Amsterdam is a really beautiful city to walk around, with stunning canals, beautiful old buildings, and a real history that you can only really appreciate slowly and on foot. With areas like the Jordaan, the Pijp and the centre of Amsterdam there is plenty to take in and enjoy.
However, on first arriving you will immediately notice that this is not a city that is really designed for pedestrians. There are hazards everywhere. Cars, trams and bicycles turn crossing a road into a game of frogger where you win if you make it to the other side in one piece.
Firstly, there is the cycle lane, which you must somehow cross without being hit by an oncoming bicycle. Next, you will have to cross the road, and if there is a zebra crossing, cars will almost always completely ignore it. Unless you are a woman with children. Then they stop to let you cross.
There are the tram lines, and if you accidentally look like you’re about to cross the tram lines at the same time that the tram driver wants to leave, he will ring his bell angrily at you until you walk in another direction. Following the tram lines, there is probably more road, and another bike lane to cross. If you make it to the other side without having a nervous breakdown, congratulations!
The best way to get around this city is to do as the Dutch do, and get onto a bike. You can get around very easily, and this city is designed for bikes. With kilometres of bike lanes all over the place there really isn’t an excuse.
While you are on your bike you will encounter all sorts of interesting people, and interesting things. Dutch people cycling without hands while slurping on their coffee in one hand, with the other hand nestling in their pocket to keep warm, or making a loud phone call and gesticulating wildly with their spare hand. Cycling without hands is an acquired skill and is not recommended unless you have been doing it since the age of six.
The Dutch will also cycle no matter what is happening outside. Gale force winds, blizzards, probably even hail storms. Unless their bike has been stolen or broken, they are cycling to work, and there is nothing you can do about it. Even when it’s icy. They’ll tell you the cycle lanes are clear because they’ve been gritted and when you see people falling off their bikes they will tell you that the person in question was cycling too slowly and this causes accidents because other cyclists have to slalom around them.
It is funny though, how quickly you adapt to becoming a cyclist. You become the person frantically ringing their bell at pedestrians walking in cycle lanes, zooming past one another like you’re taking part in `Gone in 60 seconds,’ and your bike is the car, and generally acting very blasé about crossing roads, cycling around other people or running red lights. Maybe it’s just something in the water.