Fiets Don’t Fail Me Now

Aalsmeer2014-1967

I’ve always wanted to try biking in Amsterdam, and last week I borrowed a single speed bike from the Amsterdam CitizenM and took it for a mid-day trip to nearby Aalsmeer.  Designed for slow and comfortable urban use, upright bikes are an entirely different experience than the multi-speed road bikes I grew up with.  This design is hugely popular in northern Europe, and used by people of all ages for commuting, shopping, visiting, and otherwise enjoying the sophisticated network of bike paths.

Aalsmeer2014-1946

Starting from the hotel near Amsterdam-Zuid rail station, I headed south on one of Amsterdam’s ubiquitous dedicated bike lanes, headed west, and then followed a bike lane along the #5 tram line until I found one of the red and white bikers signposts that pointed me towards Aalsmeer.  

Aalsmeer2014-1998

Outside of one wrong turn at a point where the dedicated bike path was under construction, an error quickly corrected, I was easily able to make the 17km ride to Aalsmeer without the need for a map, let alone GPS.

Aalsmeer2014-1952_3_4

Surrounded by greenhouses and polders (reclaimed marshland), Aalsmeer is a lakeside town with an intimate relationship to water.  I rode through the town, and rode for several kilometers through a neighborhood that had countless boat yards and yacht basins, on both sides of the road.

Aalsmeer2014-1956

When I the road dead ended, I turned around to look for lunch.  I chose a lakeside café restaurant, In de Zotte Wilg (In the Crazy Willows), which had outdoor seating looking across the water.

In de Zotte Wilg

The ubiquitous fries.  With mayo.

In de Zotte Wilg

After lunch, I headed back through town and country. The bike trails north of Aalsmeer follow the top of the dikes that form the polders, providing a good view from a slow bike of fields and houses, some of which are below the level of the path. Noticing a windmill in the distance,  I decided to ride down a path on top of a different dike and check it out.

Aalsmeer2014-1972_3_4

Built in 1742, Stommeermolen (Stom Lake Mill)  is a poldermolen (polder mill), which used windpower to pump water from the polders, low lying reclaimed swampland that are often below sea level. The polder is the area to the left in the photo above. A paved bike and walking path follows the top of the dike, and the drainage canal lies just under the sedge along the right side, almost disconcertingly higher than the rooftops of the houses within the polder. The modern polder pumphouse is out of site behind the windmill.

Aalsmeer2014-1971

The neatly restored mill is now a residence, so it wasn’t open for visit, but a sign provides a cross section of the mill, illustrating how the wind drove a water screw to raise water from polder to canal level.

Aalsmeer2014-2005

My original plan was to do my original route backwards, but I was enjoying a fietspad (bike path) that follows a tramline that was shut in 1950, so I continued down the path along the edge of the Amsterdamse Bose (Amsterdam Wood), back into Amsterdam (with another short sidetrip to look at a windmill that is now a restaurant), and past an old station that houses a florist.

Aalsmeer2014-2007

After the dedicated path ended, I followed the northbound bike lanes along the Amstelveenseweg, an increasingly urban boulevard that skirted the edge of several green parks.

Aalsmeer2014-2012

I rode back under the Ringweg and railroad tracks, reentering Amsterdam about 1.5km west of the CitizenM.  I continued north until I crossed a canal, and then zigzagged through residential and commercial neighborhoods back to the hotel.  After a sunny 4 hours in Dutch city, suburb, polder, and park, I reluctantly applied my coaster brake for the last time, locked the heavy city bike, and turned in the key to the front desk.

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