Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Amsterdam: City of Bicycles

7/29/19 Zwanenburgwal, Amsterdam

7/24/19 "Our" neighborhood canal
In this photo of me sketching just outside our apartment, check out
how close the car is parked to the edge of the canal wall! How did
the driver get out of the car? Very carefully! 

If I had to come up with one word to characterize Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, it would be bicycles. I have never seen so many bikes in one place, nor am I likely to again. The moment we stepped out of the train station, we saw massive parking lots filled not with cars but with bikes – thousands of them packed tightly like canned herring in what must be some kind of order that enables their owners to find them again.

Here in Seattle, we claim to be “bike friendly” when we mark a lane with a bicycle icon – a lane that is often shared with vehicles. In Amsterdam, bikes in dedicated lanes have the right-of-way over vehicles and pedestrians, and a complex system of signal lights keeps everyone from crashing into each other. Crossing streets, I feared not the vehicles (which I’m used to looking out for) but the bikes that approached silently yet often faster than cars. Very quickly, I learned to look both ways before stepping off the curb, and once I started crossing, I kept going quickly in a predictable direction. The worst thing to do was to hesitate or turn back, causing all the bikes heading toward me to ring their bells assertively!

7/23/19 Another part of our neighborhood canal

Once I got used to all the bike traffic, there was nothing left to do but be dazzled by some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen. Haarlem had given me a preview of the “wedding cake” style of spires and towers that I loved drawing, and Amsterdam showed off many more. Haarlem’s peaceful canals were a mere hint of the huge network crisscrossing Amsterdam. This geographically small city is very walkable. Greg’s Fitbit clocked 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day, but unlike Porto last year, the steps were all on level ground instead of uphill! And unlike most other major European cities, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by crowds.

7/23/19 I never learned the name of this building...
and locals argued about which it was when I
asked because there are so many that look similar.
7/23/19 Montelbaanstoren

Sadly, my best sketching days in Amsterdam were before and after the symposium, not during, due to one significant factor: a blistering, four-day heatwave that broke a 75-year temperature record for the region and coincided precisely with the four days of the symposium. In the next post, I’ll talk specifically about that event. This post includes sketches done before the heatwave began and after, when I finally went to all the sketchcrawl areas I had missed during the brutal heat.

7/28/19 D'jkstraat and Kromboomsloot
7/28/19 Westerkerk

7/26/19 Oude Schans 

7/28/19 Jordaan and Spui neighborhoods


Lots of bikes!

Greg filling my waterbrush

Rubber ducky shop... one of two I saw!
Several book and art supply shops in town were promoting the

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