Photo: Amsterdam Central Station by Bart Gibson via Flickr
During my vacation time in Amsterdam, I stumbled upon a busy store with sleeping bags, backpacks and climbing gear hanging from the window. I had to go inside and see it for myself. Amsterdam was the last place I expected to find an outdoor gear store, not to mention one so large.
A few minutes of gear fondling later, I headed back down the sidewalk in pursuit of my morning coffee. I could hardly believe my eyes when I walked past yet another gear store just one block down the street. I rounded the corner and found myself standing in front of another branch of the same store that I first walked into.
Petzl, The North Face, Black Diamond and Osprey-all the brands I recognized from home-covered the walls of this giant store in a selection more vast than the gear stores I frequented back home in New England. I felt like a kid in a toy store-cue the gear envy. There were ropes, ice tools, crampons, climbing racks, outerwear and more. Somebody next to me fumbled with a GriGri (75 euro) while an employee helped a novice backpacker try on a new Osprey Atmos AG 50 (180 euro) around the corner. I had to ask, where were the locals using all this gear in such a flat country? My answer would have come quickly had I registered the crowd of people browsing a massive wall covered in guidebooks and maps from around the world.
One of the employees at Bever, one of Amsterdam’s largest outdoor gear retailers with locations all over The Netherlands, laughed when I asked her about climbing in the area. “We have indoor gyms but no hills in Holland!” Nevertheless, Amsterdam is still home to a thriving outdoor recreation business. She explained proudly, “The Dutch are a traveling people. We love winter sports and we get a lot of snow, but we don’t have mountains so we travel. A lot of us ski tour, ice climb and trek all around Europe, especially over in Belgium.”
It’s impressive to see how many people in Holland were working hard to get outside. It just goes to show how alive the outdoor recreation community is and how driven the members of this community are. Just ask any Dutch climber, I bet they’ll tell you every time that the trip is always worth the summit.