Amsterdam is a great city for cycling. But in the tourist high season, the city centre becomes crowded like the queues at Disney World. Which is why sensible people then head out to the outer boroughs. Such as ‘the Rivierenbuurt’. There, we spoke with Ice Cream and Pancake Guru Jason – owner of IJsland.
“You can get pancakes and ice cream everywhere in Amsterdam, but we want ours to be a special experience.” says Marieke (who owns and runs IJsland with her husband Jason). They took a chance by setting up shop outside the centre, but their enterprise is now one of the most popular spots in the neighbourhood.
‘IJs’ in Dutch means ice cream. Jason tells me about theirs: “Our specialty is making soft sorbets. It is made in a similar way as the soft serve ice cream you see in every snack bar in the Netherlands, but we make it with fresh fruit and in a special machine. We are the only ones in the Netherlands with this soft sorbet machine – the only place using fresh fruit to make it.”
Jason continues: “To be honest, the Dutch cuisine may not be the best of the world. For example: the French are pretty good. But we are definitely good at making pancakes. At IJsland we work with our own mother yeast. That makes our pancakes special. We serve the typical, bacon and cheese and apple and cinnamon pancakes. But we also do pancakes with coq au vin, boeuf Bourguignon and Mexican chicken.”
Marieke and Jason live with their two kids in Haarlem, a 15 minute train ride from Amsterdam. “Haarlem is a lovely city. It is smaller than Amsterdam, which makes it a very relaxed place to live as a family,” says Marieke. “In Haarlem we mostly get around in a cargo bike, to get the groceries and bring the kids to school or the swimmingpool. It’s great for cycling. Also in the tourist high season.”
“Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world, and our bike friendly culture certainly is one of the reasons for their happiness. That is why my mission is to promote cycling and make sure it stays the preferred mode of transport in the Netherlands.” Maud de Vries is one of the initiators of Cyclehack Amsterdam and a bike culture expert. Cyclehack is a global movement where people get together to address the barriers to cycling and come up with creative solutions. “With Cyclehack we wanted to give Amsterdammers a wake-up call. We Amsterdammers are so used to cycling every day, that we do not always fully appreciate what we have. When I ask an Amsterdammer to look at cycling through the eyes of a tourist, people start talking about what cycling means to them and how it influences lives, here and in other parts of the world.”
Amsterdam is an example of bike friendliness, but still we encounter some barriers. Can you name some of those barriers?
According to the city council the important barriers that need to be addressed are bike parking, bike theft, too crowded cycle lanes and connecting cycling to public transport like the metro and the train. We, as the organisers of Cyclehack, see two other important challenges; innovation and marketing. We want to claim the bike like Scandinavia has claimed fashion. Amsterdam should again be the number one cycling city in the world.”
Cyclehack took place in 40 cities around the world in the weekend of the 20th of June. What are the ideas with the highest potential that came out of Amsterdam’s Cyclehack?
We are already working on putting some ideas into practice: Cycle Space (a space about cycling in the city), LinkLock (a lock attached to a pole that indicates when a bike was parked, to help address the problem of bikes gone a stary), and the ‘bike-back-crate’ (a foldable bike crate that you can take with you on your back) amongst others. But there are many other ideas that came out of Cyclehack that we are talking about with the city council and Dura Vermeer, one of our sponsors.
Beside organising Cyclehack Amsterdam you do a lot more to promote cycling, can you tell us something about your other projects?
I am a creative strategist working mostly on bike to work projects. I address the issue of how to get people on their bikes (and out of the car). I am looking at creative ways to change people’s behaviour. I work a lot on ‘Toury’. Toury is an bike to work app, it is a game that triggers people to get on their bikes. For some people losing weight could be a trigger, other people are triggered by environmental reasons, health reasons or because cycling is very relaxing after a day of work. The app addresses all those different triggers. We work internationally with this app with big companies and organisations.
Why do you love cycling so much?
Cycling gives me a feeling of freedom. It immediately relaxes. I can stop wherever I want, I see things that I don’t see from a car or public transport and it is social, you connect with other people. I just love it!
What bike do you have?
I have a Workcycles FR8. It is a great bike! It is the first bike that I spent quite some money on. I bought it when I had my first child. It is great for short and long distances and I can carry my two kids and the groceries on it. When I arrive home, I ride the bike into my house and put the groceries in my kitchen. I have recommended this bike to many friends and everybody loves it.
Fadi Hindash directed the short documentary ‘Mama Agatha‘. This heart-warming film is about migrant women in Amsterdam learning to ride a bike. Cycling means more freedom, and integration in Dutch society. Women of all ages and nationalities are taught by teacher Mama Agatha. Most of his life Fadi lived in car dominated Dubai, but three years ago he moved to Amsterdam. He was not able to cycle, but learned it from Mama Agatha herself. The premiere of ‘Mama Agatha’ will be on the 2nd of May during Leiden International Short Film Experience. Reason enough to make Fadi our cyclist of the month!
How did you come up with this topic for the documentary?
I was having coffee on my friend’s terrace overlooking a park where a group of Moroccan women were learning how to ride a bicycle. Immediately I was struck with how much that image said about integration and the life of migrants. I personally moved to the Netherlands 3 years ago but I have grown up with the identity of a migrant long before. I was raised in Dubai where my family and I lived as outsiders in our own home which is why the issue of integration is one that is very close to my heart. So when I saw the group of Arab women learning to cycle in Amsterdam, I immediately knew there was a story there for me. The fact that it looked so sweet and humorous set the tone for the film. Plus, I also never learned how to cycle because Dubai is a city of cars, which made the film even more personal as I was going through what the women were going through.
Why is it important to learn to ride a bike?
Because it gives you freedom, not just physically but also emotionally. Cycling feels like flying, on wheels.
I don’t see any men in the documentary, are these cycling lessons just for women. If so, why do you think that is?
I had the same question during filming. As far as I know there aren’t similar courses for men. It could be because men tend to be more proud about admitting they don’t know something so basic or they would feel more embarrassed about falling in the street. I was lucky to have Mama Agatha as a teacher, she taught me behind the scenes while making the documentary.
What do you like about Amsterdam?
It’s the perfect combination of a city and a little town. It’s cozy when you need it to be but also cosmopolitan when you need it to be. There’s also the other factor that cannot be put into words: it has this magic quality to it. It looks so pretty, almost like a dollhouse. I love things that seem unreal with a touch of fantasy, that’s the filmmaker in me.
- The premiere of Mama Agatha takes place on the 2nd of May at The Leiden International Short Film Experience at 14:45.
- The documentary will also be screened at Shortcutz Amsterdam in May
- Interested in organising a screening of ‘Mama Agatha’ yourself?
Contact Marek (email@example.com)
- Follow ‘Mama Agatha‘ on Facebook
- Visit the Mama Agatha website for more information
“There are more and more tourists in Amsterdam. And what I see quite often is that the kids of tourists are playing on an IPad or checking their phones, or they are simply bored when waiting in a restaurant. That’s why Charlotte and I decided to make the book ‘Hotel Kids Only’. With this book we want to activate the creativity of kids and at the same time ‘teach’ them something about Amsterdam. It is the perfect book for young children who visit Amsterdam for a holiday, for the kids of expats and as a nice souvenir to bring home after an Amsterdam visit.”
Hotel Kids Only
The book ‘Hotel Kids Only’ is filled with fun things for kids to do; Game of the Goose along Amsterdam’s canals, a colouring picture of Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch, a map of the city for kids, amongst many other things. It is the perfect way for children to spend hours in their hotel rooms, on the plane to Amsterdam or waiting in restaurants or cafes. Ingrid: “Of course there are many bikes in the book too; there is a game where you have to count all the bicycles, there are bikes in the memory game, and in the ‘Game of the Goose’ you miss a turn when you stand on the ‘bike fell in the canal’ field.”
Ingrid the designer
Ingrid Robers (ingridrobers.com) is an illustrator and designer, she does a lot of illustrations for children. Ingrid: “I had not always planned to do so many children’s illustrations. I don’t have kids, I like kids just as I like other people, but I like the creative and pure mind they have. When I make illustrations for children I always think of my own childhood. What did I like when I was a kid? When making this book I also looked at the city imagining I were still a child. What would draw my attention?” The other author of the book ‘Hotel Kids Only’ is Charlotte Borggreve, she founded the well-known ‘Kinderkookkafé’ (restaurant where children cook), and together they wrote another book ‘Kookologie’ (a playful cookery book for kids).
Amsterdam city centre
Ingrid lives in the city centre of Amsterdam, just a 5 minute walk from the Central Station, in a ‘red light alley’ near Spuistraat. “I live in this apartment for almost 17 years and I love the neighbourhood. Even though the area is becoming more and more touristic, it still has a local feel. I actually became friends with quite a few neighbours. When the weather is nice we take chairs out and sit in front of our houses with a glass of wine. One neighbour lives on a typical Amsterdam house boat, that is also a great spot to hang out in summer. The ladies who work in the red light district are my next door neighbours. Most of them work in this alley for many years. So in these past 17 years, I really got to know them.”
Ingrid’s Amsterdam tips
Ingrid does most of her grocery shopping at the many markets in de Jordaan (the Lindengracht, the Noordermarkt and the Westerstraat). Another area she likes is the Zeedijk (Amsterdam’s Chinatown) “There are great Thai and Chinese restaurants in that street. My favourite store is the Chinese department store Dun Yong, a three story building full of Chinese food and other products. I love to go there and try food I don’t know. The nice thing is that they have little cards with information about each product.” When Ingrid has meetings for work she mostly goes to café Kobalt, where they have nice coffees and a relaxed atmosphere. Her favourite bar in the area is ‘Café In de Wildeman’: “It is a typical brown café with many different beers. There is a nice mix of locals and tourists and always when I go there I end up talking to new people or neighbours, it is a place I even go alone, because there is always someone to chat to.”
Wieger and Anne Marie love to go out for dinner, visit art galleries, and look for nice boutique hotels or B&B’s for their next city trip. So why not turn their passion into their work? That’s what they did, they started their own B&B in a typical Amsterdam house in the popular neighbourhood De Pijp. It is called Ollies Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast is lovely, they have cool photography in the rooms and they made their own mini-guide of the city so that their guests can enjoy Amsterdam as much as they do.
Food and Art
Wieger and Anne Marie love art. The museum district is only a 5 minute walk from their B&B. Wieger: “The Rijksmuseum is really a must see, both for the art and for the cool designed building. It is amazingly done.” Anne Marie: “But we actually prefer to visit art galleries and especially photography galleries. In weekends we love to walk around de Spiegelkwartier. We always pay a visit to Jaski Art Gallery and the Yellow Korner.” The Spiegelkwartier has been the heart of the art and antiques trade for the past 80 years with over 70 specialised art and antique dealers.
Their other hobby is to go out for dinner. Anne Marie: “We love restaurant Sent just across the street. It is a small and lovely place where they cook with a Green Egg. But we have so many other favourites like Vis aan de Schelde [Close to RAI. “Michelin-star quality food, and a very relaxed atmosphere”], Toscanini in the Jordaan [a very popular Italian place, so make sure to make a reservation], ‘French-bistro-style’ restaurant Rijsel in a side street of the Amstel, fine dining at Fyra just off Vijzelgracht and Bar Americano [along the Amstel, where you can eat Italian food and stay till late at night for drinks at the bar].”
What to do in Amsterdam
Wieger calls himself an Amsterdamophile: “Amsterdam is the best city to live in. The size is perfect, everything is walking distance. And after living here for almost fifteen years, I still enjoy the beauty of the city.” Anne Marie: “There is always something nice to do in Amsterdam; concerts, expositions, new pop-up stores opening and there are many festivals. I am not that much into electronic music festivals but I love food and art festivals like De Rollende Keukens in the Westerpark, the Food Soul Festival and the Affordable Art Fair in Amsterdam-Noord. For shopping I recommend the 9 Straatjes and the Pijp. Just a few minutes’ walk from our B&B you have the Gerard Doustraat. Since a few years a lot of nice stores have opened there. It is becoming very trendy.”
Bikes and Boats
“The best way to see Amsterdam is by bike or boat”, says Wieger. “My favourite cycling spots are the Vondelpark, the old canals and the cycle path under the Rijksmuseum.” Anne Marie: “On sunny days we take a boat, bring some food and drinks, friends and nice music and sail through the canals.” They would both recommend tourists to rent a bike and go through the city like locals do. Wieger: “I think it is recommendable for tourists to plan their cycling trip a bit before they start cycling. Cycling can be quite hectic. But there are nice routes and neighbourhoods like the Jordaan are great to discover by bike.”
Ollie’s Bed and Breakfast
Ollie’s Bed and Breakfast has got three rooms. Anne Marie and Wieger live on the first and second floor and the rooms are on the third and fourth floor of a typical ‘de Pijp’ building with steep stairs in a cosy street. “Working together is going really well. We have a good division of tasks but we also work a lot together,” says Anne Marie. Wieger: “We have the same taste of style and paid a lot of attention to detail when furbishing the room. We would love to have guests over who share our taste for interior design and our love for photography.”
“Why do we have so many different pairs of shoes and just one pair of glasses?” asks Camiel, our cyclist of the month. Camiel founded Ace&Tate to democratise eyewear. The Amsterdam startup has been named one of the “TOP 100 HOT STARTUPS” by Wired Magazine. So we decided to interview Camiel about his company, cycling to work and his bike.
Cycling to work
Ace&Tate is located on the Overtoom – city centre Amsterdam. The team of around 20 people all cycle to work. “We stay in the city centre, because we want to cycle to work. My colleagues all live in or close to Amsterdam’s city centre. My commutes leads me through the Vondelpark, my favourite cycling spot. I love cutting through runners, skaters and other cyclists. The chaos is what makes Amsterdam the lively city it is.” Ace&Tate’s office is located right above Amsterdam’s first bike café.
Camiel has lived and worked in London and Dublin, in those cities he never cycled: “In Dublin I could have cycled but I lived so close to work and the city centre that I walked everywhere. In London I didn’t feel safe at all on a bike. There is a lot of work to be done in London to make it as bike friendly as here in The Netherlands.”
Camiel cycles a traditional opafiets (Dutch bike) and recently upgraded his bike with a crate on his front carrier. “I use it a lot to bring around our glasses to events or concept stores.” Besides glasses and groceries, a lady’s handbag is often to be found in Camiel’s crate: “When me and my girlfriend go out, we always take one bike. She sits on the back carrier and throws her bag in my crate.”
Ace&Tate eyewear is made by hand in Italy. They sell for: 98 euros (or 89 pounds) per frame, including prescription glasses. Camiel: “Our trick is to cut out the middlemen. That makes our glasses affordable. So you can have different frames for different outfits and occasions. Our dream is that in a few years every European thinks of Ace&Tate when thinking of eyewear.”
– More information on: aceandtate.com.
Taco grew up in the east of the Netherlands, but while visiting his aunt in Amsterdam as a child he immediately fell in love with the city. Taco loves the beauty of the city centre with its canals but most of all he likes the city’s cycling culture. That’s why he became bike entrepreneur and founded the Dutch bike company VANMOOF. VANMOOF’s mission is to create the perfect urban bike and convince people all around the world to travel by bike instead of by car.
In 2009 Taco and his brother Ties founded VANMOOF. Now, five years later, you see their bikes a lot in Amsterdam’s streets and they are sold in more than 30 countries around the world. Taco: “We want to be more than just a bike brand. We want to be a movement. A movement for change. The ’MOOF’ part in our name comes from the word movement. VAN we just added to give it some Dutch flavour. Our mission is to get more cyclists on the streets in inner cities globally. Because more than half of the world’s population lives in city centres, there is an increasingly heavy burden on traditional means of inner city transport. The bike is the solution for inner city mobility. At VANMOOF we pursue only one goal: help the ambitious city dweller worldwide move around town fast, confident and in style.”
“My love for Amsterdam started very young. I think I was only 7 years old when visited Amsterdam for the first time, to sleep over at my auntie’s place. She lived in the city centre, in a neighbourhood that was still a bit rough. But I loved it. And I still do. I love the hustle and bustle on the streets, the beauty of the canals and I like its relatively small size. It is a perfect city to go for a walk (and a bike ride of course!).”
‘City council, stand up for bikes!’
“Amsterdam is the cycling capital of the world, but we have to be careful not to lose our great cycling culture. At the moment it is not changing for the better. That is why the city council should really make a statement and stand up for bikes.” The main problems according to Taco are the lack of space for the cyclists and bike theft: “There are often too many cyclists sharing the bike lanes. The city council should give them more space by taking space from the cars. The historic city centre should be car free.”
The war against bike theft
Another problem is bike theft: “Many people in Amsterdam use cheap bikes, they are afraid a nice bike would get stolen. Because they don’t care about their bikes and because their bikes are of bad quality, many bikes are left on the streets in the bike parking spaces. If bike theft would be less, then people would buy a better bike, a bike they would care about and that they can use for many years. This would reduce of lack of bike parking space. It would also be better for the environment; no throw-away bikes, but bikes that last for many years.” That is why VANMOOF is developing GPS and GSM integrated in their bikes. “All our electric bikes already have GPS and two of our bikes that were stolen in the US were found back through the GPS. We work with Vodafone and to make ‘find my bike’ as much used as ‘find my iphone’.”
Cycling in New York and London
“I cycled in many cities all over the world. My favourite city to cycle in is New York. Not many people realise how nice it is to cycle there. But it is flat, you can cycle through the whole of Manhattan, and of course enjoy Central Park by bike.” London is the worst city Taco cycled in: “I am simply scared to death when cycling in London. The fast driving cars are not used to cyclists and the sidewalks are so high, that you have nowhere to go when you feel an unsafe situation is coming up.”
Want to know more about VANMOOF? Check out their website!
Mel traded her sunscreen for an umbrella when she moved from Sydney to Amsterdam. It was love at first sight! Mel works at Marcel Wanders, has a Dutch florist boyfriend and is now part of our team!
Why did you move to Amsterdam?
“It kinda all started with the bikes. That fateful day in May when I stepped out at Schiphol and placed my feet on the ground it was love. There and then. Wheels, blonde-coloured locks and the sounds of bells whizzed by me as I walked along busy Leidseplein, transfixed by the beautiful ornate shapes of the buildings that surrounded me…the winding canals and the verdant tufts of grass in every park – a sight living in the often drought-stricken Sydney that you’d sometimes take for granted.
60 minutes later, I decided to stay. So I quit my job, cancelled my return ticket home, survived on tuna and cookies and started accumulating my new wardrobe at Ij Hallen each month looking forward to my new life (in killer 50 cents pumps). Sometimes you just know.”
What do you do in your daily life?
“I spend my time working as a project manager at Marcel Wanders, being surround by inspiring design all day, Learning Dutch (ik ben Nederlands aan het leren), travelling, crafting, shooting and of course my favourite pastime, cycling around town and exploring”
What is your bike like?
It is a classic Amsterdam ‘Oma Fiets’ (Granny Bike). I bought it as a present to myself for landing my first job. I attached a vintage wooden crate from the flower markets and hand-tied loads of flowers (naturally). I often catch tourists sitting on her taking pictures! Flowers and bikes. Born to be together.
Why do you want to be a blogger at Amsterdam Cycle Chic?
“I shoot as much as I can – capturing how amazing this city is. As a foreigner I see things in such a fresh and optimistic light – the snow, the rain, the mode of daily transport, the people, the bars, the language and the truly unique way of living here.
His great grandfather had a bicycle shop, where his grandmother spoked wheels in the cold Dutch winters and his father ran around as a little boy. At the age of 3 Elian learned how to cycle, when 15 years old he started to work in a bike shop and now he has designed the ultimate city bike, the Minute. In short; Elian’s life is all about bicycles!
The ultimate city bike
Elian is a bike designer. He makes handcrafted bicycles; “the process of designing a bike starts with a blank paper, I talk to the customer, what does he/she want, what is their ideal cycling position, where and how will they use the bike, I take their measurements and then I start.The result is the perfect bike for that person.”
While designing these bikes, Elian realized many people were looking for a bike that would solve the typical urban biking problems many people face: “It should be a bike that they could leave in their apartment (not to get stolen on the street). Not too heavy, not too big, easy maneuverable in the busy city centre’s of Amsterdam and Utrecht and easy to park in the full bike parking’s. Also most people want to sit upright, cycle comfortably and they want to be able to carry groceries and kids on their bikes. When I kept hearing those same requests for a bike, I decided to design the Ultimate City Bike. And we just launched it: the Minute.”
Great grandfather’s bike shop
Elian’s great grandfather had a bike shop in Maarn (close to Utrecht). Elian’s father still remembers being there as a little boy: “His grandfather was a typical bike repairman. He always wore a blue overall, his hands were black of all the repair work and he was always smoking. He still remembers the smell of his workplace.” In the village of Maarn almost everyone had a Fongers bicycle. “The winters were much harsher then, so in winter people couldn’t cycle because of all the snow, in these winters there were no repairs to do. In those months my great grandparents and grandparents had another task: spoking wheels for Fongers. That is how it went in those days.”
Elian lives in Leersum, a village in the green Utrechtse Heuvelrug. His workplace is in the shed of his parents in Maurik. Every morning he cycles to work through the forest and the fields. He has a little son for whom he built a walking bike. “I get a lot of support from my family; my wife moved mountains to get the Minute launched, my 16 year old brother helps building bikes, and my father brings technical knowledge – which often comes in handy.” Even Elian’s grandmother offered help: “Let me know when I can help, I can still spoke wheels like in the old days!”
Andy knows what it is to follow your heart. She used to be an investment banker for one of the Netherlands’ biggest banks, but she stopped that promising career to follow her heart and she became a musician. Andy is a happy, positive, 30 year old Dutch singer songwriter. She sings about love, love in relationships but also love for a city. And Andy… she is in love with Amsterdam.
Andy loves Amsterdam
Nine years ago Andy moved to Amsterdam and she fell in love with the city. “Amsterdam is beautiful, the atmosphere is good and there are so many different people. The fact that there are more bikes than people makes the city even cooler. Everyone cycles! Cycling makes people more social then when everyone sits in their own car. I also love the trams in the city. Sometimes I just hop into a tram and let it take me to its final destination. In those 9 years I got to know all the tram routes!”
‘City love’ is the name of the record Andy is working on. She is in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to finance it. With as little as 10 euros people can fund it: “Crowdfunding the money to release my second record is a logical choice for me. Music is social. It is my way to communicate. I make music for people. To move them, to inspire them, or to make them happy. So if I make music for ‘the crowd’ why not involve them in the process of producing my record?” The campaign is going well. In only two weeks Andy funded nearly 60% of her project. The record ‘City love’ is about Andy’s love for Amsterdam and about love between people. “Love is nice, it is horrible, it is disastrous… sometimes love makes you act like a complete idiot. That is what makes love fascinating.”
Andy is not only in love with her city, but also with her bike. She bought her racing bike 6 years ago on Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay). “I bought it because I wanted to see if I liked to go racing. But the bike wasn’t good enough for long cycles so I kept it as a city bike. I have many bikes that got stolen in Amsterdam so I am very careful with this one. I used to carry it up three stairs to my apartment, so that I didn’t have to leave it on the street. Luckily I now have a shared garden with a little storage box where I can put it.”
Look at Andy: No side wheels!
Andy has one very clear memory of when she was 4 and learned to cycle. “It was the last day I would cycle with side wheels. I knew that this would be a ‘Kodak’ moment, so that morning I put on my best dress and cycled with a big smile, and my cute little pink basket to my father taking the picture.”
Like most Dutch Andy doesn’t have a ‘cycling’ style, she just cycles with what she is wearing that day. Almost always Andy wears All Stars: “I wear All Stars since I was 9 years old and they really became part of my identity. I wouldn’t go on stage without my All Stars. People would just be so surprised to see me wearing something else.” We also loved Andy’s ring: “That ring used to be my grandma’s. That makes it extra special. My grandma was a tiny lady. She was always very sweet, friendly and quiet. But she was a tough cookie: she had 9 kids and a bakery and her husband passed away quite young. So she worked incredibly hard! Also she was a talented violin player. When I look at the ring I think about the hard work she did and that she didn’t have a chance to make music her life. I then feel so lucky that I do have the chance. That is why I decided to go for it. To follow my heart…”
- Want to help Andy to make her dream come true? Fund her crowdfunding campaign!
- Andy is planning a world tour. Do you know a nice venue where she could play? Email her! firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Aude; Text: Joni