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!

Different Donderdag: Highways

Overpass
A highway is a highway is a highway. There probably aren’t that many differences from one highway to another, from one country to another, at least in the standard western world. Aside from the license plate shape, the picture above really doesn’t look much different from any similar highway scene I remember from the US. Still, there are a few differences you’ll notice on Dutch highways compared to American highways (and I use highway interchangeably with interstates).

First up, the Exit sign is now an Uit sign.
Exit

Speed signs are posted above the road in electronic form that can change as needed.
Speed

We’ve got electronic information signs too, of course, but they’re in Dutch!
Information Highway

There are the big blue signs providing direction to various cities, and information about ring roads.
Ring Around the Rosie

There are even signs directing you toward cheese! Yum! Gouda!
Say Cheese
OK, no, it’s not actually directing you toward cheese, just the city for which the cheese is named.

As you can see, it’s all pretty similar to anywhere else. One thing that is a bit different here is the fact that there aren’t the same huge, ugly billboards everywhere. This is the only one I saw that even remotely came close to the ones I was so used to in America (I saw these South of the Border billboards a lot in North Carolina).
Euro Menu

There are also a lot of wind turbines near the highway here, at least on the stretch we drove from Utrecht toward Rotterdam.
More Molen
You’ll also see lots of fields divided up by canals like these, often with cows, horses and/or sheep hanging around.
Canal
But it’s always going to be flat.
Koeien

Woordenboek Woensdag: Verkeer/Verkeerd

Dutch Lesson
I slacked a bit over the past few weeks on my Woordenboek Woensdag entries while my parents were here, but I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. I haven’t been doing much proper studying, but I’ve noticed recently that I seem to understand a little bit more of written Dutch and occasionally a bit more spoken Dutch, as well. I’m also trying to put together more sentences now, even if only in my head. Whether walking around town or lying in bed, I have little conversations in my head and try to see how much I can do in Dutch. Some times I do ok, other times I get stuck very easily. Of course, whether I’m right is a whole other issue!

Speaking of being wrong, this leads me to the words of the day: verkeer and verkeerd. They’re annoyingly similar but with very different meanings.

Verkeer (as seen in the photo above) is the word for traffic. We spent a lot of time in traffic last week coming back from dropping my parents at the ferry in Europoort, near Rotterdam. The drive there was quick and painless. The drive back took hours and was incredibly frustrating. Still, it gave me a topic for tomorrow, as you’ll see. Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with verkeer much in het dagelijks verkeer (in everyday life, or “in the daily traffic”), outside of fietsen verkeer (bike traffic).

Verkeerd, on the other hand, is an adjective or adverb meaning wrong. I suspect this is a word I should learn, since I’ll probably hear it a lot as I eventually try to speak more Dutch. Iets verkeerd uitspreken is what my dictionary lists as the phrase for mispronouncing something. I’m not quite sure how to use that, though. Would it be: Ik uitspreek iets verkeerd. ??

So, two more words for my slowly growing vocabulary. Let’s hope I can keep them straight and ultimately avoid both traffic and being wrong!