Photo: © NBTC / Bring yourself
Bring yourself

The Floriade is more than just greenery

“The Floriade is my holiday destination. I don’t need to go abroad.” Theo Holtslag is a volunteer at the Floriade Expo and an enthusiastic ambassador of the Floriade and Almere. It’s a combination of everything he loves. Theo has been giving tours of the Floriade grounds since the beginning of the project, six years ago. He takes immense joy in driving visitors around every day in his golf cart because, as he says: “I like being around people and the nature here is absolutely beautiful.”

Bring yourself, Theo will do the same

Theo Holtslag is 73 years old. He has been working at the Floriade Expo in Almere as a volunteer from the very beginning.

Theo settled here in 1976 as one of the first inhabitants of the newly reclaimed land. “It was still a bit of a wilderness, not much more than the seabed really. My youngest son was born here, the firstborn of the new 'city' of Almere. We witnessed the expansion of the development. I became a bus driver and subsequently drove the bus in Almere for 29 years.” Theo’s parents had a farm, which is where he inherited his love for all things green. Theo himself can be found as often as possible in his vegetable garden, right next to the Floriade site.

Living together in the green city of tomorrow

When he heard that the Floriade would take place in Almere in 2022, he immediately decided to volunteer. "I am definitely a nature-lover. I have 8 grandchildren, and I am worried about what the world will look like for them in 30 years. They must still be able to live here, with food and energy." The Growing Green Cities theme of the Floriade shows several ways of how we can live together in a more sustainable, healthy way in the green city of tomorrow. “Here’s an example,” he says, pointing to the Aeres University of Applied Sciences building. "This school building has a green outer wall. The plants on the wall are good for insulation, but also for birds and insects."

What’s unique about this edition of the Floriade is that this time it’s not located on the outskirts of a city, but right in the middle of it. The site has also been designed with a view to permanent use. “After the Floriade, a new green neighborhood for the growing city of Almere will arise here. It will be low on traffic, heated with geothermal energy instead of gas, and every plot will have a four-meter-long green strip that has already been laid out. A number of buildings that you can now visit at the Floriade will also remain, such as a hospital, a residential tower, the aforementioned school, and the floating art pavilion next to the central square.”

That’s why Theo advises you to visit the Floriade not just once, but three times: "Come back and discover Almere!"

Thousands of trees and shrubs

As a nature lover, one part in particular really stole his heart. “I absolutely love the Arboretum. All species that grow or are cultivated in the Netherlands are planted here, except for a few that do not settle well on the former seabed. You can find thousands of trees and shrubs throughout the park in alphabetical order of their Latin name. The fact that they will be part of the new residential area is just fantastic.”

The Floriade has much more to offer than just greenery. ”There are also the possibilities regarding food, such as farming strips, combating food waste, and reusing materials. Too much of the material that is no longer used is being destroyed.” At the Floriade you can also see creative and innovative solutions in this area: a bicycle bridge made of old bridge parts, another bridge made of cementless concrete, or the demonstration house made of recycled plastic bottles.

Wonder, play, taste, and smell

To give you a little sneak peek, some of the things you can experience at the Floriade include the picking garden, where you can smell, taste, and pick flowers and herbs, and a 'butterfly strip' with butterfly-friendly plants along the paths throughout the park. For children, there’s the nature playground with children's theater surrounded by greenery and of course numerous activities. The central square hosts daily performances with art and music, and don't forget a ride in the spectacular cable ski lift, the only one in the world that arrives below sea level. “Whether you visit in the spring, summer or fall, each season has its own charm. For example, a strip of plant beds with selfie benches has been created along the water. You get to see different 'plant artworks' here all the time because they bloom at different times of the year. From the cable car you have a really nice view of the artworks.”

There is so much to see at the Floriade that it is too much to mention, as becomes apparent from Theo's enthusiastic stories. The park is no less than 61 hectares (150.7 acres) in size, which is quite a distance even if you’re being driven around in a golf cart. That’s why Theo advises you to visit the Floriade not just once, but three times: "Come back and discover Almere!"

City of Rotterdam surrounded by greenery

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