After arriving in Almere yesterday we said goodbye to Ron and Sheila as they headed off on holidays whilst we settled in. After an early morning walk with Tjibbe our first job in Almere was to source new rear brake pads. The rear brakes have been crap since the bike shop in Braunschweig removed the pads and remounted them after discovering the replacement ones didn’t fit. I’ve been nursing them since Germany and this was the first chance we’ve had to get the bike into a shop. It’s an easy enough job to replace brake discs however because of limited space we don’t carry the extra tools needed for the job. We’d also been advised to replace the disc so the job was a bit more involved.
There were a bike shop within walking distance from the house so we wandered down to see if we could book the bike in. We were absolutely floored when we discovered that the workshop was booked out for three months. Can you believe it? The middle of summer and the workshop was full of bikes. Doesn’t anyone around here book their bikes for work in during winter?
After returning home I discovered another shop called Motorplanet not far away so took a spin. Their workshop was pretty busy but we were able to book the bike in for the next morning. The mechanic had a good look at the rear disc and concluded that the disc wasn’t as bad as previously reported so advised against replacing the disc. So good news.
It’s quite amazing that Almere didn’t exist fifty years ago. In fact the first house wasn’t built until 1974. Almere is The Netherland’s newest city with a population of almost 200,000 people. It’s hard to believe but, prior to 1959 the whole area was part of the Ĳsselmeer, a large lake formed when they started to reclaim the Zuiderzee. The whole city is built on reclaimed land. A large dyke holds back the water which would cover the city if it ever failed. Even though Almere is on reclaimed land it is actually five metres below sea level.
Down at Port Almere we got a chance to actually see the difference in height at the marina. On one side of the lock boats of all sizes floated at the wharfs of the marina at sea level. Meanwhile across the road on the other side of the lock the boats float a whopping five metres below.
From 1959 until 1969 the reclaiming works laid down the foundations of the city. Around the area where we were staying all the lakes, canals, and forests were all part of the work to reclaim the area. A series of cycle tracks crisscross the whole area linking all the different areas of the city. As the Netherland’s is the worlds greatest bicycling nation all the cycle tracks are signposted just like a road network. So there was no chance of getting lost. It was nice to walk around the lake and see how the city planners have laid out dog exercise areas, public exercise equipment, walking trails, playgrounds, and boating.
The inner city area of Almere is an interesting modern development. Visiting the central shopping area it was quite fascinating looking at the architecture. Some of the design features reminded us of the Barbican in London. It’s a futuristic suburb quite close to central London. The concept was to bring all different aspects of life together, home, restaurants, parking, entertainment, shops and schools. Around the complex the lower floors were occupied by the shopping centre and restaurants, whilst above them were schools and in the upper level apartments. In the basement of course was the car park. Even the roof of the building was functional as it served as a garden.
One thing which really impressed us was the slide from the restaurant area down the side of the stairs and the nearby climbing wall.
We caught up with a local biker to talk about travelling and it gave us a chance to get a feel for the city centre chilling out at one of the local restaurants. It was also a chance to find out the best places to visit around Almere. With a long list of places to visit over the next week or so Almere looks like the perfect spot to base ourselves.