Places I’ve been – Almere (with a little bit of Amsterdam for good measure)

 

Last summer I was lucky enough to get to travel to to Amsterdam and Almere (supposedly to work with the famed Barbara at the EJC, but mostly to regain some of my sanity)

Travelling a few days before the start of the convention I chose to explore Amsterdam on my own, and this was absolutely the right decision.

Amsterdam is busy. And bustling. And big. I, on a number of occasions, found myself being helped by strangers: with my bag at the station; getting mildly misdirected at the central station, even in the supermarkets and on the trams. The fresh and relaxed nature of the Dutch made the entire place welcoming.

Choosing to stay outside of the city, in the Student hotel Amsterdam West. I had to get to grips with the public transport system – whilst at first this was a daunting thought; once mastered it was a breeze. (Also purchasing either an Iamsterdam card or travel card is probably a good plan). The guys at the hotel were great – helpful, easy to talk to and the fact everything was pre-paid meant there was nothing to worry about. I also met fellow solo travellers, something that probably wouldn’t have happened had I been as part of a group.

The food wasn’t bad either.

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Taken waiting to enter the Anne Frank house. 

 There were a few ‘must sees’

The Anne Frank house, The Van Gogh,The Rijksmuseum and Rembrant house museum. And whilst I could give  you a full review of  these, I think its best if you go and see them yourself. I would struggle to put into words the atmosphere of the Anne Frank house, however I can say that it stayed with me for the best part of my stay. It was honestly an honour to visit. (a practical note – pre book your ticket to visit..)

The Van Gogh (for me) was one I had on my list, but not being a die hard Gogh fan, I wasn’t -over-the-top excited about visiting. Safe to say I was wrong. This Gallery far exceeded my expectations. Open and light, it told a story through Van Goghs life and relationships, as well as early and famous work.

The Rijksmuseum is colossal. The buildings, the collections (the queues) and the atmosphere. If you enjoy seeing history, culture and art all under one roof (and can tolerate the crowds) definitely spend some time here.

Last to check off the list was the Rembrant house Museum, an unquestionable choice for anyone with any vague interest in art, painting or other wise. I have to admit, the highlight of this one, was the painting making demo by the staff of the museum. This is one of the constant factors of all of these attractions – the people that work and are involved truly love what they do. They are engaging and full of enthusiasm.

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Leaving for the convention just before the Europride festival started, I missed out on many of the events, I did see the amazing efforts the city took to make the city look its best. 

So now – the surprises.

Namely – the Stedelijk museum and a science museum called Micropia. (Now I wont lie, these were a fluke. I had bought an Iamsterdam card and these were on the list of places I could get in to for free…) Annoyingly The amount of images I captured are limited (apparently I wanted to enjoy my time more than looking through a lenses…). The Stedelijk is for those (slightly) weird lovers of conceptual and contemporary art. Which just so happens to be me. Innovative, challenges ideas filled its walls, again, add it to you (imaginary) list. Finally Micropia, if you are a little bit of a geek this one is for you. They have the attention to detail absolutely sussed (but I guess you would have to if your museum is all about the absolutely tiny).Focusing on the world of microbes, this is a compact (ha) museum, but one I appreciated seeing for myself.

I even managed to find a (beautiful) climbing wall and squeeze in some bouldering at the klimhal Mountain Network Amsterdam. Again, even though I was a hopeless Brit, the staff were beyond helpful.

Getting Lost

(But not really)

But seriously, one of my most enjoyable days in the city I literally wandered around seeing what I could find. I’m not particularly a night owl, so I chose to see the city as early as I could manage, and see where things took me. (and if I had more time and energy I would have gone on a night trip, this will have to happen next time)  I stumbled upon many independent galleries and cafés (and possibly a coffee shop or two). As long as you remember a tram line that can take you back to the station, or the fact that its a circular structure, you’re all good to go. I even managed to find some vegan ice cream, bonus.

 

The EJC

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The calm before the Jugglers

I haven’t been doing conventions for long. But I love it just before everyone has arrived.

This was the main objective of my journey. I met Barbara (and my tent) before the convention began. I soon got busy; volunteering with site tasks, setting up  camp unloading stock. I enjoy the purpose, meeting new people, taking in the new sites.

I even managed to meet a lady who had just got a job at the Rijksmuseum. It’s safe to say we talked art quite a lot.

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Creativity encouraged in all of its forms

The EJC (European Juggling Convention) is the biggest juggling event in Europe. Professional jugglers, street performers and amateur jugglers from all over the world travel to this festival to juggle, exchange tricks and have fun together. If you have never been to a Juggling convention, I recommend you change that.

Almere

The city of Almere was founded only 40 years ago and it is well on its way to becoming a big student city and business hub. The city is situated in the Flevopolder, an area of reclaimed land in what used to be the middle of the Zuiderzee bay. Therefore Almere lies 2-5 meters below sea level! The city counts almost 200.000 inhabitants, four districts and one of the largest shopping malls in the Netherlands. It Honestly felt like a city out of a Star Trek movie.

The convention was held just out of the city centre, in a new sports centre development. and down  the road from a strange new residential district (half of which was not yet built and uninhabited).

A special mention has to go to Cafetaria De Heerlijkheid and their fresh, generously portioned food. This is where I ate, whenever I got too lazy to make my own food. Also – ijspressi; who did an awesome array of vegan and non vegan ice cream.

 

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The Games

The Convention

The convention was a joy to experience, well maintained, efficient and friendly. Any issues that arose (of which there is bound to be some when hundreds of people are camping in a field) were quickly dealt with and fixed in stress free manner.  (so one morning one of the big tops had flooded; a pipe had burst. So, no more than 4 hours later a digger was on site, a hole was dug, the pipe fixed and everything was right with the world. Whenever something similar happened  in most British festivals I’ve been to: the problem was either a)ignored b)quick fixed, only to become worse later or c)required many people to stand around helplessly whilst no one had the time, resources or money to actually do anything. I of course don’t speak for all events, just the ones I have experienced). But one thing is for sure: the Dutch are efficient.

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Convention by night

Every day and night there was a massive choice of activities – from street performances to workshops to open stages to scheduled shows. I squished in as many as I could and saw some amazing things. The opening act of the convention were the Gandini Jugglers, and amzing 22 jugglers on stage in the centre of Almere. In the past 23 years, Gandini Juggling produced more than 30 shows which they performed over 5000 times in 50 countries. The shows include a huge range of performance art; from juggling combinations to choreographic studies. Gandini Juggling constantly creates new shows and uses different influences. They get inspiration from ballet choreographers to computer programmers and from fashion designers to mathematicians. They also worked with symphonic orchestras for their shows.

By far the best thing I saw was the performance by Jonglissimo, a group from Austria. A performance that utilises technology, juggling, set manipulation and an awesome auditory effects to create a truly captivating show.

Whilst I was there and not (happily) busy working, I took part in a handful of workshops – trying my hand at some new clowning, acro, slackline, aerial and juggling skills. (My arms have never hurt as much as they did the morning after half a day of aerial silks).

Getting the chance to meet the other traders, and catch up with the guys from Henrys Juggling (which if you don’t know: do the best juggling props out there) was another high point for me. These little circles of people I wouldn’t have even known existed if it wasn’t for places and events like this.

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Outside the bar tent

One of the best things, for me, about Juggling conventions over regular festivals is the inclusivity(maybe not a real word, but I am sticking to it). I am by no means a typical festival goer – I enjoy getting up early, getting a decent nights sleep, enjoying the day and I don’t drink. An event that holds early morning yoga, and gives you the chance to be in bed before midnight, but also has an all night bar with live circus cabaret acts truly caters for all. Kids and adults enjoy these conventions in equal measures, and if you give them the chance; you end up making new friends, learning new skills and getting a new perspective on it all.

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One of the (many) performances

These kinds of events encourage creativity, comradeship, and a platform to learn and expand horizons. I honestly hope I can be involved in these for years and years to come.

So to conclude, the trip as a whole – 10/10 would do again.

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Always time for a juggle

 

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