In 1970, when I first visited Europe, I missed going to Amsterdam. Not that it wasn’t a desirable location – very much to the contrary, in fact – but, as a 22 year-old hippie on his way to India, I had other priorities in mind. As if that weren’t bad enough, I missed it the next time around, in 1971, when I returned, once again on my way to India.
So, when I had the opportunity recently for a brief stopover in Amersterdam – this time, on my way to Dubai – I jumped at at the chance. To be sure, it was going to be a very quick visit, and it was going to be in early January, but what the heck…
I wanted to run in Amsterdam. I love tourist running in cities I visit. It affords one of the best ways to see a new place – slow enough to peer into all kinds of places, quick enough to get across some good distances, and, ideally, with lots of opportunities to get creatively lost. (Though, to be fair, I usually do a little bit of pre-run planning.)
In Amersterdam, we stayed in a hotel near the IJ, the city’s northern waterway, just north of the beautiful Centraal Railway Station. From there, an easy crossing of a footbridge and running through an underpass took me quickly to Haarlemmerstraat, a little, mostly traffic-free street of small shops.
It was Sunday morning, but it was still busy with bicycle traffic. (Heck, Amesterdam’s always busy with bicycle traffic.) It was cold (about 4C), wet (a fine drizzle was falling), and it was very windy. But I was running in Amsterdam, and I was happy.
After a while, I turned a corner to run along Herrengracht, one of Amsterdam’s hundreds of smal canal-side streets. It was all residential here, with the canal on one side of the narrow street and tall, narrow houses on the other. The houses, dating from the mid-1670s, were topped with the distinctive gable fronts that grace so many of the city’s canal-side buildings.
Down Herrengracht to a small side canal street, along that, up yet another canal street, and I soon found myself crossing Dam Square, a big, open space in the centre of the old city. From there, it was only a short jog back past Centraal Station, and then back to the hotel.
My Earth Runner Alpha X sandals and Injinji wool socks were perfect for both the weather conditions and the cobblestone streets. I’d run for about an hour.
So, 45 years late, but I’d done it. I’d not only visited Amsterdam, but I’d run in it. And I’m going back. There are other streets I want to run, along the canals and along the waterfront, and there are some beautiful parks to explore as well.
Next time, though, I’ll be there when It’s a little warmer and drier.