I’m not the most confident cyclists at the best of times, but doing it on the way home from the pub after a few Belgian beers probably wasn’t the best idea.
Especially as I was riding a one-speed, black, peasant-style bike that had clearly seen better days.
Anyway, while breaking hard on a particularly cobbly road, the hand-brake wire snapped, leaving me to skid to a stop by dragging my feet on the ground.
Thankfully I was in Utrecht, in the Netherlands at the time, and the Dutch are very used to bikes swaying and stopping suddenly on the road. Actually, my main problem with stopping the way I did was not getting hit by people on other bikes.
Fortunately, I realized the bike was also equipped with a back-pedal brake, so I managed to make it home safely. That was only the first night of my trip last weekend.
They say there are more bikes than people in The Netherlands. I don’t think that is quite true, but there are definitely a lot of bikes… and a lot of crazy people riding them.
I saw dozens of girls riding side-saddle perched on the back wheel-protector, while their boyfriends pedalled home. I even saw a little boy standing up and holding on to his dad’s shoulders, while his dad pedalled.
Everyone does these crazy antics without a helmet, of course. Even the babies strapped to their parents’ chests or sitting in their own seat in the back of the bike were bare-headed.
I was visiting a Canadian friend and at this Belgian pub, we mentioned to our waiter how amazed we were at the way everyone biked. He replied: “Oh in Canada you guys wear helmets, don’t you?” and then nearly pissed himself laughing.
I had never heard of Utrecht until my friend invited me for the weekend, but I would definitely recommend it as a travel destination. It’s only a 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam (€8) and much more relaxing than the big city.
Utrecht’s claim to fame is its university, which has its foundations in the 7th century and from what I could see, most of the city is students.
The friend I was visiting has worked in a fancy restaurant in Canada for many years, so she’s a bit of a foodie. On Saturday night, we visited this really nice restaurant called De Kust (the coast). I don’t remember what street it was on, but if you want directions, let me know, and I’ll ask her.
The other highlight of my trip was climbing Domtoren (Dom Tower.) At 112 metres, it is the tallest building in The Netherlands. Now, obviously that’s not very tall, but the view was still lovely and we got to go inside the bell tower. I have been to the top of many tall iconic buildings and churches, but I’ve never been inside a bell tower and got to touch the bells. (Well we weren’t supposed to actually touch them, but I did anyway.) The best part was they assumed I was a student so I only paid €7.50. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.
Here are some snapshots of the trip: