Amsterdam…..bikes, canals and red lights….oh my!

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A bit exhausted from our learning adventure, the group arrived in Amsterdam ready to relax a little before the long flight home but the learning was not quite done yet. We started our stay in Amsterdam with a wonderful welcome dinner at Lempicka cafe located around the corner from our hotel, The Bridge Hotel. The hotel was a collection of Dutch buildings connected together to form a wonderful maze of rooms located on the canal next to the famous “Skinny Bridge” and next to the famous Carre (King’s) Theatre….the location was perfect.

Afer an in-depth and extensive tour of Amsterdam, which covered areas of the city that have recently been developed, it is apparent that Amsterdam is growing. New developments to the North attracts young families with contemporary architecture and affordable housing. The city is building new public transportation systems to help commuters navigate the water that separates the new Northern part of the city from central Amsterdam. The new developments are a sharp contrast from central Amsterdam and traditional Dutch architecture. Amsterdam has made its mark in the contemporary architecture and design field with innovative and eco-friendly building designs that stand alone, yet compliment, the city’s traditions.

In keeping with the sustainability theme of our trip, our group visited the Forbo manufacturing plant in Krommenie. Forbo manufactures Linoleum flooring, the ingredients are flax seed, wood pulp, resin and natural pigments. The tour took us through the various processes that creates Forbo’s marmoleum sheet products….one that is very popular in eco-friendly design. There is a natural process that happens in the curing of the resin which becomes the binding agent for the pigment and sheet product. All materials used to produce the end product are grown and harvested with the lowest impact possible and based on the Cradle-to-Cradle rating system. Forbo has received Gold level Cradle-to-Cradle certification for their product and process.

The last day in Amsterdam was left open for the group to explore this vibrant city. The bikes speed by pedestrians yet work in harmony with the vehicles. The trams add a distinctive sound and transportation for the walking weary. The canals add tranquil areas to escape the hustle of the city. The alternative culture of the red light district adds novelty and every curious visitor seems drawn to this area just to view what has been a long tradition. The museums expose the Dutch Masters of the art world in a subtle and simplitic way. Amsterdam has something for everyone.

After 17 days, 5 cities, planes, trains and a ferry ride, it was time to head back the U.S. The group was both exhausted and exhilirated by the experiences encountered in this amazing short-term travel study program. It will take a while to decompress and reflect on all the wonderful experiences encountered in the wonderful cities visited on this tour.

Though HI:Europa 2012 has come to an end….we look forward to HI:Europa 2013 and new experiences next year!

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