Bike ride ends in impromptu aircraft adventure

It’s 1936 and you’re cycling from Amstelveen to Oostvoorne in the pouring rain when suddenly you see Schiphol. Cycling more than 80 kilometres in this weather is not an appealing prospect, so what do you do? Adriana van Toledo and her boyfriend Jan didn’t hesitate for a second. They would go by plane, bicycles and all! That kind of thing was possible back then, and it made for a wonderful story.

The world of aviation looked very different in the 1930s than it does today, as Adriana van Toledo’s account reveals. This story takes us back to 1936, when the then 20-year-old Adriana and her boyfriend Jan (24) – who would later become her husband – are visiting family in Amstelveen for a few days. They had come all the way from Oostvoorne by bicycle.

Soaking wet
‘When we headed back home on our bikes a few days later, the weather was very bad and we were soaking wet by the time we got to Schiphol,’ Adriana recalls. We’re talking about the old Schiphol here, which was located where Schiphol-Oost can now be found. Although the still young international airport did already have a terminal and control tower, the Schiphol back then was a far cry from the bustling hive of activity that we know today.

A bold move
The adventurous Jan doesn’t feel like cycling further in the rain, and so he decides to make a bold move. ‘He asked me how much money I had on me and said that he was going to ask how much it would cost to fly to Rotterdam.’ And that turns out to be remarkably easy.

A chicken coop looks nicer
‘There was a footpath in the grass and a small building up ahead. A modern-day chicken coop looks nicer. You could just walk right in. The lady sitting there told us we could get on a plane for 7.50 guilders each.’ The pair can easily afford that. But what about their bicycles? ‘We were allowed to take them with us. The lady said there would soon be a flight headed for Waalhaven. We could get off the plane there.’

Posh-looking people
It was sorted. ‘We handed over our bikes and we hadn’t even had time to sit down when the plane that would take us to Rotterdam landed at the airport. Now we would think it was a small plane, but back then it seemed really big. There were posh-looking people in fancy clothes already on board. We were giggling and wondering what these people must have thought about a young couple like us.’

Small setback
The flight goes smoothly and before they know it, Adriana and Jan are in Rotterdam. There’s a small setback though. ‘After we had arrived in Waalhaven, I asked Jan what we were waiting for. ‘For our bikes, there they go!’, he replied. The ground staff hadn’t unloaded them from the plane and they were already on their way to Brussels. But the next day, they were delivered to Oostvoorne free-of-charge.’

*Mrs van Toledo died on 3 May 2021 at the age of 105. A few years before that, she had told her daughter and grandson about her spur-of-the-moment aircraft adventure in 1936. The recording of that conversation served as the source for the above account.