If I had to name one thing I missed the most, it wouldn’t be drop (licorice). Nor would it be cheese, wooden shoes or tulips. I don’t even miss the bitterballen (deep-fried balls of meat stew wrapped in bread crumbs) or frikandellen (Dutch sausages). I can do without oliebollen (Dutch donuts) at New Year’s Eve and taaitaai (a chewy type of cookie) for Sinterklaas (on December, 5th).
It pains me a little bit that I don’t get to eat chocoladepepernoten (a tiny cookie wrapped in chocolate traditionally eating during the Sinterklaas-period) with hot cocoa or eat the occasional bonbonbloc (a chocolate bar filled with creamy chocolate) at certain times. They are all replaceable.
If you were forcing my hand and I had to choose, I would say I miss riding my bike the most.
I am 28 and until I got to Australia, I never owned a car in my life. I didn’t need to. My bike took me everywhere. It was fast, easy and back in the Netherlands nothing is far away anyway. I would ride to the bus when I wanted to go further, which in turn would take me to the train station if I had to go even further.
I would ride to the library, supermarket or post office in a matter of minutes. I used to ride to school, which was an hour away, rain or shine. During weekends, I would hop on my bike and ride to the little cafe down by the river Maas and have a drink. I would call up a friend and we’d ride to Waalwijk to go shopping. Someone always needed a new pair of shoes, a dress or perfume.
I remember riding to school in Den Bosch and arriving there soaking wet. Everyone’s coats would hang in the cloakroom, dripping. The classrooms smelled like wet dog. Girls were re-applying their makeup in the bathroom mirrors. No one ever thought twice about it. Some lucky ones got their parents to drop them off, but that only ever happened as an exception to the rule.
You would curse if you had to go up the ramp of a dike. You’d flip your gears around furiously and stand on the pedals. But you’d think of the one rule that applies in this case: when you go up eventually you must come down. This means legs in the air, wind in your hair or pedalling with all your might so you could easily get up the next ramp.
All of that was facilitated of course by the fact that the Netherlands is flat as a pancake. It is regarded as a means of transportation rather than an exercise device, as it is in Australia. I would go so far as to say a bike rider is the king of the road there, whereas here you are fortunate to make it out alive.
Regardless, I would like to ride again. For starters, it is an easy way to get that little extra physical activity in your day. Second, I love the way it clears my mind. And last but not least, it doesn’t cost anything.
As a backpacker, that is something you need to take into consideration. Especially since it will be a few more weeks before I start my new job.
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What do you think you would miss the most?