“Marc, why are you shuffling back and forth in the hallway, keeping Julia from getting up stairs? And, why have you been doing it for 15 minutes. And and, why do you keep doing an awful Gandalf, repeating “You shall not pass” way too much?”
“Why don’t you shut up, voice in my head.”
Aside from being a jerk, my inner monologue makes a good point. Rather than tormenting my cat via LOTR, I should probably let people know that Liz and I aren’t living in the streets of Amsterdam.
After looking for too long and waiting on the makelaars to stop being awful at their jobs, we decided on an apartment in a trendy part of Amsterdam. Our place is a two floor apartment in a neighborhood called De Pijp (“da pipe”). The apartment really is quite nice. I’ll let the pictures do more of the talking because words are the worst.
The two biggest problems are the stairs and the stairs. No elevator means four flights of stairs every time you come home. Surely you’re just a whiny pain in the butt, right Marc? Nope. The stairs are less stair and more ladder, sitting at an ergonomically comfortable 75° incline. I wear a size 10.5 shoe, refuse to learn the EU size conversion, and very little part of my foot actually fits on any of the steps. Since every Dutch person is generally 7’1″ or taller, I assume they’re giant feet require equally giant clown shoes. Our apartment offers big-footed types two options: climb on tip-toes or walk up four flights sideways. There’s no bad option!
These wonderful stairs made moving in a cinch. Thankfully, Liz and I only brought over clothes. No furniture or appliances, but Liz may have tucked a bar or two of lead into her suitcases. To be fair, she does love her heavy metal. Calling the car I rented from Greenwheels a car is comically liberal. So much so that even the dour bellhops at our hotel had an uncharacteristic laugh at me trying to fit eight bags into my go-cart. Keep laughing, jerks, now I can genuinely rationalize my plan not to tip you. And the bags fit, like a glove.
I’ll now walk you through my flawless logic. I planned to rent a car, drive for the first time in Amsterdam, move all the stuff into the apartment, drive for the second time in Amsterdam, and get back to the car rental joint in under two hours. Airtight, huh? Wait, you didn’t see the plan there? Oh, you’re good because there wasn’t any, and therein lies the problem. I just sort of thought it would work. Me thinking, another problem.
Greenwheels is a pretty great option for renting cars in Amsterdam. Granted, you have to get through the insufferable Dutch of the registration process. And, buying gas with Greenwheel’s gas card is a whole other hornet’s nest (more on that in a future post). I’m not a great driver, but I’m serviceable. I don’t usually get overwhelmed and I at least I can drive a standard. But, bikes are like lemmings in Amsterdam, each one following after the leader in an insane path to certain doom. That certain doom is most likely a canal boat or herring shop or Albert Heijn (a supermarket cult), but these bike-lemmings just circle the city and never fall to their death. Every corner and crossing holds 6 to 8 hundred tourists waiting to jump in front of your car. There are trams without any barriers that may or may not have the right of way. Every six feet or so there is a double-parked car. Taxis tailgate the trams, but there is no rule if non-taxis can. There are no discernible lanes. Amsterdam has exactly 5 streets that aren’t one-way. You’ll get lost like you were driving in a hedge maze. Alright already, Amsterdam, UNCLE! Jesus! I give up. Six kph through your cobblestone streets it is.
Ok, so the 5 km from rental place to apartment took 45 minutes. Reasonable. To make up time I parked illegally in a spot designated for electric cars. I’ll unpack the car, place the luggage in the entrance, lock the car, and then not have to go back and forth to the car. Brilliant. I’m in a flop sweat with all the bags in front of my door, car locked, ready to go. Door opens. It’s the size of a phone booth. Dammit. I put two suitcases in hall, locked the door, and then trekked the other six, 50 lbs. bags back to the car. No worries, I can definitely carry up two bags at a time. Naive. Two steps up the stairs and I dropped one suitcase, almost plummeting to my 1 foot high death. Eight trips up M.C. Escher-like stairs. Amazing. The last two suitcases were the toughest, especially since the sweat dripping down my hands made holding onto them particularly precarious.
Suitcases in, and now back to driving. This will be a dream now that I’m a veteran. Turns out I’m a vet with PTSD. I had 20 minutes to get back to the rental agency. Fifteen minutes and two strokes later, I merged into the traffic in front of our apartment. On schedule. Twenty-five minutes later I pulled into the rental agent’s parking spot, chest heaving with anxiety-riddled breaths.
Time to ride my bike back to the apartment and unpack. Thankfully, Liz’s discerning tastes and high standards assured that the apartment we found was a good one. Since I didn’t break my neck and Liz got to avoid my shenanigan, I’ll chalk this one up as a win. If you’re new to Amsterdam and need to drive around on a tight time-budget, take a Xanax and you’ll be fine.