Forget about the canal tours that supposedly show you everything Amsterdam has to offer. If one wants to get intimate with the city, without literally walking the entire limits, than renting a bicycle is the only way to go.
For 12.75 Euros Mac Bikes will rent out a quality bicycle for a 24 hour period.
The bikes are designed by a local who builds them each himself. A top notch design, I complimented them on prior to being told the story behind who makes them.
The manager, sweeping his arm towards a cluster of a clearly different, no longer used model, said, "we used to buy, you know, big name bikes," than he nodded towards ours, "but a guy that lives here in town came to us with his own design and people have loved them." How much have they loved them? The local bike smith has contracted over 200 bikes from that one single Mac Bikes store.
While they all are the same in design and share red as the dominant color, each bicycle has its own name painted in white along the frame. Alex road a bike by the name of Hey Billie while I was fortunate enough to receive Elle.
Elle and Hey Billie would be the only accompaniments to most of me and Alex’s adventures. We originally rented the bikes with the main purpose of finding our way across town to reach our Student Travel Administration’s local office. After getting lost several times and asking many a polite local for directions, we finally found the STA office…only to find it closed.
Never to be discouraged, we took our newly prized bikes and began to focus more on enjoying the ride than reaching a particular end goal. The canals that lace themselves throughout the central city are aligned in such a way that one can use them to quickly orient oneself with a general point in the city. With the canals as our aid, Alex and I traced them down through all sorts of thin cobble stone streets, teaming with people on foot, bike, and car, all sharing the road at the same time.
It really is a hoot but it’s important to be attentive. The rules are simple enough and after some careful observation one can easily jump in and get along well. We made our way further out, leaving the canals behind. We were heading to the outskirts of our centrally themed tourist map, looking for a cluster of top tier museums.
Before we reached the Van Gogh museum though, we came across Vondel Park. Overdue for a breather from the traffic, we made what turned out to be a shortcut as we detoured through a large gate and into the park. Vondel Park is much larger than one expects. After biking down the entry trail a ways, the park opens up and suddenly there is a large pond filled with ducks, lots of men and women walking their neatly trimmed dogs. The park, in and of itself, was a great part of the city that we had not originally planned to visit. Renting the bikes not only got us to the Van Gogh museum, but many an unexpected adventure as well.