Both the cities are extremely beautiful and very interesting. With manmade land that reclaims the sea, the cities are like a labyrinth of concentric canals and built form that float like rafts on water that have lost anchorage with reality and have floated far away with their coffee shops, red light areas and trams & tourists to become absolute global heterotopias (especially for Europe). The canals constantly cut through a fairly dense and ornate urban fabric consisting of different urban design and planning experiments carried out during various times by a state that has complete control over the land. This land fluctuates between being natural and artificial, frequently reminding its inhabitants of the pact with Mother Nature through quite amusing sustainability policies and principles.
Amsterdam: The area of the old city (Amsterdam Central Station) has narrow old ornate buildings that mange to stand delicately, along canals. Each building standing gracefully along the canal like a beautiful aging starlet in front of the mirror looking for signs of age to be brushed off with some paint and maintenance, to win a precious glance of appreciation from a transient admirer.
Further out of the old city one sees experiments that have failed and succeeded, with the Dutch ceaselessly attempting big and small utopias through design and planning strategies that respond to nature, locals and the market.
Almere: Almere is one such Dutch experiment in the modern times, which in creation of a new city centre with shopping malls and retail designed by well known architects to create according to me a highly nauseous environment. While most of my classmates were cribbing about coming to a place like this, Kostas and me were discussing how it was extremely important to come to this place and take up the role of silent witnesses to one such experiment that attempts to ask the age old question of do cities create jobs or jobs create cities, so that our recordings will be useful in the future when we would be called to the stands, of our disciplines.
Rotterdam: I absolutely loved the city, probably the most of all the places I had seen. It seemed to me like the absolute urban laboratory where numerous experiments were attempted with different results that had collaged an urban fabric of exquisite success and failures but both contributing to a knowledge base. It was very interesting, and most importantly I felt at home as I could sleep peacefully while hearing sounds of bells, people, traffic , the street and the city....
Besides all of the above I and my friends enthusiastically discussed about the Kunsthal, Le Corbusier, Global capital, prime minister of Iran, Thai food and very marvellously designed Dutch women.