Like Riding a Bike

Greetings and salutations! If you’ve missed me lately, that’s because I embarked, first, on an Easter trip to the Netherlands with Will, and, second, on an adventure to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe with Mom. More on the latter to follow. I shall begin by telling you the tale of my trip to the Netherlands.

Will and I set off at the lovely hour of 5am for the airport! Fortunately, excitement possesses a superb ability to outweigh grogginess.

Ready for takeoff. The one hour flight seemed exceedingly short for someone like me who is accustomed to flights that drag on for at least 5-12 hours. I could get used to the brevity.

Upon arriving in the Netherlands, an alarming prospect confronted me: the prospect of riding a… (wait for it… shake and shiver… shudder in apprehension…) bicycle. Allow me to explain.

I learned how to ride a bicycle at the age of ten, but after riding it for a year, my hands never really reunited with the handlebars. While I was living in Argentina, a friend convinced me to go on a bike tour. I acquiesced to her plan, imagining an idyllic bike ride down a flower-lined country road. Little did I know, the opposite of that scene would become my reality. The sketchy bike company in Argentina gave me a rickety bike that was massive for me, then threw me out into the middle of the street in downtown Buenos Aires during rush hour. Oh, and bike lanes? They don’t exist in Argentina. Hence, I was riding directly next to speeding taxis and buses clenching the handlebars until my knuckles turned white. I honestly thought I was going to perish. I kept chanting: “Voy a morir. Dios, me ayuda. Voy a morir.” That’s Spanish for: “I am going to die. God, help me. I am going to die.” After that traumatic experience, I avowed to never ride a bicycle again.

Perhaps I would have managed to uphold my discriminatory vow against bicycles if I were by myself, but Will proved himself to be very persuasive. “If you don’t get on a  bike, you will not be able to see anything. The Netherlands is the bike capital of the world: riding bikes is the way of life here. Don’t you want to experience an authentic Dutch lifestyle?”

Oh, he’s good. Appealing to my desire to experience different cultures. But I still was not convinced. “But what if I die?”

“Janelle, you’re not going to die. Riding a bike is very safe in the Netherlands. There are specific bike lanes, and I will be right there to help you.”

“Okay, you win. Just don’t let me die.”

Photographic evidence that I did indeed ride a bike in the Netherlands. Shocking, I know.

After a few mishaps and false starts (literal false starts, I had problems with starting to pedal), I managed to ride the bike all the way into the Hague! As soon as we parked the bikes, I jumped off and victoriously cried, “dry land!!”

The Escher Museum

The bike ride brought us to the Escher museum, a museum featuring the works of Dutch graphical artist M.C. Escher who made mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints that often feature optical illusions.

The highlight of the museum was an optical illusion room in which a normally tiny person (i.e. me) becomes magically transformed into a giant while a normally tall person (i.e. Will) becomes magically transformed into a wee midget.

IMG_5604 (1)
My moment to shine.

Next, we walked (thank goodness) over to the Mauritshuis art museum to see some of Vermeer’s most spectacular works.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, a 17th-century Dutch painter renowned for his masterful use of light and water
View of Delft is my favorite piece by Vermeer. Just look at the water.

On my second day in the Netherlands, we set out for another (guess what?) bike ride. To be honest, I actually did not mind the bike riding today. As I practiced the tips Will gave me and relaxed, I even began to enjoy it. I begrudgingly admit that my legs were throbbing by the end of the ride (may it be noted that even if you run regularly and consider yourself to be fairly fit, a bicycle works an entirely different muscle group). We finally arrived in Amsterdam and patronized the Reiksmuseum.

I may or may not be slightly obsessed with Vermeer. Here’s The Milkmaid.
The Night Watch by Rembrandt! Glorious.
Attempting to swim through the zealous crowd to see The Night Watch by Rembrandt

As a van Gogh aficionado, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to frequent the Van Gogh Museum. Firstly, I learned that my pronunciation of “van Gogh” is horrendous. Will’s family speaks Dutch and taught attempted to teach me the proper pronunciation. If you’re curious, it sounds kind of like “fawn gaaaaaawwwwwww” (just make an obscure guttural sound and you’ll probably do better than I). Anyway, my favorite van Gogh piece at the museum was The Potato Eaters, which depicts a mundane scene of ordinary folk, a very rare subject for the time.

The Potato Eaters
Amsterdam canals

What is a visit to Amsterdam without seeing the canals? We leisurely moseyed along the canals until we reached an outdoor market, which contained an astounding sight.

Cannabis sold next to strawberries? What is this madness?

To cleanse ourselves, we headed off to the The Museum of Our Lord in the Attic. It consists of a bourgeois house that conceals a secret Catholic church in the attic. When Catholics lost their right to worship in their own way in the Netherlands in the 17th century, they built churches like this.

It’s enormous. I am impressed that they managed to create this in an attic.

After a museum-filled morning, we were eager to indulge in some classic Dutch cuisine. Will introduced me to Dutch pancakes. The delectable savory pancakes were unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before; they are essentially a cross between a crepe and a pizza.

Now I’m hungry.

On our last day in the Netherlands, we went with Will’s mum to visit Delft, the home of the classic blue and white pottery. While in Delft, we accepted a very important mission: a 2016 attempt to recreate Vermeer’s painting, View of Delft, painted in 1661. Wandering through the old streets of the city, we searched for the spot from which Vermeer painted his magnificent landscape nearly 400 years ago!

Top image: Vermeer, 1661. Bottom image: us, 2016. I think we did pretty well.

A successful recreation of Vermeer’s masterpiece topped off a magnificent trip to the Netherlands. And if you ask me to go for a bike ride, I might even say yes.



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