Monday, October 7, 2013

Butt-callused and proud

I will never hear "it's as easy as riding a bike" in the same way again.

Today I rented a bike from the hostel. Let me preface this with -- it was great.I moved much more quickly, I worked different muscles and it was just a lot of fun. Fortunately for this blog post, that was not all that happened. 

First, this bike is not the type of bike I'm used to. It's a big, heavy, unwieldy cruiser. More than once anyone watching me push off may have thought I was just learning how to ride a bike, I was so wobbly. The first crosswalk I almost took another biker out. 

But it's all good. I really did enjoy riding around The Hague, which is the seat of government for the Dutch. That gives it a unique combination of modern, metal and glass high rises and old stone behemoths that dominate old-timey squares. It's also very bike and pedestrian oriented. There are streets throughout the city that are primarily for non-vehicular use but occasionally vehicles need to use them, so they have lighted metal posts that sink into the ground for cars. 

I've put together what I think happened based on the facts I know. 1: In the middle of the once flat street, my back tire fell several inches off of something. 2: When I looked back, those posts were back up. Apparently I rode over one of these as it was coming up, then I fell off it. 

Graceful? You betcha. 

It's also easier to get lost on a bike because you don't have as much time to look for street signs or landmarks. I spent an hour looking for this international market and rode up and down the same street three times. I never found it. (I was in the right area, at least; I saw a sign for it later after it had closed.) 

Although I didn't find the market, I did find a very nice park that had two extra redeeming qualities: I saw an ambulance with lights and sirens screaming come in, stop, then do a u-turn. Two minutes later he's back in the park. So I'm not the only one who gets lost. 

Also, I saw a guy exercising with a CD player banded to his arm. 

However, I had a surprisingly easy time finding most of my destinations today. No, the problem was I found them and they were closed on Mondays -- except for this museum I wanted to go to, which was closed for a year, and a tower from which I could get a good view of the city, which was closed for a party. 

I almost went back to my hostel, checked out a day early and went to the train station. I didn't want to waste time doing nothing in The Hague when I could be in Germany. The facts that I'd already paid for my room and that my mom really liked The Hague when she was here convinced me to stick it out for a couple of hours. If at 1 p.m. I was done, well, that's plenty of time to get to Germany. 

Fortunately, I did find reasons to like the city, although after all the disappointments I don't entirely trust it. I went to Madurodam, which is a collection of buildings from the Netherlands built on a small scale. With the exception that the park was overrun with children, it was fun. I went back to the beach. I found the queen's palace, which is actually surrounded by a moat. I stubbed my toe. It hurt. I jammed my bike seat into my leg. It also hurt. 

Oh, and I went running! It's actually a great way to see a city; I just can't turn too many times or I may never find my way back. 

I also realized today at this point in my trip to Germany last year, I was done. I was leaving for home the next day. 

Then I realized I am leaving for home tomorrow -- my first home.

See that on the top right? That's cola-flavored microwave popcorn. If I'd had a microwave here, I would have bought it. I also saw Cool American and Pure Paprika Doritos. 

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