Archives for posts with tag: the netherlands


Traveling a far distance always comes with some sort of immersive change in your material reality.

Out of an airplane window, you are privy to the novel world of clouds. On a train, the scenery passing quickly gives way to a blurred reality.

I recently traveled by ferry across the North Sea from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, England. Viewed from out of the windows of the ferry and from its deck, my material reality transformed into the water world.

Material reality

Might I recommend to opt for this dreamy form of transportation to anyone traveling between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, rather than an enticingly cheap EasyJet flight. Being immersed in the world of the North Sea for seven hours is incredibly meditative. Pushing slowly away from the Dutch coast, we drifted gently toward Britain.

It should also be mentioned that generally, people who take the ferry are not in a rush.

Immersed in a water reality, and in the good company of Ferry-People while floating along the expansive North Sea toward England had me relaxed and curious — a good position from which to enjoy the geography of the world.

(It should also be mentioned that the Ferry was staffed by Filipinos who did not have a Visa for England or the Netherlands. They were stuck — perpetually on the boat, for periods of up to 6 months — after which they returned to the Philippines. A poignant situation to consider the state of borders, visas, and immigration today.)



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.

In response to A.C.’s “Island Theories” edition of Fresh Eggs, where two wide eye’d chickens ponder “the anthropological effects of living on an Island… having physical limits [and] shore sealed resources” and A.C. questions the “patterns that emerge in consideration of [an island’s] range of proximity” (see below) I would like to similarly ponder the anthropological effects of a place characterized by great expanses of land, such as Canada.

Most of Canada is defined by disgusting sprawl. Save for the core of some of its inner cities and small towns, travelling throughout Canada presents a series of highway interchanges, strip malls and monotonous car scale suburbs — all these features are consistent throughout the country — what changes are the natural landscapes that frame the car-centric developments: mountains behind big-box parking lots, prairies surrounding suburban single family homes, fast food alleys by great lakes, strip malls by the ocean.

Obviously the reasons for the suburban monotony that characterizes most of Canada are myriad and complex. But to isolate one, I often think of how expansive Canada is — and that a major reason our country is designed the way it is – incredibly inefficiently, stretching laterally for kilometres – is because there’s simply no need for intelligent, efficient design. Our space is practically infinite, so why build densely? The social effects of Canada’s vast geographic expanses of land are easily read in the sub- and interurban landscapes.

To illustrate this theory further, I often point to the Netherlands. The country is incredibly small for it’s population (a density of 401.7/km2, compared to Canada: 3.41 people/km2), so small, that the Dutch have become famous for reclaiming land from the ocean. Here, there is an incredible need for efficient land use, and this is apparently the case (though I have not been there, I look forward to exploring the Dutch urban landscapes and countryside).

This is my “expanses of land” theory.