Let me take you to a land far away, that rose out of Ijsselmeer lake. It is now populated with lush green woods and a quiet sprawling suburbs, perfect for making home. Welcome to Almere City, situated in Flevoland province. It’s not that far actually, just 30 min on the intercity train and 21 minutes with a car from Amsterdam to Almere station.
I first encountered Almere on the day I arrived in the Netherlands. The train from Schiphol airport to Groningen makes a stop in at Almere central. The big red iron bars that support the structure intrigued me. Though that is a sign of the uniqueness and newness of the city, there was not much giving a hint about the city. Both sides of the station are flanked by high concrete office buildings.
Fast forward to summer 2018, I made a stop in Almere, I was hungry and since I had no plans, I decided to stop and wander. Again, there was something about the big red iron bars.
Almere is a fairly new land—in the literal sense of the word: new. It took ten years (1958-69) to reclaim the land that forms the Flevoland polder from the Ijsselmeer. The city comprises of the areas Almere Stad, Almere Buiten, Almere Haven, Almere Hout, and Almere Port. There is also Almere Oostvaardersdiep and Almere Oosterwold in planning. The fact that it was reclaimed from the lake is to most foreigners a chance to marvel at Dutch ingenuity in the area of water science management. This is why I refer to it as a “reverse tranquil Atlantis”.
Back to my encounter. I stepped out and almost immediately was ushered into the open-air shopping centrum. This is right in the city centre of Almere city. Beautifully and vertically laid out in-front of you is an array of shops and restaurants. I felt as though I was in a sea of shopping outlets and I still get that giddy feeling until this day. The open-air shopping mall extends all the way to the Ijsselmeer waterside. The sight is breathtakingly beautiful especially in the summertime. There is a soft breeze that cools you off as you take a much-deserved break from all the shopping.
Almere shopping centrum is definitely different from the Dutch norm. No small cobbled streets with the little shops. The streets are wide and wonderfully spacious. Instead of the traditionally small shops, for example in Amsterdam that you have to artfully navigate though: there is enough space to run a marathon through the Almere shopping centrum.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, there is the fantastic market. Products ranging from fragrant fresh fruit, tantalizing meats, kitchen utensils, clothing, not forgetting the mouth-watering Dutch cheeses and fresh warm breads make up the dazzling displays.
But I did not stop there. You see, below the train station is the bus station. Again, the station is testament to Dutch engineering and cunning use of space. From there I took a bus, first to Almere Poort. The quiet streets and immaculate playgrounds make the ideal spot for raising a family. So do the beautiful homes in Almere Haven by the waterside. Same goes for quiet Almere Buiten though it is situated more in the interior. There is a theme of pleasant calm espoused in the Almere city suburbs and the are seemingly becoming quite popular.
There is a beautiful sense of tranquillity about this city. A peacefulness that washes over you. And to think less than 100 years ago it did not exist is certainly baffling. I do travel to Almere every few weeks. I now have friends that recently moved to and live in Almere Poort. And every few weeks I enviously waltz into their spacious home and genuinely proceed to have a lovely time. Yes, the company is key, but the ambiance in the serene suburb is simply divine.
Take the time, travel to the lesser known cities in the Netherlands. I know that I was pleasantly surprised when I hopped off the train in the summer of 2018 and still rightly so every time, I visit the Almere city.