It’s official, Groningen has turned me into a cycling convert.
It was inevitable, really. A bike in the Netherlands is somewhat like a pair of shoes in Scotland – pretty much every trip beyond the front door is taken on it. After a while, walking seems like an awful silly thing to be doing, a god-awful trudge that takes you an age to get anywhere, compared to the ease and speed you can achieve on the old bicycle. Two wheels good, two legs bad!
Of course, cycling in the Netherlands is nothing like cycling in Scotland. In Scotland, you’re either in the countryside, CYCLING (capital letters are definitely required), all up hill on tiny winding rabbit tracks and trying to avoid rich eejits in speeding Landrovers, or you’re cycling in the city, in which case you are spending the vast majority of the time dodging between cars and buses, the lowest rung in the food chain.
In the Netherlands, the shoe is on the other foot. Cyclists own the roads, cars seeming like their browbeaten, ungainly cousins and pedestrians being met with the angered ringing of many a bell should they dare to stray too far onto the cycle lanes. And what’s more, cycling here is effortless. It’s like sitting comfortably in an automated chair as it sweeps you through the city as if connected to some psychic GPS system. It’s so flat here that you barely have to pedal at all. The incredible flatness of the terrain does mess with your perceptions though. When cycling back in Scotland, a hill was a near vertical ascent that you had to work your way up, pedalling like nothing on earth, but here you feel a vague frisson of shock when you reach the slightest incline. Should I come across a ‘Scottish hill’ here I’d probably stop, aghast, as if I been faced with Everest.
However, there is a downside. Unfortunately, it is a pretty likely that, should you not lock your bike up securely, someone will make off with it. Or, as happened to a fellow exchange student, someone might just decide to play a prank on you and lock your bike up with another chain, so that you can’t remove it from its resting place without some industrial strength bolt cutters or the aid of the police (or the politie, as they are called here – I keep expecting to see them helping old ladies across the road or something of the sort). I currently can’t leave my bike anywhere without checking the lock about fifteen times in a paranoid fashion. Maybe I’ll stop being quite so worried eventually…although, given Sod’s Law, that’ll be the day that my bike does get nicked.
In other news, I appear to have come down with the Exchange Student version of the dreaded ‘Freshers Flu’ after a packed introduction week, bleh. Also, I have been mistaken as Irish enough times in the past week to make me contemplate blagging my way into some employment in one of the many Irish pubs about town. Tomorrow, I am off to the town hall after class to become an official resident of Groningen, before making some stovies, my contribution to the international themed dinner we’re having at my accommodation tomorrow night. Everyone else seems to be making desserts…which I have absolutely no problem with!
Till next week,