Carbon-free moving

This post comes a bit late, but it’s so fun & so Dutch, I had to share. Since coming to the Netherlands 2 years ago, I have moved 4 times. This can be a bit unsettling, but I was looking for the right place. 🙂  First, I lived in the small town where my university (Wageningen University & Research Centre) is located. It’s a cute town, right on the Rhine and close to the De Hoge Veluwe National Park; but with only 37,000 residents, it was too small for me. I was hungry for city life. Since the Netherlands is a small country and well-connected by trains, commuting seemed a viable option. And it is. I love Amsterdam, and despite the time on the train, I haven’t looked back. I’ve come to see my commute as a mix of reading (50 minutes each way) and exercise (30 minutes biking each way). How great is it to come to the office fit and prepared? Of course sunny summer days make the commute more appealing, but even in the winter, my bike has a light and I have rain gear to suit the weather.  Once in Amsterdam, I moved twice more, within the city. But I finally found the perfect place – close to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, with a big balcony to grow my vegetables and in running distance to Amsterdam’s beautiful parks (Vondelpark, Beatrix Park and Amsterdam Bos). I hope this is my last move for a while. 🙂

Through the window & onto the bike

Moving Amsterdam style is a unique experience: boxes, suitcases and furniture go out the window, where they are maneuvered with the aid of a thick rope and a pull-levy, instead of the stairs or an elevator.  Many buildings are 50+ years old, and few equipped with an elevator – but all of them have a hook to help you get your couch or refrigerator inside. Even with an elevator, moving is a burden; without it, a nightmare. Nevertheless, once your furniture is on the street corner, comes the next challenge. Few people own (large) cars for moving and with distances close enough to justify a bicycle… it is a viable option.

Renting a cargo bike (bakfiets) for a day costs 25 EUR (opposed to at 100 EUR for a small car, and finding parking to haul your furniture from the parking space to the apartment). A bakfiets is not your average bicycle; they often have 3 wheels and are large enough to rival a pick-up truck for storage space. They are not easy to maneuver and even harder to break, but once you get a handle on how they operate, they are not too difficult. For the first time around, when moving with friends, we got the full-sized (think back of a pick up truck) version. Slow & steady, but it got the job done in 3 rounds. The next time when I did it on my own during a work day, I opted for a more family-friendly version (child 3-seater). Of course, I would have been lost without friends that arrived that evening (with a car) to move the final (heavier) pieces. However, I am happy to say I not only survived my move(s); but thrived using these monster bicycles. Moving often requires more than a bicycle and not all of the bicycle-loving Dutch would go for this option as a first choice; but in my case, it simply was the more practical one.  While at the end of the day I was exhausted beyond words, I learned not just to recognize these funny bicycles that slowly progress down the bike paths of Amsterdam, but how to use them. 🙂 Needless to say, I was happy the next day to hop on my shiny red bicycle – easier to bike and easier to break. Still, to anyone moving in and around Amsterdam, I recommend the bakfiets!


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