Our Mayor is currently visiting the Netherlands. He and/or his fellow travellers will visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven and The Hague. He will spend most of his time about 3 meters below sea level. Of the four cities, only Eindhoven further east is above sea level.
Too many tourists
For many visitors to the Netherlands, Amsterdam equals the Netherlands. But nothing is further from the truth. The Nation’s Capital is bustling with international visitors to a point now that Amsterdam actively wants to discourage tourism somewhat. Yes, discourage! Other places in the Netherlands are very different and it is definitely worth leaving Amsterdam, if only for a bike ride in the east in the province of Overijssel or in the south in Noord-Brabant and Limburg.
The Netherlands has a bit of an oddity, in that the government doesn’t sit in the capital Amsterdam, but in The Hague. Like Ottawa, The Hague houses the ministries and embassies but it is not the capital. You can read why that is the case here. It’s complicated.
“The other cities”
Rotterdam, Eindhoven en The Hague are not the tourist magnets Amsterdam is, but have a lot to offer. In The Hague you shouldn’t miss the Mauritshuis with its sublime collection of 17th century paintings and I personally love the Panorama Mesdag, a cylindrical painting of 120 meters with a panorama of the beach resort of Scheveningen as it was in 1881.
Often delegations go to Rotterdam to see the harbour, but Rotterdam is also architecture, architecture, architecture and perhaps the revitalisation of neighbourhoods as well as intensification. In Eindhoven perhaps the development and repurposing of the former Philips Electronics property lands are worth a visit. Eindhoven is also developing very quickly as a hightech hub.
It is kind of hard to figure out all the topics, but Ottawa Tourism, Invest Ottawa and news releases all give some clues. So let’s speculate a bit. There is a slew of topics that the mission is learning about, from defense, tulips, nightlife and cycling to affordable housing and flood prevention. And I am guessing there will be a royal visit next year as the mayor visited Princess Margriet (who sadly lost a sister recently) this afternoon.
So which topics will be discussed?
The Dutch are always looking to improve efficiency and have a ‘let’s try this and see if it works’ mentality rather than the more Canadian ‘this might not work so let’s leave it as it is’. It is a highly innovative country, which one has to be in a country the size of Nova Scotia housing 18 million people, half the population of Canada. This is what I am distilling from what was released:
- Celebrating 75 years of liberation of the Netherlands preparations with a role for the Princess, tulips and veterans,
- Active Transportation, (also part of Ottawa’s upcoming new Official Plan); perhaps conversations with the Dutch Cycling Embassy and Mobycon,
- Flood prevention, likely involves a visit to the Technical University in Delft at Deltares, a world renowned agency that also visited Calgary after the floods and advised the US Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina,
- Affordable housing, perhaps in the Rotterdam region,
- Night life economy, perhaps meeting Shamiro van der Geld, the ‘night mayor‘ of Amsterdam
- Defense and high tech, which will likely be in The Hague, where he might visit the The Hague Security Delta campus,
- Convincing more Netherlanders to visit Ottawa because we have tulips, waterways, growing bike infrastructure and weeks of skating. O wait…..
Update: the mayor visited Princess Margriet and invited her to join the celebrations in 2020. Princess Margriet will also have a park named after her. The mayor will propose a motion, supported by councillor Leiper, to rename Fairmont Park to Princess Margriet Park, more or less just around the corner of Princess Juliana Park, that will disappear with the new hospital being planned in that corner. And indeed, the mayor also visited The Hague Security Delta campus.
Memorandum of Understanding
Already it was announced that Ottawa Tourism and and The Hague Convention Bureau agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen positions in the ‘association’ market (joint research, shared education, lessons learned from past events). Only three private companies are accompanying the mayor: Assent Compliance, Martello Technologies and Accenture. That is a bit thin unfortunately.
High on the wish list for Tourism Ottawa is perhaps a direct flight from Amsterdam to Ottawa, but KLM has said in the past it would cannibalise the flights to Montreal and Toronto so I don’t see that happen anytime soon, although it would shave three hours off my visits to Holland, hence I am all for it.
Organising such a trip is a tremendous amount of work and initial ideas where already floating around about four years ago. Usually, the mission splits into different groups: the mayor will likely be informed on city related issues while the private companies will meet others and have some kind of a matchmaking event. The Canadian embassy will likely host a reception. The days are usually long and there is hardly any down time: you’re on from 6 am to close to midnight usually. Combine that with a jetlag and you can understand how exhausting it is. When I used to go to the Netherlands for work, I’d be awake at 4 am for the first three days.
Mayoral Bike Ride?
The Dutch are generally not big into large official motor vehicles, even the Prime Minister is regularly seen on a bicycle, cycling into work or dropping by at the King’s palace. So I am hoping the Dutch put their money where there mouth is and take the mayor on a bike ride and on the LRT between The Hague and Rotterdam. And I hope someone tells him the entire national railways system, including the stations and offices are run on wind energy (partly imported). Ideally, the mayor gets to see the city centre of Delft, one of the most beautiful city centres in the Netherlands when visiting the labs of Deltares (if).
Excellent bike infrastructure
Meanwhile I am hoping the mayor and the delegation will be blown away with the excellent bike infrastructure, the multi modal designs around train stations, the car free and car low downtown city cores and how it creates peaceful public spaces. You just can’t miss it. I am confident that Steve Willis is taking notes.
The Dutch have also signed off on the Energy Transition, a large nation wide multi decade project to completely transform the way the Dutch will produce and consume energy. The aim is for energy to be nearly fully sustainable in the entire country by 2050 (everybody off natural gas). Likely this will be mentioned too.
I strongly suggest the mayor tries out some of the Dutch food, particularly the Rijsttafel, Indonesian food that is now part of ‘Dutch heritage’. Then there are gevulde koeken (from a real bakery), a kroket or two, for sure a boterham with hagelslag for breakfast and a stop at a food truck. If there is time, a serving of poffertjes and not to be missed, and I am sure Dennis van Staalduinen agrees: a real Dutch stroopwafel from the local market.
Follow the mayor
You can follow the major’s adventures on his news blog this week and the first post is up already with pictures of the delegation (I am recognizing about eight of them) and the mayor of The Hague, Pauline Krikke.
One more thing
The big question after a visit in the Netherlands is always: will the delegation bring back a package of stroopwafels for me?