Holland-motion

I know it may be hard to conceptualize, but try and imagine the provinces of North and South Holland — the Randstad specifically — as one big city.

the ranstadThe complex dotted-and-linked towns and cities of the Randstad

I know it’s hard to conceptualize when looking at a map: a highly complex and widely spread system of independent-seeming towns, cities, farms and transportation in between — the Randstad alone has an area of 8 287 square kilometres (about 4000 of which are urban).

But functionally North and South Holland is one big city. And with that comes a lot of motion:

A first example of Holland-mobility is that many people from the Netherlands that I’ve encountered have personal geographies that consist of a lot of movement between the cities of North and South Holland (the sort of movement you associate with the United States and the American Dream).

Of those I’ve spoken with, many of their grandparents are from one city, their parents grew up in another, they were born in that town, but now live elsewhere.

These common stories of intra-provincial migration contribute to a blurry sense of place-based identity, and soft declarations of one-point-of-origin as where they’re “from”: a confusion that ultimately leads to a Holland-wide identity, and the allegiance to the Randstad as a whole as the basis for identity, rather than an individual town or city.

Another point of Holland motion: people travel from in between cities near and farther away, to live, work and socialize on a daily basis. My fellow interns at Golfstromen themselves live in Utrecht and Zandvoort. A friend’s colleagues similarly travel from major regional cities — cities with their own employment — to work in Amsterdam.

And a final meditation on Holland Motion —
Lining the bike paths of Amsterdam are the constant appearance of way-finding signs directing you to far-flung Haarlem, Almere, Den Haag, and Utrecht — cities that are relatively quite far away. But these cities, appearing on the streets, inhabit your consciousness as you negotiate the local geography of Amsterdam. Being constantly reminded that they and are within biking distance — indeed that they exist! — wraps their being into the being of Amsterdam, tightly weaving Holland together as a series of neighbourhood-cities within a greater regional metropolis.

Bike signs

This May, I look forward to “following the signs”, that is, choosing a city that I see a  bike way-finding sign for, and biking there without consulting a map — to experience Amsterdam, the city I choose to bike to, and the spaces and tight relations in between.

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