Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day Eleven Bicycling!

Biking in Rotterdam!

We all got on the train to Rotterdam and got comfortable for the hour long ride in 2nd class seating. I calmly admired the scenery as we passed out of bustling Amsterdam and into the tranquil country. Eventually, this lulled me to sleep. About five minutes later, we had arrived at our destination. We hastily made our way out of the train to the bike rental shop, made a quick pit stop (which cost .50 euro) and began our six hour long bike adventure. Almost immediately, I realized that my bike was way too tall for me, only allowing my feet to reach a few inches from the floor when straddling the bicycle. Even being an avid bike rider, I did not realize that this slight flaw would have a massive impact on my entire cycling experience in Rotterdam.
From start to finish, I struggled getting on and off my bicycle. This may not initially seem to pose any issues, but the bike lanes of Rotterdam also include bike lights which function very similarly to regular traffic lights. With this is mind, there was a lot of starting and stopping to be done. Our first stop was the Port of Rotterdam where we immediately (we almost missed it) boarded a large boat. The ship gave the group an informative tour of the Port, showing us various points of interest and importance. After the tour, we rode our bikes as a group to grab lunch. Our professor purchased us each lunch and a drink, allowing us to choose whatever we wanted from a wide range of interesting dishes. I chose paella, a popular Hispanic dish, along with some mashed potatoes and vegetables. There was also the option to purchase iced tea with or without bubbles, and I chose without the bubbles. After lunch, we took our bikes and headed to the Euromast, a large tower that provided a fantastic view of the city. Although it didn’t compare to the Eiffel Tower, it still was a blast to experience. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, however, I was able to travel to the top of the tower via a large elevator ride that rotated constantly. I got separated from the rest of the group due to the weight capacity of the elevator, and my friend decided to hang back with me until the next ride to the top. With glass windows surrounding the enclosing, I was able to experience the city from a bird’s eye view. Although I am slightly afraid of heights and the jerking of the ride made me a bit uncomfortable, I enjoyed the experience.
After the Euromast, we got on our bikes and rode to our next stop, going a bit quicker than we have been. There were two lanes of bike traffic at times, and I had the option to pass any slower cyclists. I tried to take advantage of this opportunity, and narrowly missed getting hit by a moped coming from the other direction. This endeavor moved me to the back of the group’s bike line. At one point I could not for the life of me get back onto my bike. In my struggle, I actually ran the bike into direct traffic and nearly got trampled several times by other cyclists and pedestrians. Even after this incident I still could not get back on the bike. I walked it across the street to prevent myself from creating more problems, and tried to get on after I had thoroughly embarrassed myself. I managed to get on, looked up, and could not see the group any longer. Absolutely terrified and slightly angry, I peddled as quickly as I could to catch up with everyone else. After what seemed like an eternity, I spotted my professor waiting for me with the rest of the group not far behind.
At the next stop, I was completely astounded by the beauty of my surroundings. I was surrounded by water, creating a beautiful canvas for a sunset. Ducks and other birds were enjoying the view as well, resting near the greenery by the water. We rode our bikes once more and ended up on a nature trail. This route was without any bike lights so I actually enjoyed the bike ride. We stopped to feed several interesting looking (and hungry) deer. There was a woman who allowed people to take the vegetables she provided and feed them to the animals. I gratefully took a piece of the strange green food and the deer happily consumed it. We rode back to the train station to give our bikes back to the rental place. By that point my legs were becoming slightly sore, and I was more than happy to revert back to walking.
            The train ride back was soothing, and a great break from the six hours of bike riding we had accumulated. When we arrived we were just in time for dinner. Afterwards, I and two friends explored the red light district. I was fairly shocked by the number of exposed women I encountered, and how open they were. Although I tried not to look, some of them looked extremely uncomfortable, while others were confident enough to gently entice the potential customers that walked by. Men spoke with them through the windows, while some windows were covered with red curtains. This indicated that the woman was “in service”. The atmosphere was nothing short of sketchy, complete with the scent of marijuana and black cats along the street corners. I did not hesitate to return back to the hostel and get some rest.