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骑着“老爷车”逛荷兰 Dutch Delight on a Granny Bike


  The weekday streets and bike paths of Amsterdam's Eastern 1)Docklands are reassuringly deserted as I 2)lurch past my brother's apartment on his second-hand Dutch granny bike. The bike may be a 3)Gazelle, one of the best Dutch bike brands, but I'm as graceful as a newborn hippo.

骑着“老爷车”逛荷兰 Dutch Delight on a Granny Bike  My brother Stuart and his girlfriend, Sue, are living in Amsterdam for a year and quicker than they can say “free accommodation”, I fly over for a holiday. Inspired by the local bike culture, Stuart and I plan to cycle around the Netherlands and the 4)Flanders region of Belgium for 11 days.

  The Netherlands and Flanders are ideal for the casual cyclist, with a flat landscape, dedicated cycling infrastructure, a network of long-distance bike routes and celebrated cycling culture. Not to mention plenty of opportunities for coffee, cake and beer along the way. The locals are fluent in English, too, no doubt due to the endless repeats of 5)Knight Rider on Dutch television.

  We plan to use Stuart and Sue's second-hand “omafiets” and “opafiets”, or grandma and grandpa bikes. These old single-speed, back-pedal brake, “upright” bikes, fitted with 6)panniers, are designed for short urban trips. The locals think we're mad to cycle around the country on them and I agree, given Sue's omafiets looks old enough to have been ridden by a grandmother in her irresponsible youth.

  My first couple of days in Amsterdam are a 7)hectic combination of sightseeing, trip preparation and an introduction to cycling, Dutch-style. Amsterdam looks like bike 8)Utopia compared with Sydney, yet there's a particular rhythm and 9)etiquette to cycling that takes some adjustment.

  I struggle to 10)negotiate the various cars, 11)trams, 12)mopeds, 13)oblivious tourists and carefree local cyclists. My favorite is the “dog-rider” who, instead of walking the several dogs in her care, rides with them on the bike path, causing chaos. Aside from the obvious attractions such as the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House, the greatest joy is simply cycling around the beautiful streets and canals of Amsterdam, stopping for coffee and Dutch apple cake at Cafe Winkel and a beer at the Brouwerij 't IJ, a small 14)brewery next to a traditional Dutch windmill.

  After three days in Amsterdam, we set off for 15)Utrecht in light drizzle that soon turns into brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures. My 16)clichéd expectations are indulged as we cycle through the Dutch countryside, passing picturesque villages, windmills and canals. I'm pleasantly surprised by the beautifully 17)manicured houses and 18)quaint gardens that often incorporate funny garden 19)ornaments, 20)moats and farm animals.

  We arrive in Utrecht in the afternoon, with time only for a sandwich and an excellent guided tour of the Domtoren (church bell tower), the tallest in the country. As the sun begins to set on some of the most spectacular scenery of the whole trip, we race to reach Gouda before nightfall. It's immensely satisfying overtaking the locals on our old bikes.

  The next day begins with a typical hearty Dutch breakfast, a quick tour of Gouda's town square and an obligatory visit to a cheese shop. We depart for Kinderdijk, crossing the Molenkade River by car ferry before encountering one of the toughest hill climbs of the trip: the short incline from the ferry up to the main road, a challenge on an overloaded omafiets with 21)bulging panniers.

  On day four, we cross the Belgian border, disappointed by the lack of signs and 22)fanfare. We celebrate with 23)nougat in the woods of De Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide, a cross-border nature reserve. Eventually, we reach 24)Antwerp and, like the 25)Tour de France riders, cycle along the Scheldt River, past Antwerp Castle and the old docks.

  Aside from the 26)elation of riding from Amsterdam to Antwerp, the main town square holds special significance to us: Dad's black-and-white photograph of Mum standing by Brabo Fountain is one of our few surviving family treasures. Now we are standing in the same spot, trying to re-create that picture and create a few new ones for future generations.

  We enjoy a rest day wandering around Antwerp's Gothic architecture, sampling such Belgian delicacies as chips with 27)mayonnaise, 28)waffles and Trappist beers. Overnight stays in Gent and Brugge complete the 29)trifecta of historic 30)Flemish towns as we ride on to Middelburg in the Netherlands, passing through a rural landscape of gorgeous fields, red-roofed farmhouses and tiny churches. After crossing the seemingly non-existent border, we follow the North Sea Cycle Route to the coast.

  Strong winds greet us the next day as we ride in 31)slipstream formation to the Delta Project, a massive engineering system of 32)dykes, 33)locks and storm-surge barriers built following a flood that killed 2000 people in 1953. We ride over the Oosterschelde Stormvloedkering, which is three kilometres of moveable dams that took 10 years to build and formed part of this year's Tour de France. I'm sure it makes for stunning television but up close it's...breezy. The abundant wind 34)turbines aren't here for decoration. Forget flooding, I'm surprised the country doesn't blow away.

  All too soon we reach the outskirts of Amsterdam. By now, our bikes are falling apart but I've grown to love my adopted granny. Our ride may not be worthy of a 35)yellow jersey but we feel triumphant, if tired. A seat in an Amsterdam bar is the only winner's 36)podium I need.
  很快,我们就到达了阿姆斯特丹的市郊。此时,我们的自行车都快要散架了,而我却越来越喜爱这辆借来的“老爷车”。我们这一路骑行,也许配不上 “黄色领骑衫”,但我们都觉得胜利了,虽然有点疲惫。阿姆斯特丹某间酒吧里的一张椅子就是我所需要的冠军领奖台。