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We rented the bicycles and joined locals pedaling merrily in and out of the city yesterday. It was an ideal way to see Amsterdam. If anything, the pace was a bit too fast. We had to stop from time to time to gawk – so much to see. No Leavenworth kitsch here; it was the real thing: canals, unique Dutch architecture, weird vehicles, blonde babies, etc.

A little more about Dutch bicycles: Most of them are what we Americans would call “girl” bicycles with no cross bar. But there are also some strange variations. Perhaps the most unique are the cargo bicycles like the cartoon above. Often the “cargo” is a couple of kids.

I think everyone here speaks English. At first, I was asking “Do you speak English?” but I dropped the formality after awhile and just launched into English and no one gave me that “no comprendo” look.

Another noteworthy observation: no fat people here, or at least very few. It’s hard to imagine bicycle riding accounts for all the svelte figures but the difference between the Dutch waistlines and Americans’ waistlines is startling.

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Mary on the streets of Amsterdam

We’re heading for Germany today in our rented Opel which is a sporty little car. I guess I’m showing my age when I say it’s so sporty I have trouble hoisting myself out of the seat. Our plan is to head for the Mosel River along which are the US Air Force bases at Bitburg and Spangdahlem where I lived as a boy. I’m hoping to locate the exact houses in Wittlich, Bitburg, and Heckenmunster that we lived in. Of course, that was 50+ years ago so they may no longer even be standing. We’ll see.

Can’t say much about Dutch cuisine because we haven’t sampled any. There’s my picky eating habits, of course but more important there’s my skinflint cheapassness. We had lunch at a Subway and our supper came from a little grocery store in this neighborhood that mostly serves the ethnic Turks who live here. Day before yesterday we selected a few things at that store, got to the checkout counter where the clerk rang them up. Having not exchanged any dollars for euros, we attempted to use our American credit cards but learned American credit cards don’t work in Amsterdam. We had to slink out of the store empty-handed.

Yesterday we returned with wallets full of euros and went to the checkout line. I proudly handed the clerk my euros in payment to which he shook his head and said something unintelligible (the one guy in Amsterdam who doesn’t speak English!) I was incredulous (what’s wrong now?!) At length, a kindly English-speaking Dutchman in line behind me pointed out that I was in a credit card only line.

It was all worked out and we took out items home where I eagerly launched into a bowl of cornflakes only to find myself spewing the first spoonful in disgust. “Karnemelk” we learned, is Dutch for buttermilk.

A lot of Dutch makes a kind of phonetic sense to we English speakers. For example, street signs warning of speed bumps read “Let op” (get it? – let up for slow down.) There were quite a few others which I can’t recall at the moment.

Mary insists I include the following photo of me with a townhouse off-kilter which she found hilarious, suggesting I must have had a hand in building it (Mary is often critical of my building techniques.)

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