On Sunday, I will be taking a friend’s broomer to Ruigoord, a small village west of Amsterdam’s centre.

Ruigoord is a special place. Rumour has it the town was first established by social outcasts — deviants that were physically removed from the functions of the rest of society in nearby Amsterdam, and forced to make their own life outside of a wider sense of ‘normalcy’. After being evacuated, Ruigoord was later squatted to be an artist village, and has since become a town of aging hippies, hosting parties and festivals open to the public during the summer months.

Ruigoord Church

The old church at the centre of Ruigoord

What fascinates me most about Ruigoord is that it used to be an island, surrounded by marshes and water of the IJ. As the port of Amsterdam moved west and expanded, Ruigoord was in the way. The land around Ruigoord was filled in with sand and concrete, and the town’s inhabitants were forced to vacate. Later squatted, Ruigoord remains an island — in the metaphorical sense —  of rich creativity surrounded by dreary industrial port lands. (This story never ceases to amaze me — there is something about the Netherlands, and its constantly shifting land and sea borders, that though coming from a place of human dominance over the Earth, feels somewhat magical; nothing here is what it seems).

I am excited to explore Ruigoord and learn more about its history, and what it’s like today. I am excited to experience what it feels like to be on a piece of land that used to be an island. Will I be able to feel it? Will it be obvious? Will the ghosts, traces of its geography be present?

Stay tuned to the Urban Geographer for dispatches from my Sunday broomer trip to Ruigoord, the town that used to be (and still is) an island.