Haarlem: bicycles everywhere!
En route to Oslo, our cruise ship docked at Ijmuiden in Holland, providing passengers with an opportunity to visit Amsterdam (some 35 kms away). Taking the road less travelled, we hopped on a local bus which took us to the nearby town of Haarlem, a miniature version of Amsterdam (but without the red-light district!). In fact, not only did Haarlem in Holland give its name to the much more famous Harlem in the USA, but New York itself was originally called New Amsterdam, reflecting the scale of Dutch migration in the 17th century.
With its pretty cobbled streets, flower-bedecked houses (it lies at the centre of the bulb-growing district), its Grote Markt, canals and bridges, what really stands out to a cycling enthusiast like me is the huge number and variety of bicycles. Holland is a country, par excellence, where the bicycle plays a hugely important role as a means of transportation. Whether you are cycling on your own or taking the children to school, there are bikes to suit all occasions. Whether you need to carry your weekly shop or go to the DIY store for building materials, there is a bicycle for you. The typical Dutch design for bicycles is eminently ‘sensible’: they are designed to be comfortable modes of transport capable of carrying significant loads. Bicycles that we comically call a ‘sit-up-and-beg’ will usually have their origin in Holland.