One envies the Dutch. Not only for tulips. Or De Walletjes. But rather, their bicycles. Unlike most Western countries, they've stuck to peddling their way around. Not only good for the physique, but it prevents pollution.
My friend Jannie reminds me of the days of our youth in an era when bicycles were the in thing. It was still safe to cycle to school and on main roads. Nowadays cyclists are victims of criminals and taxis, so the use of bone-shakers are limited to the brave.
Then bicycles were deemed a necessary mode of transport, especially in the poorer areas where families couldn't afford mechanised vehicles. It was nothing for my dad to cycle 30 km a day to work and back. My school too, was too far to walk and too expensive for a bus.
I'll never forget when my elder brother surprised me with a brand-new cycle. A white Raleigh Sport with dropped handles. And a fixed gear that soon put muscle to spindly legs.
Oh, and bicycles had to be licensed every year and came under a traffic cop's scrutiny. The first thing he looked for was the distinctive round tin disk with the current year displayed under the saddle. For night cycling a proper lamp that ran off a dynamo spinning on the back tyre.
Cycling also provided youthful romance. I mean, with my chick gingerly sitting side saddle on the frame, with the smell of her carbolic soap shampooed hair up my nostrils, who could ask for more? OK, so when caught in the rain, her hair niffed like chicken feathers immersed in boiling water. True love blocks the senses.
Jannie tells his bicycle was always in poor condition, so no licence. He spent all the time dodging cops. His boney had no brakes. No problem, he says, to stop I gooi my right foot on the back tyre and it stops dead. OK, so it's heavy going on back tyres and school shoes. At night he used his old man's torch attached with wire on the handle bars.
Sounds much like modern day taxis.
Looking at Amsterdam for our next trip. Given our varicose legs, we'll opt for a tandem to see the sights. Like De Walletjes?
“No! Tulips only,” cries a voice from the kitchen.