Bikes on Dykes

My first full day in Amsterdam was an epic 40km ride in the country north of Amsterdam. However before bikes my first thought in the morning was coffee. I didn’t really think that would be an issue, I had a 20min walk to the meeting point for the bike tour so left the hotel assuming I’d pick one up from the multitude of cafes along the way.

I was unfortunately completely wrong. Even though I was out at 9am on a Tuesday, the area of Amsterdam I was in felt like 6am Sunday, there was literally nothing open. I did manage to find one place just near the Bike store, however the coffee was terrible, molten hot (thus burnt) and not enough milk. Photos below from my walk to the bike meeting point, and the cafe where I won’t be getting coffee tomorrow.

Some bikes in the Bike Shop ready to be used, and a bike bell I was very tempted to buy

I meet the guide Pete, and find out I’m the only one on the Tour. Pete mentions we might go further than normal since its only me and we can cover more distance. I’m not complaining !

A few minutes after leaving we put the bikes on a special “Bike Ferry” It only takes pedestrians and Bicycles to the other side of the river. It runs every 15 minutes and is completely free. There is talk of it being replaced in the near future with a bike bridge.

Once off the ferry and a few minutes ride, I get the opportunity for the quintessential Dutch cycling photo.

We stop to examine one of the pumping stations that keep this part of North Holland (the part of the Netherlands we are in) dry. The level indicator is interesting as it notes how far below sea level we are, which is about 4 metres.

This pole indicates how far down the land here has sunk since the locals have been pumping water out over the past few hundred years. There is also a neat map of the area. All cycle paths and intersections are numbered so it would be easy to navigate even without GPS.

Along the way we see an honesty box style setup where you can get vegetables and eggs. Given its 30c and in the sun I think it would be a good idea to skip the eggs. Its an honesty system, but I note there is a camera to ensure honesty is kept.

One of the Dykes protecting Amsterdam. You can cycle on top of it. In other sections is large and wide enough that houses are built on them.

We stop for lunch in Ransdorp and climb the tower there for a wonderful view over the area. Its about 160 odd steps.

The village is beautiful.

For lunch we have a traditional “Bar Gehakt met Brood” which is basically a large beef & pork meatball severed on two slices of white bread with picked onion and cucumber with mustard. The idea is to break up the meatball to make a mince sandwich. More delicious than it sounds. I washed it down with a “Radler” which is basically a shandy.

After lunch we rode back towards another ferry terminal through some beautiful little villages and a small forest. You can see more in the attached video.

This is where we rode north of Amsterdam.

When the tour was over I just had a wander around Amsterdam for a bit, tried a Croquette from a little vending machine where you put your 2 euro in and open the little oven and take the food out. This chain is called Febo and is somewhat of a dutch institution. I had a satay one, delicious !

Various shots around Amsterdam. Too hot to try for a proper coffee so I had cold iced coffee out of a tin.

Anyone for an special cookie ?

The cheese shop was of more interest to me.

Supposed to be the best chips in Amsterdam. The queue was insane.

Berlin or Bust

After the delayed train in the morning by 20 minutes we were on our way to Berlin. the delay was only 20 minutes, so I didn’t really think much of it until I check my ticket and the exact change over between trains in Hamburg was exactly 20 minutes. I’m thinking this could be a tight changeover. Website says they arrive on same platform, one on platform 5 and one directly opposite on platform 6. If this holds true it might just be do-able. We start making up a bit of time, but this goes to custard when we get to Rodby where the train is put on a ferry, and the ferry doesn’t wait. We have to wait at Rodby for the next ferry. It’s offical. I’ve missed the train I’m booked on and not quite sure what will happen now

Where I was sitting was too good to be true, in all the confusion back in Copenhagen with the delay and two trains coming in, I’d got on the wrong carriage. This train splits and the half I was sitting on didn’t go to Hamburg. Luckily the ticket inspector pointed out my error and I was soon where I should be, with more people around me.

The Danish ticket inspector doesn’t know what we need to do about the missed connections and says to talk to the German ticket inspector once over the border in Germany. When that happened, it was easily sorted. Just get any train she says and tell them this one was delayed. Bummer is I’ve lost my seat reservation. To fix that, there are two trains out of Hamburg that will get be to Berlin before 4pm, so I get online and reserve a seat on both of them just in case I miss the 12.51pm as it even looks like that would be a tight connection.

Putting the train on the Ferry was very interesting, cars, busses, trucks and this train. It’s basically a car carrying duty free shop with a few cafes. Food options were Schnitzel, fish and chips, hot dog or spaghetti. Most of the major European food groups covered… As soon as the cars and train were on, we had to exit the train (safety in case the boat sinks) and almost everyone bolted for the duty free to load up on cigarettes and booze.

Train going onto the ferry, trucks beside it, cars one level up and it was a tight squeeze getting off the train to the stairs / lift up to the main deck.

A few shots from around the ferry. Last one is the train actually going into the ferry. Not sure if it was pulled, pushed in or under its own power.

We get into Hamburg in plenty of time for 12.51 (6 minutes wait) it pulls in and it’s an old Czech Republic run train. Nothing wrong with them really, I took one from Auschwitz to Krakow in Poland and it was fine. A bit old and worn out, but I’ve paid to travel on the high speed ICE trains and damn it, I want that one. It leaves almost an hour later, but only arrives in Berlin 20 minutes behind the Czech one, so decision is made. Turns out it was an excellent decision, the ICE train is wonderful.

Old Czech train vs modern sleek high speed ICE train.

I need not have bothered booking a seat, 1st class was almost empty I had little booth all to my self. Sure enough when the ticket inspector came around I told her the Danish train was late and she said that’s all fine and scanned my ticket.


Train gets up to 230kph. It may have gone faster but this is what it was doing when I stuck my head around the corner to look at the display


Arrived in Berlin, HBF is ginormous. One of the biggest train stations I’ve ever seen. Found my hotel easily, its next door. Fantastic room, ultra modern, decent internet and it also includes free metro travel. Damn… I’m only here for two nights. A few coffee places around, headed over to Alexanderplatz to join my bike/food tour. Thought I might miss this tour with the train stuffups but made it easily with an hour to kill. Photos are of the Alexanderplatz TV tower (built during the East Germany times), the Berlin HBF station and a metro train.

I had an ice cold coffee whilst I waited for the tour.