As 3rd and 4th-year students of Geographic analysis program at Ryerson University, we took a field studies course to Netherlands during the third week of September 2016. To experience hands-on learning and gain real-life experience in the field of Geography. Expected the trip to be boring as the schedule did not seem interesting and just wanted it to pass by. There was nervousness in living with random roommates and how it would work out.
After a long journey, we were scheduled to go on a canal cruise around Amsterdam, after settling in and amused to be in a new country with such good transit system that got us to the heart of the city in no time. The City of Amsterdam that is 2 meters below sea-level would obviously have a lot of water (canals in Amsterdam). As we got into our own private cruise with a tour guide and cruised through the heart of Amsterdam the tiredness of the flight vanished. Old architecture, mini bridges, narrow expensive houses, and boat parked on the side of the canal. It definitely felt like a city under water, comparison to Toronto where cars are parked on the side roads of large-wide houses. To park your boat you have to pay half million Euros and if you signup for a spot now your turn will come in next 25-30 yrs due to the wait list. During the canal cruise, we learned about Dutch culture, Water resources (canal system), water transportation and Neighborhoods in Amsterdam.
With cruise half full of drowsy students, some sleeping in pleasant weather of Amsterdam, some couldn’t resist but take pictures. I was certain that I had signed up for something amazing.
Dutch culture, Water resources , Transportation and Neighborhoods in Amsterdam were our focus during the second day but this time from land. Rocco, our tour guide very excited to be taking us on the tour, didn’t realize we were all from Canada as he asked the country each of us is from. I guess he learned that you can’t compete with Canada in cultural diversity. Red light district was the highlight of the tour as we were warned not to stare or it will result in a slash of a sandal heel on our faces. It was very different culture from what I am used to, as women were trying to make earnings doing things considered social taboo yet so tolerated in dutch culture. Also, along with prostitution being tolerated in Dutch culture, smoking marijuana is also something Amsterdam is famous for, with stinky smoke rising from each coffee shop.The thought of making marijuana legal in Toronto was a good idea in my opinion but after seeing it in Amsterdam it wouldn’t be such a good idea. Reason being individuals that don’t smoke are more encourage to try along with causing skunky smell in public places.
Bikes, greenery in such dense city and story of Anne Frank were something I found quite fascinating, vibrant and saddening. How vibrancy in dutch neighborhoods is so important along with efficient use of space while transporting fast and active on bikes. How Jewish communities suffered from horrific holocaust by Hitler during WWII. Looking at Amsterdam now makes one wonder if the city was ever affected by war. After doing tours of Amsterdam by water and land, I compared it to Toronto in a sense that everybody is in a rush whereas, in Amsterdam, the city has a calming vibe to it. Everybody wants to stay there and spend time rather than rush from point a to point b.
The Physical geography of Netherlands is not as interesting as it is in Canada but for that small country, they do have very diversified environments. By visiting Hogue Veluwe National park and a day with two physical geography researchers of Wageningen University, observing various soil types and landforms we learned very valuable hands on experience. Comparison to Canada where we have 6 time zones, glaciers to extreme winters and extreme summers. The Netherlands climate defers from ours as their winters are mild and so is their summer. Variance in land elevation with one side of the road below sea-level and the other above sea-level. Interesting comparison that crossed my mind was that the roads in Netherlands are built around natural landforms to cause minimal disturbance whereas, in North America, our roads are built through the landforms/conservation areas. Which shows how serious each part of the globe is about our environment.
The City of IJberg Amsterdam (a new city built over water) is where I would want to live. The modern eco-friendly houses with large, calm environment, friendly people, no rush, bikes-major mode of transportation and no building higher than 5-storeys. Water management to keep the city from flooding and dikes built to overcome flood (where the chances of a flood happening are approximately once in 100 yrs). Dikes built for flood prevention are used as parks alongside former landfill sites are being used as parks/soccer fields/bike tracks.
Images do best to describe what beauty of a place The Amsterdam, Netherlands is. By far the Highlight of my Academic career and once in a lifetime, trip never to be forgotten.