Saturday, 8 December 2012

Gasping through the Snow…

It’s snowing! The snowflakes, first drifting lazily, pick up speed and turn the scene outside your window into a snow globe. You tug on your boots and gleefully go out to take those first snow-photos, it is a winter wonderland! So nice to watch out the window as you sip some warm gluhwine at a local pub, and it is magical walking at midnight the short distance home with all that twinkling snow. But in the cold, hard light of day comes the moment of truth. You have someplace to go a bit further than just down the street, and face the prospect of riding your bike on a street surface that resembles a glazed donut. Suddenly everything you thought you’d learned about biking around Utrecht must be reconsidered!  

So, which is least likely to result in an awkward spill, walking or biking? Opinions vary, and of course cycling on icy streets is precarious. Turn too sharply or quickly, and you will find yourself breathlessly sliding onto the cold, hard street, seeing stars even in broad daylight. However, walking on icy, uneven cobblestone and brick is quite treacherous as well, and the snow does not soften the surface one bit!  The ice and snow do not prevent the intrepid Dutch from cycling; they just dress in more layers and pedal along with the usual aplomb, multi-tasking away. What’s more, the bike lanes seem to have salting priority over sidewalks or streets and look far more inviting than either. The final deciding factor, not only will you reach your destination far more quickly on a bike, but your feet will stay much drier! 

So, I set off on my first biking sojourn in the snow, wearing my thickest coat for padding in case I hit the street and snow boots with plenty of traction in case I needed to suddenly plant my feet. Gingerly, I set off, keeping my eye on the road ahead, trying to determine whether it was just wet or a patch of ice. It was mostly wet and slushy and I relaxed into my usual rhythm, taking very wide, slow turns and using my brakes judiciously. One nuisance is wearing a hat and a hood makes it difficult to look behind you before you move over, but of the usual pinging bells warn if you get in anyone’s way. I arrived safely, after a few slides and wobbles, and was grateful to peel off all my layers and be offered a lekker kopje koffie. Think I might survive winter in the Netherlands after all! After a Phoenix summer, in a mere four months, out of the frying pan and into the freezer – without shattering! 
I leave you with a holiday biking song I improvised along the way: 

Gasping through snow
On a one-bike open sleigh
Over the ice we go
Screaming all the way (oh non oh on, oh no!) 

Bells on bikes do ping
Making spirits fright
What fun it is to gasp and swing
A-splaying wrong tonight! 

Oh, pinging bells, pinging bells
Pinging all the way

Oh what fun it is to slide
In such a disarray - hey! 

Pinging bells, pinging bells
Pinging all the way

Oh what fun it is to ride
Right into that café!

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