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Amsterdam Day One

Amsterdam canal. July 2013 Original size 5760x3840px. (Gerald FitzGerald)Left Toronto on Saturday night and after a two hour delay while Air Canada fixed a technical problem, we left at about midnight for Frankfurt. A/C couldn’t be turned until after we were airborne and in the midst of our current heat wave we all, passengers and cabin crew, were a sodden lot when we finally took off. Arrived in Frankfurt an hour after my Amsterdam connection had left but was re-scheduled on a connection that left at 17:00 and arrived at 18:00 in Amsterdam. Have been in A’dam a number of times before, but always in winter and it was remarkably beautiful to fly along the Dutch coast and over the countryside in the bright evening sunshine and see endless electric green fields and the North Sea, kept at bay by dikes, patiently waiting to regain its loss.

Am here to attend a conference, the International Test Commission Congress, and one of my favourites. it’s an academic conference, held every two years in venues around the world and its general thrust can be summed up by this years theme, “Modern Advances in Assessment: Testing and Digital Technology, Policies and Guidelines”. Have three days of sessions and symposia and then plan to stay on for an extra 5 days, rent a car and give my camera a workout.

Bicycles outside an Amsterdam cafe. Original size 5342x3767px. (Gerald FitzGerald)Went for a walk after I checked into my hotel, the Toren Hotel, right in central A’dam. Have always loved the city, a walkers city, and surprisingly unbusy for a city of this size. They seem to have managed the balance between cars and people remarkably well and bikes are the order of the day. Still trying to digest my impressions on the bike subject. No bike helmets and lots of people talking on phones while riding on the one hand but on the other, there are dedicated bike lanes on every street and traffic lights and lanes for both cars as well as bikes. Both parties seem, for the most part, to pay attention to each other and there is not the slightest evidence of the mindless road rages and petty turf wars exhibited on our roads by both cars and bikes. It’s also a flat city in a very flat country so ideal conditions for bikes and little or no snow in winter, but I think the biggest contributor to sanity are the large, clunky, bikes that minimize the kind of zipping between vehicles that we are prone to. Instead it seems almost sedate to be sitting upright with no gears to change and a manageable city to navigate. Why the Dutch chose this particular style as their sine qua non is the subject for an other study but it undoubtedly has made all the difference in road sanity. If you choose a Clydesdale instead of an Arabian you know that you may not get to your destination with the wind ruffling your hair, but you’ll get there and so will all your friends and family who have climbed on to join you.

It is also very much a family city, kids going to neighbourhood schools everywhere and because of the ever-present canals and the waterside trees and green spaces an enormously pleasant mix of urban and rural. My favourite sight is the number of kids of all ages riding to school or going shopping on the back carrier or handlebars of mother’s bike as well as kids and grownups riding as bike passengers. A very pleasant, attractive and laid-back city, no doubt the easy availability of good hash at the local coffee shops doesn’t hurt the vibe either!

Amsterdam Day Two

Summing up - Photography travel notes South Africa