After a few uneventful weeks in New York/Florida, my travel adventure began in earnest last week in the Netherlands. Saskia and Andrew met me at Schipol airport in Amsterdam at the conclusion of their two month cycling trip. We took a whirlwind walking and tram tour of the city the following day. I had the pleasure of observing Amsterdam’s extensive bicycle and tram infrastructure. It’s a relatively quiet and pleasant smelling large city as a result. We checked out a turn of the century (20th) public housing project, Het Schip, which was notable because of the sense of social responsibility and value with which it was created. Architecturally it is very unique, both beautiful and funky with odd little curves, carvings and towers. At the time of construction, the public was shocked and outraged by the architect’s use of bricks and stone facing the “wrong” direction and roofing tiles used on vertical walls. Each of the buildings was given unique features and all were constructed using extremely expensive materials because the housing association believed that the poor deserved good housing as well. It was suggested by a tour guide who we briefly hovered near that the railroad owners also feared a socialist uprising and revolution and therefore invested a large sum in the project. In any case, the beautiful national historic sites are still reserved for low-income housing today, evidence of the country’s continued commitment to social equity.
The following day Henk and Mirjam led us on an all day walking tour of the region, through gardens, creeks, and flood plains to the Rijn (Rhine) River. There we viewed a sluice used to control the river flow and all the related canals in order to both control flooding and ensure sufficient flow for boat travel on all canals during the drier season. Between this system and the drainage system of canals to dry agricultural land, originally achieved using windmills and now with electric pumps, the Netherlands has truly mastered water engineering while still balancing environmental conservation with human use. We continued on to a local castle and then headed back to house through the forest where we were able to view the roads and remnants of several historic estates. Now (Monday) I’m on a train to Berlin where I can’t wait to see more Silver City friends!
In conclusion, the Netherlands is an amazing country and I will definitely be visiting it again for a longer stay. Also, if you want to be a water engineer or a transit planner, go study in the Netherlands. They’re kilometers ahead of anyone else.