Amsterdam and Anne Frank

June 10, 2008 in Europe, Netherlands, Travelogue

< ![CDATA[  We couldn't have asked for a nicer day. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are VERY thankful to finally have found warm weather. In fact, it is almost hot. The Netherlands is truly flat, like cycling on a chess board almost. It was with great excitement that we saddled up the metal horses and hopped over the bridge from Zeeburg, where we are camped, to the great northern city of canals. We can't say enough about cycling in Amsterdam. I am not exaggerating in the least to say that we passed thousands upon thousands of bicycles today. We rode past a four story cycle parking garage that looked like a tangled mass of metal tubing from where we were. Everywhere you look there are cycles chained to something. Every road we've been on so far has a designated cycle way attached to it. These are not the partially paved paths with annoying gates that preclude people with trailers or bags from getting through like we found in the UK. Oh no, these are REAL cycle roads. It is actually quicker and easier to get around by bike here than by car. We saw a Mom with a car seat balanced on her handle bars and a toddler in a seat behind her happily pedaling through the center of town, four year olds riding two wheelers with training wheels through rush hour traffic, countless young men with girlfriends perched jauntily on their baggage racks rolling past us with a smile. The only thing that set us apart as travelers and not natives on our bikes was the presence of our helmets. We had them. The natives did not. I counted. Of the thousands of cyclists sharing the road today, I saw three helmets... and those were on racers training. None of the kids even had helmets. I am baffled by this. Either the Dutch never wreck, or there has not been an effective fear based marketing campaign leveled at these people. Maybe the helmet thing is a huge racket in the US and Canada and we've wasted a couple hundred bucks on our brain buckets. Maybe, but we're still wearing them. The highlight of the day was certainly our tour of the Secret Annex where Otto Frank and his family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WW2. It was very moving to walk through the rooms where little Anne penned her now famous diaries and to feel the closeness of the walls and the depressing, claustrophobic air that still pervades the place. It is a reminder to me to teach my children to love freedom and be patient with the differences we find in other humans. The alternative has appalling consequences if left to the extreme. It is late. Almost midnight. I am waiting on the laundry to quit spinning. Meg is waiting to check her e-mail. The little cafe at the campground is pounding with reggae music and smells faintly of what I've come to call "eau de Amsterdam" as the scent of legal substances wafts here and there throughout the city. As you are cooking dinner in North America, I am ready for bed, as tomorrow we cycle for Leiden. Goodnight.]]>