Today, we’re traveling from Hamburg to Amsterdam by train. The European train systems, especially in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France where we have the most experience, are highly reliable in terms of arrival and departure times. I say this because the slack time between connections is usually short, often less than 10 minutes).
Our train out of Hamburg was naturally slightly delayed, though not enough to cause a disaster for our connection in Osnabruk. Often for trips like this, we’ll forgo seat reservations. The train was overfilled with travelers who also didn’t have seat reservations, which initially resulted in us standing in the aisle with a lot of others. I wasn’t looking forward to spending two hours standing. After about twenty minutes and one stop, we found seats in a compartment in the same car.
There wasn’t much time between connections at Osnabruck and it took three elevators to get between the arrival track and the departure track. This train fortunately, wasn’t nearly as crowded as the first.
We crossed over the Dutch border, briefly stopping at Apeldoorn.
We bought a one hour Tram ticket from the ticket machine in Centraal Station. The ticket machines sell 1 hour tickets, 24 hour tickets and refillable cards (much like London’s Oyster card). Our hotel is too far to walk, 11 Tram stops. It’s in a quiet part of the city near one of Amsterdam’s big parks, the Vondelpark.
CityMapper also alerts you when to get off the tram; just wish it had a homing device for the hotel. Inevitably, the last bit of navigation (finding the hotel) is the slightly harder part.
There are a number of things you’d expect to come to mind if you thought about what represented Amsterdam to you. There’s the canals, cheese, wooden shoes (no, the Dutch don’t walk around in wooden shoes), dykes to keep the North Sea from reclaiming Holland, windmills (not in the city), bicycles (?). There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people. There are dedicated bicycle paths with every street and if you don’t look for bicycles hurtling silently towards you as you check the street for cars before crossing, you’ll do so at your peril. The Centraal Station (main train station) has a dedicated multi-story parking garage for…. bicycles. So why are there more bicycles than people? Aside from ease of navigation through narrow streets and no parking fees. But the evolution of the bicycle to it’s dominance in transportation is outlined here.
With so many bicycles, I wouldn’t expect there to be a need for bike sharing like we’ve seen in so many other large metro cities, but it’s here too. Just download the app from Google Play or Apple’s app store, scan the bar code on the bike and it’s yours to use.
Amsterdam is quirky in another way, because the street numbering is not always what you’d expect. The address on one side might be 60 and the address across the street is 130, or one address is 60 and the structure next to it is 60bis. In addresses ‘bis’ means a second house/shop, etc. of the same number as another one. So a second number 12 on a particular street might call itself 12 in English and 12 bis is the second address. This is also found some places in France.
Space in central Amsterdam is at a premium, so it should come as no surprise that our modest hotel, though certainly fine, is on a different scale (in size) than Hamburg. Since “horizontal” space has been at a premium for hundreds of years, Amsterdam builds up in narrow width buildings, not wide. This was in part because the buildings used to be taxed (maybe still are) based on the horizontal width of the building. Since many of the buildings (old and new) are three stories plus an attic, you’ll see a hoist bar at the top of a building, as the stairs would be too narrow to haul things up/down to the upper stories. If the building was along a canal, this would have also been used to hoist goods from boats and barges in the canal below.
Here’s our route so far.