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Here’s How Not to Ride a Bike in Amsterdam

Introducing What Had Happened Was, an as-told-to series for those who’ve had wild experiences abroad but don’t want to get fired from their day job back home because of their adventures in another country. Meet Susan*, a friend who traveled to Amsterdam and I told to smoke a bit, eat a few waffles and ride a bike. I did not, however, realize I needed to clarify that she should not do all of these things simultaneously. Here’s Susan’s story:

A few years ago I wanted to go to Europe so my best friend and I paired together a package deal for Paris and Amsterdam. I think we paid a total of around $1,080 per person for flight, hotel and trains between the cities. We did Paris first and when we got to our hotel in Amsterdam, the first thing we did was go to the bar. We’re talking to the bartender and asking what we should do and he’s like, ‘Well there are a lot of museums and you should totally rent a bike, that’s how everybody gets around. It’ll be so easy, just make sure you don’t ride in rush hour.’ We’re like, ‘OK cool.’ I don’t think we really thought about it much.

The next day we rent bikes—I feel like every bike at the shop was the oldest bike in the world, but you know—and the ride from our hotel to the museums and other places we wanted to visit was a straight shot. We had to go from one side of town through the center to the other side of town. We rode to the Anne Frank Museum, a big local pancake house and the department store, De Bijenkorf. De Bijenkorf was a super cool store. They have great fashion sensibility in Amsterdam and the whole city is just very quaint with cobblestone roads and no parking lots downtown. But right in front of De Bijenkorf, there must have been a thousand bikes laid on top of each other, just everywhere. It was a bike parking lot but people just got off their bikes, dropped them on the ground and went into the store. Nobody chained up their bike and all of the bikes look the same. You probably walk outside, pick up somebody else’s bike and keep it moving, to be honest. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.

On our last night, we decided to make it count so we go to a random coffee/smoke shop . Now it’s getting later and later and my friend and I are sitting there smoking. The first night we smoked weed, I felt great and my friend felt crazy high. This night, we switched, she felt great and I was stoned as hell. We are listening to the shop’s music and just as we’re getting ready to go, we hear this song start playing and it’s the lounge version of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back.” Yes, Khia. Yes, the lounge version of Khia. Remember, it’s getting late but we can’t leave when that song comes on!

So we’re still sitting there getting high, listening to this lounge singing guy named Richard Cheese sing every curse word, every “n” word, everything in “My Neck, My Back.” He blew our minds! We are also crazy high.

Now it’s going on 6 o’clock, rush hour, what the bartender warned us about! We head outside and it’s raining, it’s dark and there are cars, bikes, street trolleys, everything you can imagine, in the street. In Amsterdam, there are no bike paths, everything just runs together. As a bike rider, you are in the street right next to trolleys, cars, everything. You are crossing over lanes, you’re making turns in front of these big ass vehicles. Meanwhile, other people are on their bikes or walking in the street, cars are turning in front of you—it’s a lot going on.

I’m terrified.

I’m high out of my mind, it’s raining, it’s dark and everything in Amsterdam looks the same to me. Every single street to me looked the same, where the hell is our hotel? I think I started having a panic attack. We were riding the wrong way before I finally think, ‘Oh, this actually doesn’t look like everything else. Where are we?’ So we turn around and start going the other way. I think we’ll never see our hotel again. I feel like I’m stuck in the twilight zone. We rode and rode and rode for what felt like forever but we finally made it back to our hotel. We could not have been happier to see that it still existed! We were so thrilled that we immediately tossed those bikes, went inside and celebrated with a joint and some space cakes.

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Image Credit: Asta Around The World

Last 5 posts by Hillary Crosley