Monday, August 4, 2008

Taking the scenic route

Friday night I checked the weather for Saturday, and found out it was going to be a beautiful day to go on a nice bike ride. So, Saturday morning I got up early, ran my errands, packed a lunch and set off for the countryside at 11:30am. I ended up going through Northern Amsterdam, which is separated from the city center by a body of water that can only be crossed by ferry for bikers/pedestrians or a bridge for buses and other autos. It's amazing what a little divider like that can do to completely change the ambiance of a city. North Amsterdam is nothing like the bustling and eclectic city center. It's as if you’ve entered a suburb of Middle America, where you'll see soccer mom's in their mini vans carting their children around from one activity to the next. It gave me a momentary feeling of nostalgia,... but that moment didn't last long. I am living in Europe after all.

I kept heading northeast through the green fields and along the flowing streams to the tiny village of Ransdorp. Needless to say it was quite a peaceful ride. The population of Ransdorp can't be more than 150. However, if you took the sheep into account, the population would be 500 --minimum. The village, like most tiny villages around here I've noticed, is built around the village’s single church. The church a beautiful building built in the early 1500's, with a 10 story high tower.

As I got closer to it, I saw a man sitting on the stairs leading to the tower and next to him was a sign telling passers by that you could climb to the top of the tower for 50 cents. I hesitated for a moment, because I told myself at the beginning of my trip that it was just going to be a bike ride. So I continued riding. But, when I reached the back of the church my bike took over and I found myself at front once more. I walked up the front steps, handed over 50 cents and made my accent up the spiral stairs that lead to the top of the tower. Funny thing was, I didn't know it was 10 stories high. A quarter of the way up the narrow staircase I felt like I had to be nearing the top, because it didn't look that high from the outside. The stairs just kept going and going. Then when I felt like the stairs would never end, a door appeared. But that was only to fool the unexpected stair climber, because that door only led you down a balcony of sorts and to yet another door that led to even more stairs to climb.
In the end it was well worth the climb. The view from the top was beautiful. You could see all the way to the center of Amsterdam in one direction and to a handful other small villages in another direction.

Once I made my way back down the 155 stairs, (yes, I counted) I hopped back on my bike and over to the village of Zunderdorp located a few miles away. I was warmly greeted by a duck and a sheep. This duck in particular caught my eye. Recently, my friend Amanda had an entire post dedicated to a similar type of duck. So, I wanted her to know that we have “ugly ducks” here too... but I actually find them pretty cute. I rode down the small streets of the village to a nice spot near a bridge that overlooks a stream lined with willow trees, and ate my lunch. Once I was done, I packed up my things and returned to Amsterdam just in time to see the beginnings of the annual Gay Pride parade. …but that is a post for another day.


Tim said...

Looks like a beautiful Saturday adventure. I always loved the fact that in most of Europe you can go a few miles from the bustle of the city center and be in the quietest of country/farm land. Usually, of course, until a train buzzes by and makes loud electrical noises. It definitely looks beautiful there, though. I'm totally jealous. :)

Way to go on hitting the top of the church, too. Those spiral staircases will eat your calf muscles alive, though.


ReL said...

Sounds like you've really gotten the hang of that bicycle. Congrats :0)
It looks like you had a lovely ride and the pictures are just gorgeous!