alluring girls in different stages of undress displayed their wares. Every now and then a patron could be seen negotiating with a girl at the door next to the window. If successful the guy goes in and a curtain is drawn over the window... privacy ensured!
The girls pride themselves to be clean and go for regularly clinical check-ups, they have certificates to show accordingly. The pimps measure their wealth by the number of windows they own.
I hear that there is another street where there are blue lit window where men display their ware... haven't seen it so probably it's hearsay only.



Another shop is lit up in green neons;  it's called "Magic Mushroom" and guess what they sell? Amsterdam is also very liberal, certain non-addictive drugs like hash are openly sold at over the counters some shops.


The next morning, the girls were chirpier; stopping at these tricycle advertising bike rental. No they were not going to rent a bike, they have their own; they were attracted by the cute tricycle and the colorful flowers.


At the next street was the Dappermarktt, a street market with many stalls selling fresh food, processed food, and a dry section selling clothes and what-nots. The cheese stall had a very wide range of cheeses, and we were quite tempted to buy sum but restrained ourselves as we would be visiting a cheese farm later..


Our route to the cheese farm, called Rembrandt Hoeve, took us along the Amstel River; I have rode here before (... see blog) and was thus leading. Cycling here is always a pleasure, it's quiet and with hardly any traffic, and there is always the beauty of the river scenes along the way. We saw house-boats park along the bank, people fishing, ducks swimming and even large cargo barges passing bye. Every once in a while, wild geese in formation would fly by overhead.
On the other side would be pastures and farmland with cows and horses grazing; there's even a friendly pony who will come by and feed off one's hands.
Imagine, all of these is just half an hour cycle from the city center, wonderful isn't it?



We stopped at our favorite windmill, De Riekermolen. Under today's overcast sky the photo I took of it and its reflection looked like it came out of a painting!


Next to the windmill is the Rembrandt Monument; so we dropped by to pay some respects to him too. Rembrandt used to come for walks along the riverside here, seeking inspiration from the rustic and peaceful atmosphere. In fact, there are signboards showing his walking route for those who want to emulate his walk and seek artistic inspiration.


At the cheese farm, the boss Rou was not in but a knowledgeable assistant, Ogy who's from Mongolia, was at hand to show us the process of cheese making.
To one corner was this machine used for making Gouda Cheese. Here at the farm, cheese making is not fully mechanized and production is partly manual. Ogy 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.

The farm here caters well for visitors; we were given slices of different types of cheese to try - regular Gouda CheeseSpiced GoudaMustard Gouda and smoked cheese. On exit there is a section selling cheese and souvenirs. We bought some 1kg regular Gouda and Spiced Gouda at 11€ each, and tubes of smoked cheese at 7€ each. It's much cheaper here at the farm, in the supermarkets these would have cost double or triple, and exported ones would probably cost five to ten times more.


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.


In another dim room, rows of cheese were being cured on airy shelves. Labels mark their date of production. Another tip: farm cheese has rectangular labels while factory produced cheese has round ones.



Happy with our reasonably priced cheese purchases we headed back, stopping for lunch at a Turkish-run shop Banketbakkerij Afrah Fes, where we had freshly made kebabs. We also had this salad called kapsalon, which with an Arabic sounding name, I mistook to be of Turkish origin. It's actually a Dutch food consisting of fries, topped with döner or shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese until melted and then subsequently covered with a layer of dressed salad greens. The dish is usually served in a disposable metal tray as this food is a fast food. The dish is often served with garlic sauce and sambal, a hot sauce from the former colony of IndonesiaKapsalon has a high energy content, with each serving containing approximately 7500 kJ which will be most helpful for our subsequent tour days. The term kapsalon means "hairdressing salon" in Dutch, alluding to one of the inventors of the dish.


We too a short break along the riverside before returning where I parked my bike next to a tree and noticed some nice mushrooms for me. Are this the infamous mind warping magic mushroom? Well better steer clear of them, we have a long ride tomorrow; don't want to be psychedelic tripping and end up in a river! 


Veilig Fietsen!
(That's "Cycle Safe" in Dutch)

(For more photos of the Days 9 & 10, Click Here)
This is page 8 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D8 Amsterdam 1           |         Go to Other Days     |      Go to D11 Arnhem > 
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