kilometers and 9 countries later...
-- Story by Erin --
On Wednesday, July 7th we said goodbye to Rudi and Martine
and thanked them for their wonderful generosity and hospitality. Now we were headed
further north into the Netherlands and to Amsterdam for a few days. Our ride was
very uneventful as we wanted to make some good time on the roads and took the major
motorways. We arrived in Amsterdam in the early evening and began to search the city
center for some reasonably priced motels or pensions. After checking 3 places (all
over $90/night and some with no vacancy) we decided to check the campgrounds. The
first we found was just over a short bridge and across a large canal from downtown
Amsterdam. The price was right but it was very crowded and near a busy motorway, so
we decided to check another one down the road. As we followed the signs we passed
through a very lovely small town called Durgerdam which faced a large bay. On one
side of the street were small houses, all unique, and on the other side were boats moored
to docks just over a small stretch of grassy bluff. As we rolled through town we
spied a small, handwritten sign that said "Zimmer"---in many languages this
means "room available". So we quickly pulled over to check it out.
Chris went into the small cafe to inquire about the room and I sat outside watching the
bikes, not holding out much hope that we could afford it.
with a big smile on his face and said it was perfect. As it turned out it was
$50/night for a lovely small one-bedroom guest house that was located just behind the main
house. It had everything, a full bathroom, living room, kitchen and dining
area. We could even get CNN International on the TV! This was luxury!
Behind our little house was a farm with about 20 cows peacefully grazing each morning and
night. We stayed for 2 nights, but almost wished we could have stayed longer.
We had heard about the bad theft problems in Amsterdam, both
from friends we've met in other countries and also from the locals we had met while
looking for a hotel that first night. So the next day we decided to leave the bikes
locked up at our little home and catch the bus into the city. When we arrived in
Central Station (a central spot in the city where all the trains and buses arrive) I was
surprised at the sheer masses of people. I haven't
seen this many people since leaving New York City and I had to reacquaint myself with this
environment. We managed to find the main transportation ticketing office and
purchased tickets for a canal boat ride and a bus ticket home that night. We
wandered the streets for awhile, marveling at the large cones of pommes frittes with
mayonnaise that were being served up from little take-out counters, and checking out a few
of the sights like the Royal Palace and Madam Trousseau's Wax Museum. Now I felt
like a real tourist! Then we took our canal ride and learned a little of the history
of the shipping industry and the city's development. The boat ride was well worth
the money and would recommend it to anyone going to Amsterdam in the future. It's a
great way to see the famous architecture as well.
That evening we had a few beers at an internet cafe and
chatted with the bartender (a young local woman) and a local patron (a computer
programmer) about the drug scene and life in general in Amsterdam. Then they
directed us to a good Chinese restaurant for dinner (yes, I still crave this food!)
The meal was big and delicious and the restaurant was full of Americans. In fact,
all of Amsterdam is full of Americans. After dinner we set out to find the
"red-light district" and walked directly into it. Surprisingly, it is
situated along a pretty little canal with neat little houses up and down both sides of the
canal. As expected however, there were women dressed in lingerie or bikinis sitting
in the windows on street level. The neighborhood reminded me of any street you might
walk down in the West Village in New York, but with the added attraction of these
"ladies of the evening" in the windows. Of course we tried to snap some
pictures, but the women were quick to duck behind curtains and give us dirty looks.
We ended the night with our bus ride home and bid farewell to Amsterdam.
The next day, July 9th we left our pretty little house near
the sea and headed for Norway. Our trip took 2 days and sent us back into Germany
and up into Denmark. We didn't stop to see much along the way so I won't go into
great detail. But worth mentioning is a historic little town in Denmark called
Jelling. We stopped here on Saturday for lunch and found out much of the history
from some locals at the restaurant. It turns out that Jelling was the original seat
of the King and Queen of Denmark and there are special archaeological sites here.
For a quick visit you can see the burial mounds of the king and queen and monuments in
their honor. There is also a pretty little church, one of the original churches of
Denmark. All of this dates back to the 1500's I believe and the time of the Viking
ships and warriors. Much of Denmark is rolling hills or flat farmland up north with
a million windmills dotting the horizon. I thought it was relaxing to drive through,
especially north along the coast, but others have commented they think it is boring to
We arrived at the ferry port in Denmark on Saturday evening
around 7 p.m. Our odometers had just passed 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers)!
We had intended to spend the night in a campground near by and catch the ferry the next
morning. We had been told by the people in Denmark in the tourist information office
that we would have no problem getting on the boat with no reservation because we were on
motorcycles. Since we had arrived on Saturday evening earlier than expected, Chris
wanted to go to the terminal just to find out what we needed to do for the next day.
Well, long story short---we found out that the ferries were booked solid until Monday
night! A bit of panic rose up in us as we had plans to be picked up by some friends
at the ferry terminal in Norway on Sunday afternoon. So we begged and pleaded for
them to make some space for us and they suggested we sit in the "stand-by" line
for the 7:30 p.m. boat that was about to leave that night. It worked, thank
goodness, and we were indeed squeezed into a tiny spot of the boat between the huge
trailer trucks and mega-sized tour busses, and far away from the other motorcycles.
A very friendly Norwegian fellow, an electrician on the boat, noticed
we were having difficulties and helped us tie down our bikes. He then proceeded to
invite us to his workshop for a cola and some conversation. He was so generous he
even let us make a phone call to our friends in Norway to notify them of our new arrival
time and to send email messages from his computer. (So if he is reading this
now----Many, many thanks!)
So, here I sit watching the sunset on the deck of the ferry.
It is 10:15 p.m. and it will be light for a few hours more after sunset. I
look forward to our next few weeks exploring Norway and it's famous fjords!