Ringing In My Ears

All Aboard
The other night, while cooking dinner, I suddenly heard this loud noise that seemed to be getting louder and nearer. The next thing I know, I spot two large horses out the front window, and they were pulling an old-fashioned beer cart. In fact, it looked a lot like this, at least from the quick, half-view that I had.

What struck me was just how loud it was! Between the clomping of the horses and the rattle and weight of the cart, it was surprisingly loud, especially echoing off the walls of our relatively narrow street flanked with tall buildings. We complain about modern noise levels, but if you stop and think about how loud it must have been here in the old city center when horses and carts were standard forms of transport, the modern noise levels seem downright quiet! That scooter that just went past as I was typing was kind of noisy, but it’s also faster, so the noise is quickly gone. Those horses take a bit longer. We could hear them as soon as they turned onto the street, and probably heard them most of the way down the street. Imagine if there were multiple carts, I think we’d have to yell to carry on a conversation in the house!

When you stop and think about the fact that cars, streetcars and horse-drawn carts were all in use at the same time, at least through the mid 1900s, it must have been madness! The past is an interesting place, but I don’t think I’d want to live there.

Take the Long Way Home

Less Traffic
They really don’t want you to drive in the city center of Utrecht. Besides every road being a one way never in the direction you want to go, half the time you can only turn in one direction onto the next street, no matter that the traffic goes both ways on the street. And then there are the random streets that are just blocked off all together.

We went to deliver some wine to Casa di David today on the Oudegracht. I think we need to consider a boat for future deliveries. It’s got to be much easier in the long run. First of all, just getting there was a bit hit or miss in terms of legalities of how we got on each street. There might have been some turns and backing up that were a bit questionable. Then we had to wedge the car into a spot that just left enough room for other vehicles to pass, while we lugged six boxes of wine down some steep stairs. Have I mentioned that I get a bit nervous going down stairs and like to have something to hold on to? Yeah, that first trip with two boxes made me a bit nervous, to say the least.

Once we actually had the wine delivered, we then had to get back home. That’s when things got really interesting. We thought we were doing ok, until the road suddenly ended, with metal posts blocking the road. Midday on a Tuesday? Sure! Excellent time to close a road off to traffic. And no, it wasn’t for construction. It was just closed. So then we tried to turn left, across the canal. That didn’t go particularly well, as the continuation of the road was also closed. We could turn left again, taking us back down the canal, but there was a truck blocking the road, as five workers were involved in cutting loose broken/abandoned bikes from the railings.

Let me rant on a tangent here for a moment. I’m all for the removal of these abandoned bikes, and I’m all for people having work, but when they’re cutting money for the arts and cutting the amount of money to help immigrants with the required assimilation programs (especially when you’ve got people like Wilders in office who are so bothered by immigrants), it seems a bit excessive to have one person driving the truck, two people cutting lose the bikes and putting them on the truck, and two other people riding along on separate scooters writing down the info and tagging the bikes removed. I’m pretty sure that task could have been cut down to just three people. I don’t think it would take that much longer to do the job with fewer personnel. I could totally be wrong, but at first glance, it seems a bit excessive.

Anyway, it turns out we could have probably turned right, but that would have lead to more questionable areas, so we just ended up turning left once the truck moved on. Eventually the truck reached a spot where it could pull over and let the following traffic pass. But then we got to the end of the Oudegracht, thinking we could turn left onto the main road, but no! More metal poles blocking the way! We’d forgotten about that! So that’s when things got a bit iffy and turns were made that may be a bit grey in their legality, but eventually we made it onto the road we wanted. And then took the long way around — because it’s the only way around — to get back home, despite passing our street on the way.

Don’t get me wrong. As a frequent walker and a rare cyclist, I appreciate that they’ve limited the amount of driving that goes on in the city center. It certainly helps keep the city more attractive, as well. Up until the 1970s or so, there was a lot more parking, a lot more cars, and narrower sidewalks from what I’ve seen. It’s much nicer now and I appreciate it all. I’m just glad I’m not the one ever having to drive here, despite my friends’ encouragement! I told G we should get a good bakfiets for any future deliveries. It’s got to be easier in the long run. They even have “trailers” you can attach to your bike. Perfect!