January 18, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Our excursion today through new towns in the Netherlands was overshadowed by what is being called “the worst storm in years”.  The wind is blowing here so ferociously that at our final new town we visited, Almere, the people were told to leave work early and head home!

But despite the weather we were able to see some very neat planning of towns that have “sprung up” as areas were reclaimed in the Netherlands.  First we visited a group of several islands that have been created in the past 10 years as part of a “compact city policy”.  These islands are very close to the heart of Amsterdam, and together they are called “IJburg”.  Several architects have been called in to design some pretty unique buildings, and provide living space for those of all income brackets.  We drove through areas of the elite where individual homes are built as well as areas of high-rise apartments where subsidized housing is located.  It was also neat to see that these islands are still themselves in the development phase, and not only are they still building houses on the islands, but also still building the islands themselves. 

We then visited a much larger new town, Almere, located on the Flavoland polder.  The town has all sorts of areas that were under development, and we were able to visit several regions.  First we toured through some neighborhoods with several “cookie cutter” housing.  Then we went through “rainbow neighborhood” with houses painted all different colors.  Finally we ended up in the downtown district of Almere.  After having lunch we went over to the city information center.  There we received a presentation of the development of the city.  Our host at the information center, we could tell, was very flustered by the news of the storm and was anxious to leave as she presented the downtown area to us while many people from the downtown went home!  We were not able to take a walking tour of the downtown because of the wind and rain, and instead hopped in the vans and headed home.

Because it was our last class excursion for the week, we were able to relax this evening.  Many people are headed out tomorrow to visit other countries or just tour around the country.

January 17, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today was wet and windy as we toured through Europoort; one of the world’s largest seaports.  The size and scale of this port was like none I had seen before.  Oil, car imports, containers, and other industries line some 25 or so kilometers along the port’s waterway.  We stopped at places on both sides of the canal that formed the main waterway, and observed several oil refineries with oil storage buildings as large as 3 million cubic meters in volume, storage containers stacked 9 high that are then transported by rail or truck across Europe, stacks of imported cars several stories high, and many amazing and large scale port technologies.  It was truly a unique experience as we learned how the port has developed over the years to such a large scale!

If anyone is interested in satellite imagery of Europoort, click on this Google Earth link.  Of note: all the round white dots are the oil storage buildings I mentioned earlier, with some as large as 3 million cubic meters by volume!


Cranes move containers on and off of ships


Our group braves the weather for a look around the port

January 16, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today we toured the area around the Vecht river.  The Vecht corridor region became in the 17th century an area of recreation for the wealthy of Amsterdam.  They built large estates known as “buitens”, and many of these estates still exist today. 

The first thing we did today was visit a castle.  Although the castle is not open to the public, we were able to drive right up to the gate and take a good look at it from the outside.  Then we drove further into the Vecht corridor region, and had the amazing opportunity to tour through one of the wealthy estates or buitens.  Professor Hoeksema and Professor Aay have a friend who is neighbors with the owners of the buiten, and they were gracious enough to give us a tour.  The house was amazing.  Along with the incredible efforts the homeowners have made to preserve the history of the home, a few things especially stuck out to me:  The home has no central heating; instead, each room has a gas furnace in it.  The father of the homeowner enjoyed making models of ships.  The home has inside some 28 models of ships made by the homeowners father, the pinnacle of the collection was a model that took 12 years to build, and was approximately 2 feet wide, 7 feet long, and 5 feet tall!  The homeowners have also contributed a lot to the history of the home by bringing in items that are relevant to the home or relevant to the 17th century Vecht corridor region.

After touring through the buiten, we had lunch at the church of Sander Griffioen, the friend of Professor Hoeksema and Professor Aay.  After lunch Sander gave us a tour of his hometown, Loenen, located in the Vecht corridor.  Loenen is a beautiful town that maintains much of its history.  Because of its beauty, Loenen has become a society with many elite and powerful members.

The last stop of our excursion today was at another castle.  This castle is closed during the winter; however, the group is at times able look around the site.  This time we were able to get a pretty good view of the exterior of the castle, but we weren’t allowed around the site.

Class was really fun today, and it was great to have the opportunity to tour through a buiten.

The first castle we visited


Our visit to the buiten


The second castle we visited

January 15, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today we explored the North Sea dune region and the water reclamation of Lake Haarlem.  The sand dunes are a special region in the Netherlands because they look nothing like the flat land of the majority of the rest of the country.  The city of Amsterdam uses the water that is stored underneath the dunes for drinking water.  This morning we had the wonderful opportunity to go to the water filtration plant that supplies Amsterdam with drinking water as well as tour around the plant’s dune region.  The dune region is a beautiful and secluded, and has a lot of wildlife.  We even saw deer alongside the road.

After lunch by the North Sea, we went to the Lake Haarlem polder.  A polder, if you have read previous entries, is an area of land that was at one point water but was drained by the Netherlands and is used for farming as well as other things.  Most of the polders that we have already visited were drained and “reclaimed” in the 17th century.  All of the previous polders we visited were relatively small, and were able to be drained by windmills. 

The Lake Haarlem polder is 70 square miles!  Because it was an incredibly large lake, windmill power would not be an efficient way to drain the lake.  So, this lake was drained in the mid 1800’s using steam power, a well-advanced technology for that time.  The lake required 3 steam-powered pumps to drain and this afternoon we visited the only pump that is still standing, the Cruquius pumping station.  Although the pump is not in use anymore, hydraulics run the pumping devices gave us a good idea of how that technology worked.  The pump itself is very large, and it was so neat to see it still in nearly perfect and operable condition.

The Lake Haarlem polder is very significant not only because of its size but also because of its importance to the Netherlands.  Among the agriculture that takes place in the polder, many international businesses and industries are located in the Lake Haarlem polder, and Schipol airport (the airport we flew into) is even located in the polder.  We drove for a while on the ring dike around the Lake Haarlem polder, and then headed home for the evening.

Our group at the dunes


A view from the outside of the pump


The steam pump (inside the circular building)

January 12-14, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

This weekend was a blast.  We all found something exciting to do!  Some went to Paris and Germany, however, most of us just stayed in the country and explored some towns.  Everyone had stories to tell (including Jason and Anna, who got engaged this weekend), and we all made it back Sunday evening to prepare for Monday’s excursion.

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