Planes, Trains, and Bikes in Berlin and Amsterdam

As I mentioned in my previous post, we walked a lot in Berlin and Amsterdam, probably about eight or ten miles a day. I estimate this based on my fitness tracker, which gives me a little explosion of lights when I hit four miles. Since I hit this reward most days before lunch, I feel confident in guessing we probably walked at least twice that much each day.

We also used every type of public transportation that you can think of. Underground trains, surface trains, intercity trains, ferries, trams, boats, busses and planes all figured in our daily travel, but the closest we came to a car was noting the electric ones plugged in on our street in Amsterdam and passing the VW plant on the way there. VW Plant

We got there on time, despite having to make two unplanned train changes along the way. Here I am on the first train, gloriously unaware I was being photographed. (This is probably a good time to note that The Engineer took the majority of pictures from this trip  on his phone.)

2015-04-19 11.42.12There is a piano in the station (Amsterdam Centraal), with a sign inviting people to entertain their fellow travelers. Both times we walked through the building, someone was doing just that. It was magical.

Bikes are also a common mode of transportation in both cities, especially Amsterdam, as proven by this multi-story bike parking lot near the ferry dock.

2015-04-20 14.04.31

So I was surprised that the bicycles people rode were often old and appeared exceedingly heavy. The ones in Amsterdam were especially ancient — rusty one-speeds weighed down by multiple locks weighing at least five pounds each. (I picked one up when no one was looking.) Many had boxes on the front or back for cargo, and we saw some with what looked like a wheelbarrow on the front, sometimes with bench seats for kids.

These were working bikes, all right, and we never walked far without hearing a brrrring warning us to get out of the bike lane.  Every bridge had bicycles chained to it, sometimes two deep, and there are a lot of bridges in Amsterdam.Amsterdam canal bridge

It was very cool. As was this sign for a bike shop on our street. Amsterdam Bike Shop

And this one, near a brewery we visited.Amsterdam Bike Shop

Unfortunately, we did not find the opportunity to ride a bike in Amsterdam, something I’d long hoped to do. At least I have an excuse to go back. 🙂

I also loved the variety of houseboats we saw in the Amsterdam canals, especially those with gardens like this one.

Houseboat - AmsterdamOn our ferry trip, we even saw an old submarine, which The Engineer said was Russian. What it was doing in the IJ River in Amsterdam was anyone’s guess, but here it is.

IJ RIver SubmarineIJ River SubmarineWe also took a boat trip on the Spree River in Berlin. (Please note my fabulous Barefoot Wines sunglasses. I didn’t want to risk packing — and possibly losing — a good pair, so instead I looked like a geek in most of our pictures.)

Berlin River Tour

We took the three-hour bridge tour, which lived up to its name. Berlin Spree River Bridge TourLow Bridge Spree River

Many of the bridges we went under were very low, including this one featuring the Berlin Bear, a symbol of the city.

The Engineer spent several minutes composing this picture of me (sans sunglasses), Darling Daughter, and a swan. Swan -- Berlin

Of course, planes figured largely in our trip, getting us across the ocean and back, but also in a variety of other, sometimes unexpected, places. There was a replica of a Fokker hanging outside a coffee shop at Tegel Airport, which I’ve not included here, and this glider peeping out from a restaurant along our river tour.Berlin -- Glider near river

The Technical Museum in Berlin featured a variety of aircraft, including this Cessna 172 which landed in Red Square back in the 80s. Red Square 172
Red Square Cessna

They also have a Douglas C-47, the military version of a DC-3, hanging outside. Here it is as viewed from the river and from directly beneath. Berlin Airlift C-47 Berlin Airlift Plane

This plane was used during the Berlin Airlift, an episode in history I previously knew little about. If you’re as ignorant as I was, you can read about it here: When the Russians blockaded the city of Berlin after World War II, the remaining former allies developed a plan to supply the city by air. Planes like the one above operated twenty-four hours a day, taking off and landing at Tempelhof and Gatow airports in order to bring in the nearly 4,000 tons of supplies needed by the city residents each day.
But read the article. It’s an incredible story.

Here’s an early Lufthansa passenger plane, also part of the museum’s collection.Lufthansa

But perhaps the most surprising place we found a plane was at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, a place better known for its Vermeers and Rembrandts. This FK-23 Bantam was in one of the few uncrowded rooms of the museum, probably because to get there required climbing several flights of stairs.

Airplane Rijks MuseumRijks Museum Bantam Airplane

And though I enjoyed the rest of the museum’s collection, especially the Vermeers, I must admit finding a plane there brought more surprised delight than any of the paintings. You can read all about it here:–peter-holden/aircraft/objecten#/NG-2011-1,0.
The last plane we saw was also part of the museum’s collection, featured on this Nazi Chess set, which glorified the Third Reich’s territorial ambitions. (,3)Nazi Chess Set -- Rijks Museum
Later, we went for a beer at the Brouwerijhe’T IJ (, also known as the Windmill Brewery. It’s a fine place to drink a locally made brew, although there was some confusion about whether or not they took plastic. Apparently, they do, but only debit cards. When we pointed out that the card we wanted to use said “Debit,” they said, “Not that one.” Go figure. Windmill Brewery, Amsterdam

Anyway, we paid cash for a couple of beers and some locally made cheese (eaten with celery salt — delicious!), found a place to sit outside, and settled back to enjoy. A few moments later, three men sat at the end of our table. From their clothing and speech, it was clear they were American. Within minutes and before they even mentioned flying, I pegged them as airline pilots.

“Those guys fly for the big guys,” I told The Engineer. “You can tell from the way they talk.”

They sounded just like a couple of our friends who fly for the big boys and love to swap tips on where to go when they’re in a particular city (though our friends are not the show-offs these guys were).

It was all Man, there’s a great little place in Paris. It’s down this alley, looks like a real hole in the wall, but they serve the best Bloody Marys. The bartender used to be a model. He’s a real tall dude, and he’s married to this girl, I think she was a model too. Next time you’re in Paris, you should go. They’ll take care of you.

This would be countered by something like How about that place in London? You know the one with the chick with all the tattoos? And Yeah. Kinda reminds me of a cafe my wife and I found in Costa Rica. Run by a couple of ex-hippies.

I was quickly proven right when the conversation turned to landings and flaps and cabin crews.

Aviation. It finds us even when we’re not looking for it. 🙂

When we finished our beer and walked toward our bus stop, I saw this sign, which made me laugh. Sign at Brouwerijhe'T IJ


I’ll end by returning you to the Rijks with a librarian-like reminder that you learn all about these forms of transportation at your local library, although your local library probably looks nothing like the glorious one at the museum.

Rijks Museum LibraryShhh! They enforce the silence rule.





About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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