Anyone planning to walk around Amsterdam would be well advised to first practise a few exclamations. Goodness knows that, in the course of any 30 minute walk, you will be likely to use almost all of them. I have listed some of the most common ones below:
Look Out on your right
Look Out on your left
Look Out, they’re coming at us from both sides
That swine almost skittled me
That swine skittled me
Where did he (she) come from ?
I didn’t see that one at all
I’m going to die
This is absurd
They’re everywhere, I can’t take it anymore
They just ran over my foot
He only missed me by a millimetre
He must have been riding at 40 kph
He was an old guy and he was still a maniac
What the ?
My nerves are shot
Now can we get back to our hotel ?
Since this was to be our last full day in Amsterdam we wanted to spend the time doing something away from the masses. For that reason we headed away from the centre of the city to a large public park called the Vondelpark. This is a sprawling 45 hectare parkland situated about 2 km from our hotel. It sounded like a good place to escape the bicycle menace for a couple of hours.
The weather had also excelled itself by providing yet another beautiful clear and mild day. We had expected that, at this late stage of the season, it would have been rather bitter. Although the thick carpet of fallen leaves spoke of the nearness of winter, the warm sunshine almost made it feel like springtime.
On the way to the park we had several more near death experiences and also witnessed a crash between two cyclists at an intersection. Both seemed adamant that they had right of way (whatever that means here) and spent some time exchanging heated words after they had dragged themselves and their bikes back up off the bitumen. They were both able to continue on their ways, but the outcome could easily have been worse. It was just as well that neither of them hit their unprotected heads on the road. I suspect that these sort of collisions must be a common occurrence in such a hectic cycling scene.
The park itself was delightful with lots of open spaces, lakes and huge trees. We found a quiet coffee shop and sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee and some good Dutch apple cake. After the park we headed back towards the centre of the city for the final time. We had heard that the Rijksmuseum was a pretty special place to visit, so we thought we might be prepared to give it a go. As we approached the museum the huge crowds of noisy tourists, shouting tour guides and proliferation of selfie sticks was enough to make us have second thoughts. I don’t care how good the museum might be, but we were just not prepared to endure the crowds. I longed for the quiet back roads that we loved so much on our France ride. I guess I am just not a city person. That probably explains why I only go to central Melbourne about 2 or 3 times a year, and as soon as I am there, I can’t wait to escape back to my own personal sanctuary again.
We turned our backs on the Museum and also on the nearby Van Gogh Museum as well. I wondered if there was somewhere nearby where it wouldn’t be so crowded. As it turned out there was, and what’s more, it was FREE. We found ourselves in the impressive headquarters of Coster Diamonds and spent the next hour fascinated by the work of the diamond cutters and jewelry makers. I had heard that Amsterdam is renowned for the skill of the diamond cutters and now we could see why. I wondered how you ever acquired this sort of skill, after all you could not entrust a million dollar diamond to a first year apprentice.
The workers were handling diamonds so small we could barely see them and it was mesmerising to see how a complex diamond earring slowly took shape before our eyes. Each small movement could potentially destroy a valuable gem. I wondered what they told their wives when they came home after a bad day. “Today I shattered a $10,000,000 diamond, the company wants to take it out of my wages”. It would also have been so easy for a tiny diamond to fall onto the floor and bounce into some unseen hiding hole.
Connected to the cutting rooms were a series of showrooms where the rich and famous could indulge themselves on priceless diamonds, unbelievably expensive watches and other equally pointless rubbish. It was interesting, but we left shaking our heads and wondering what was the real point behind all the show and pretense.
We both felt like something easy for lunch and ended up at the KFC store in the Centrum. It was the first KFC we had seen since leaving Melbourne and I had to admit that it did taste finger licking good. A final long and meandering walk back to our hotel completed our final day.
As we walked we again dodged bikes and marveled at some of the crooked buildings we were passing along the way. In some case the entire building had slumped forward towards the canal, and in other cases the two sides of the building had moved in opposite directions. The result was an amazing collection of higgledy piggledy buildings unlike any I had seen anywhere else in the world. I am not sure what it would have been like to live in some of these crooked homes and I am sure that they would have been condemned in Melbourne. In Amsterdam they are apparently embraced as part of their history.
Tonight we pack our bags for the last time as we prepare for that long, long journey back home.
The next time you hear from us we will be back in Melbourne.