Trip 38, Day 7
In retrospect, I’m unsure what my expectations were of Floriade. I knew the general concept, but expected there would be a greater “density” of horticultural displays. But this is decidedly not what Floriade is about. It is about ‘sustainability’, and ‘liveability’. These two concepts say everything about what you’ll actually see and experience at Floriade and what you probably will not. As they describe themselves: “Experts from all over the world come together at Floriade to present green solutions that make our cities more enjoyable, beautiful and sustainable. Within the theme ‘Growing Green Cities’, more than 400 national and international participants showcase their latest green innovations, solutions and applications. From state-of-the-art solar roof tiles to amazing vertical façade gardens and from the best ways to grow tomatoes to the latest pruning techniques.”
To be fair, we’re in the early side of the growing season for some of the park’s trees and ornamental shrubs. The tulips were of course in full bloom, but not everything else that will flower was quite ready to do so. The park is open from 14 April to 9 October. We’d made a decision to coordinate a visit here (and Floriade only happens every 10 years) with a visit to Keukenhof (which takes place every year) knowing we’d be on the early side here.
Floriade is held once a decade. And it’s not necessarily in the same place each time.
- 1960 Rotterdam
- 1982 Amsterdam
- 1992 Zoetermeer
- 2002 Haarlemmermeer
- 2012 Venlo Floriade
- 2022 Almere
This venue was held outside Almere, a small (~population about 210,000), relatively new city, about 30 minutes outside Amsterdam. When we got off the train at their Central Station, we knew that since we’d elected to take a ferry across the lake we would need to walk about 15 minutes to the dock. That part was straightforward. What I didn’t expect was that since today was Koningsdag, all the stores of the very modern shopping center outside the station were closed, but there were hundreds of people setup outside those shops, on both sides of the sidewalk, selling pretty much anything you’d expect in a gigantic flea market. I think all the world’s used clothing came to Almere to be sold. We arrived about 10am and the crowds were relatively light, but by the time we came back at 3pm, it was bumper to bumper foot traffic on top of which celebration of the Koningsdag holiday had brought out food truck vendors, a carousel and musicians playing at the restaurants. Lots of orange!
Entrance into Floriade was just getting started (we got there an hour after it opened), so no backups there. Floriade is spread out over several islands on this part of the lake, interconnected by bridges and an aerial lift system that transports you from one side of the park, over an intervening motorway, to the other. Your ticket gives you one trip, one way, so we had to decide later on which end we wanted to end up at to take our ride.
But back to the present…. The ferry was where we expected and we’d pre-purchased our tickets, so it was just waiting to board for the ~10 minute ride across the lake in the electric boat.
The park and exhibits are large and it’s wise to plan out your exploration to allow you to see what you want without backtracking. The main entrance has a wide boulevard planted on one side with alternating mass plantings of different colors of tulips. Floriade wasn’t intended to compete with Keukenhof on tulips, but they were very nice. On the several sides of the main boulevard, there are some multistory buildings, which we surmise will end up as residential once Floriade ends.
These buildings and tiny homes (see below) are intended to be illustrations of design concepts and use of natural and sustainable materials. Everywhere in the park we saw the focus on alternative and imaginative uses of materials for developing green spaces. They had a display that used old navigation buoys and were converted to be planters for trees, big freight containers you’d see carrying freight from overseas being used for other things.
One of the most striking set of exhibits were the “tiny houses “ – manufactured small living spaces made out of different materials (ranging from steel to wood) that, while they’d be a shock to people accustomed to living in much larger homes (where there’s usually a lot of wasted space or space filled with the junk we accumulate) to something that appears livable , but more efficient (both in square feet per person as well as the materials used). These tiny houses had a kitchen, living area and one or more (small) bedrooms and used home automation to control all aspects of climate control, lighting, etc.
The landscape design used natural materials for things like snow fencing, erosion control, walkways made with crushed oyster shell, crushed nut shell, a greenhouse made out of recycled polycarbonate.
Though the overall organization and planning is Dutch, there are (or will be) representation from other countries with their culture on display. Ecuador had a nice exhibit with a native Ecuadorian playing native instruments. It looked like that since we were early in the display season, some of the other countries had placeholder exhibits, but weren’t yet complete.
By 2:30 or so, we’d walked our feet off. We decided to walk to one end of the aerial tramway hoping to end up closer to the middle of the park. I don’t know that decision worked out entirely as we’d hoped. We still had to walk a long way to get to one end to take the tramway, then once over the park , walk back over the bridge over the highway to the main part of the park.
What happens after Floriade in Almere ends? The Floriade specific displays, including the aerial tramway, will be dismantled and moved, leaving a large park and some permanent buildings likely to become residential. While we traveled to Floriade by water ferry, it’s adjoined on one side by a large motorway, so access isn’t as limited as it might have sounded. The crowds inside the park have definitely picked up by the time we left at 3pm; there were a number of tour buses in the parking lot.
We walked back to the ferry landing, waited about 30 minutes for the next ferry and prepared for the gauntlet of the flea market ahead.