skip to main content

Wandering the World

Stories and tips from around the world.

Amsterdam Day 5

On Yer Bike

Although Amsterdam is considered to be the cycling capital of the world, I’d not yet used one around the city. That was now about to change as I’d pre-booked a bike rental for my last full day in Amsterdam. The goal for today would be to get out of the city though, and to travel to the nearby Muiden Castle.

This castle has a bit of history and isn’t the first one to have stood there. The original was built by Count Floris V; but within twenty years was demolished. The Duke of Bavaria, one hundred years later, rebuilt the castle in what is believed to have been the same design. In more recent centuries it was used as a prison; but eventually it was restored and repurposed as a museum instead of being demolished for a second time.

I’d seen so many bikes about, and got the impression that in ALL circumstances, they have the right of way. They also seem to get chained up to any and everything that people can find. The place I’d booked one from was a twenty minute walk from the hotel, so felt I could leave out a little after 09:00 for the start of what could be a fun day. Assuming I didn’t get too lost.

The cycle shop wasn’t too difficult to find which meant I got there early. That was okay thought as there was a bit of a queue - only one person serving customers at the time. The most important part of the collection process was being shown how to use the two locks, and being told about cycling rules. One of the two locks is fixed to the bike and immobilises the back wheel when you remove the key. This key has a second key attached which lets you remove another lock from around the seat so that you can put it through the frame and the quick-release front-wheel.

I found the phone holder I’d got with me difficult to attach to the bike due to the one it already had. The built-in one was a little flimsy though so I chose to put my phone in my pocket instead. I knew roughly where I was going to start with, so set off - testing the sensitivity of the hydraulic brakes as I went.

Cycling in Amsterdam requires a lot of attention as there are a lot of bikes about doing the same sort of thing: many of whom will be tourists too so may or may not be that used to riding. Once I got out of the central area it quitened off a lot, and I was eventually able to join a cycle path that followed the coastline around. Muiden was even sign-posted in places so I knew I was going the right way at all times.

Cycling to Muiden

The cycle network in this country really is amazing: once I’d experienced it I felt it put all others to shame. I can’t think of a single town or city in England that did it so well. I think if I’d had more time it’d have been nice to visit other parts of the Netherlands by bike too, such as Edam and The Hague.

Amsterdam is so flat, and even the roads between towns are flat which means you never have to put that much effort into cycling. I got to Muiden earlier than expected, and once I reached the bridge into town I got off the bike and started walking the rest of the way. Those cobbled streets did not look pleasant for riding on.

Muiden

At the castle, Muiderslot, I spotted a sign indicating that bikes could be locked up behind the ticket office. It’s actually just a wooden fence that you can chain your bike to; but better than nothing I guess. The entry for this one was €15.50, so one of the more expensive sights I’ve visited. I knew this before visiting so it wasn’t a surprise.

Bike rental

Once across the drawbridge, I was into the courtyard where I picked up an audio guide and started the tour with a climb of 83 steps into the tower. From there it gradually went down, and through different rooms that demonstrated different functions of the castle. A lot of the audio-guided tour I think is aimed at children as each of the rooms have activities in them.

Muiderslot

On the tower tour it seemed I was the only one walking around this, and provided many more opportunities for photographs. This one starts by going up a different tower, and walking along the ramparts. To get from one part of the wall to the other there is a walkway that cuts the corner off, so you can see the courtyard below as you walk.

Muiderslot Courtyard

When I let it was almost 11:30, so doing much better for time than expected. I figured by the time I reach Naarden it would be time for lunch. On my way there I came across Muizenfort, which means ‘Mouse fort’. This one in Muiden is one of many across Amsterdam that form part of a UNESCO heritage site.

I probably didn’t take the best route from Muiden to Naarden as I seemed to enter the fortified town from the farthest side. Before going in I photographed some of the moat, and the grassy walls, and then sat down for lunch.

Naarden

Having refuelled, I made my way inside and quickly found the Grote Kerk, ‘Big Church’, the statue of Czech scientist Comenius, and the town hall. From there I followed a very bumpy cobbled road to reach the Vestingmuseum, and locked the bike up outside. This one costs €9.50 for entry, and if you don’t speak Dutch then you get given several sheets of paper stapled together so you can understand what it is you’re seeing. The reason being is that there’s no English on the signs in this attraction.

To start with there is an exhibition in the tunnels inside of the walls. In a couple of places it looks like you can keep on going through the darkness to somewhere else; but then it was a dead-end. I wandered along the edge of the bastion, looking at the various styles of cannon as I went. At the far end of this were some stairs down to another exhibition inside the wall. It was very dark in this one which gave it the feeling that you’re not supposed to be there; but it genuinely is part of the planned route through the fortifications.

Bastion

Back towards the middle of the bastion is a ramp down to the last of the indoor exhibitions: one on Napoleon Bonaparte. This brought the tour to an end, so I made my way back to the bike and continued on my way.

My final stop in Naarden was at the Utrecht Gate which it’s possible to get walking tours from; but not only did I not know if there were any on today; I didn’t feel like locking the bike up again to find out. So I headed to the exit that was signposted for Amsterdam.

Not long after leaving the sunshine of Naarden it began to rain, and got heavier and heavier. Fortunately I was a few minutes away from a bridge, so took shelter under that to dry off, and put on my waterproofs. It was also a good chance to have a cereal bar and some water before continuing on.

Sheltering under a bridge

For a while I cycled from bridge to bridge until I reached the last of them. Underneath that one I waited the longest, hoping that the rain would pass over. It did not. At least not before I’d reached Muiden. That to be honest was something of a surprise: I thought the route back from Naarden would be more direct and miss that out. I realised I’d been following road signs, and not bike signs, which meant I eventually reached a slip road I could not go down as it was for the motorway back to the city. It was a shame that I couldn’t see anything new; but on the positive side it’d be easier to find my way back.

Once through Muiden, having resisted the cake shop I’d passed, I eventually reached the roadworks I’d gone through on the way to Muiderslot in the morning. However, they were now blocking the path and I didn’t feel like waiting. The alternative was to take a detour through Weesp. It didn’t sound like a bad idea: somewhere new to see, and maybe a few sights along the way.

Weesp was only three kilometres from where I’d turned off the track, so didn’t take long at all to get there. I eventually ran out of road, photographed a large circular building near the waterfront, and then started to turn back. At this point I was asked for directions; but didn’t understand the name - forget knowing where it actually was.

Weesp

As I was passing it, I photographed the Grote Kerke whilst still seated on the bike, and then put my camera away. I realised between there and Amsterdam it could be awhile before I needed it again. I also didn’t want it to get wet if it started to rain once more.

I followed the signs for Amsterdam; but eventually ran out of them. I assume I missed a turn as I found myself at the side of a very wide canal with a big road crossing it above me. I could see a sign over the road, so crossed over and found that the cycle path led up onto the road, and was sign-posted for Amsterdam. What luck!

It was also quite fortunate as I checked my phone and noticed it was now down to 20% power. That wasn’t going to last - it was lucky I hadn’t been using the GPS on there to track my cycling route!

The road passed through Driemond without me really realised I’d even entered the town. The signs said to continue forwards for Amsterdam: so that’s what I did until I reached Diemen. There the signs ran out, except for some that said Centrum at a T-junction. I figured central Amsterdam is what I wanted so that might be about right. It was not, and I realised that fairly quickly, so turned around and headed back the other way.

Dieman

I wondered if I’d ever find my way back to Amsterdam; but felt fortunate that I was at least using up a bit more time and seeing different places I hadn’t expected to. At Betondorp I found a cycling map, and realised that the signs for Amsterdam didn’t actually mean what I thought it did. They seemed to be pointing towards Amstelveen. I did however notice that cycling route 56 would take me back in the general direction I wanted to be, made a mental note of where the turns were, and continued on.

I passed allotments on my right, and then saw a building used by Philips on the left. Ahead of me was the Amstel and it meant I was going to find my way back okay. I followed it north until I reached the ‘Skinny bridge’ I’d crossed in the morning and remembered the way back to the bike rental shop from there. It was around 17:00 when I’d dropped it off, and could have had it for several more hours yet. I was done though: there was nothing more I wanted to see that would be open, and I was ready for some food.

Now on foot, I walked in the direction of Dam Square and passed Rancho Argentinian Steakhouse. It sounded good, and the menu prices seemed fairly similar to the price of the lasagna I’d had on that first night. I guess at one time these prices wouldn’t have seemed too bad; but with the pound Sterling having crashed - the food all around the city seemed expensive.

Once I was sure there was nowhere better, or better valued for that matter, I settled for this one. I went for a 300g rump steak with salad and fries for €22, and a drink for another €3. It took around twenty minutes to arrive, and was pretty much perfect. The steak was that enjoyable, and plentiful that I would likely rank it in my current top three I’ve had around the world. As with the last meal, I left a 20% tip and started to walk back to the hotel.

Argentinian Steak

On my way I passed an American bookstore so had a good look around. There were some books that were tempting; but I knew the prices were considerably more than what they’d cost me back home. They did however have some dice at €1 each, which would be perfect for a gaming session I’d got coming up in the following month.

From there I walked back through Vondelpark for the last time. It seems that everyone runs through the park around sunset, and there seemed to be more than one running group at it too. I was a little jealous; but I was too full, and not quite ready to run again after the disappointment of the marathon.

I didn’t really have time to run in the evening either: I needed to pack before the long day ahead of me.

Tags: amsterdam europe nederlands netherlands travel trips

Recent Trips

Cyprus
This country split into two by conflict is one which my trip would also be divided into two due to the pandemic. For my first part of the trip I would be there sightseeing as 2021 approaches it's end,…

Germany
Twelve years ago, before the age of the smart phone, I visited Berlin at the start of my adventure spanning three European countries. I was younger then, and less experienced at travelling, and with a…

Amsterdam
I have to mostly agree with Sir Terry - there are so many bikes in Amsterdam with lanes specifically for them. As long as you're alert it's not a problem. It's so different in some ways from other Eur…

New Zealand
> “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” > > -- J. R. R. Tolkien When I first visited New Zealand it was a very short trip, and a very unsuccessful one. Every s…

Switzerland
A few days spent in Switzerland as 2019 began. I got to see the sights of Geneva and Zurich, and then experienced delay after delay trying to get home: snow, emergency ascents, baggage collection, and…

More Trips…

Recent Races

Leicester Half Marathon 2021
With two more marathons now behind me, was there any chance that a half marathon could be anywhere near what I'd done before the pandemic?…

Therme Manchester Marathon 2021
Last time I did a marathon in Manchester, it was the Greater Manchester Marathon. Now it's got a new name, a new route, new title sponsors, and it's been over 2 years since the last one in which I fai…

The Bun Run and Ramble 2021
One last race before Berlin Marathon, this was a 10K on the Welbeck Estate near Worksop. It certainly didn't go the way I thought it would……

Leicester's Big 10K 2020
My first 10K in over two years - a belated 10K in Leicester that should have taken place in 2020.…

Round Sheffield Run 2021
A multi-stage race around the outskirts of Sheffield, meaning a very hilly course and a very different experience.…

More Running…


© David G. Paul