The Northern Nether

Places we’ve been to or through in the past ten days: Tostedt, Rosenburg, Sottrum, Fischerhude, Bremen, Oldenburg, Rhauderfehn, Weener, Beerta, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Harlingen, Afsluitdijk, Middenmeer, Alkmaar, Wormerveer (where we got trapped in a Fair Wear clothing company’s compound), Amsterdam. We’ve made it to our third big city, our distance traveled just under 1000km.

The northern regions of the Netherlands treated us incredibly well. In true Madulthood style, everything sort of fell in our laps in Groningen. We spent three packed days meeting makers and thinkers. Hans Blaauw took us on a bike tour of the city, cruising and chatting through so many parks I lost count. We ended at De Wolkenfabriek, an alternative collective founded on cooking and music. The former sugar factory was intimately empty because the fine weather had everyone outdoors.


The stage at the “Cloud Factory”.

The next morning we had an appointment with “the Bench Guy.” Leon makes benches out of recycled parts, which he installs against public and private buildings. He spray paints a scene and leaves urban furniture all over the city. He occasionally gets paid for a Wild Bench, but that’s not really the point. We made plans to film an installation, and how small is the world, he directed us right back to De Wolkenfabriek. Leon and Tatja, founder of De Wolkenfabriek, who we’d met the day before, are good friends.


Monday morning madults on Leon’s newest Wild Bench.

In the afternoon, one of our Couchsurfing hosts accompanied us to Fab Lab Groningen, where we interviewed Lab manager and founder Harry Hummel about the economic impact of the maker movement. Open source and access to DIY tools are placing pressure on large scale manufacturers to create a better product.


Hans Blaauw outside De Wolkenfabriek.

David Bakker, designer maker extraordinaire, met us at Fab Lab Groningen and accompanied us to Maakplek Beta, a makerspace that’s broken away from the brand. David was candid in his interview, applauding open source, which is additionally reshaping the creator’s vision of intellectual property. Can you handle the creative f**king economy, you plebs? (Not David’s phrase.)

We returned to Matthias’s corner apartment in time to bask in the last strong sunrays, cook delicous dinner, and conduct a hilarious interview with our hosts.

In the morning, we hopped on our bikes and cruised 64km to Leeuwarden. We biked fast and rewarded ourselves with an Italian pizza. With the exception of Kebab joints that was probably the first sit-down restaurant meal I’ve had in months.


MadRim presents to the Bibliotheekservice Fryslân.

Jeroen de Boer of Frysklab, a mobile Fab Lab truck, was expecting us in the morning. I’ve been in touch with Jeroen since the fall, and it was wonderful to finally meet him. We presented Self-Made for the Bibliotheekservice Fryslân, the organization of public Friesian libraries. Jeroen imagines a Fryslân where most libraries incorporate makerspaces, a melding of twentieth and twenty-first century educational locales. The librarians explored Frysklab after Jeroen told them about the benefits of such a collaboration, and we captured their enthusiasm as they encountered the equipment.

Then through a spontaneous series of chats, we ended up on Omrop Fryslân radio. We’re still basking in our Fryslân fame.


Saapke Miedema interviews outside of Frysklab.

Our host Jitzke fed us a solid breakfast and sent us on our way. Jeroen was able to free his morning, so he accompanied us out of Leeuwarden. When we’re not busy getting lost we make excellent time. When we reached Afsluitdijk, Jeroen played along with us for some biking footage. We said our goodbyes and attacked the dijk. For the first time on bike tour, the wind blew behind us, and soon the 32km dijk stretched behind us. Did we just bike 65km by two in the afternoon? Inconceivable! In the name of Spontaneity, we called André van Rijswijck of Kaasfabriek in Alkmaar, another 50km down the road. I hadn’t expected us to make it all the way. We’re usually a bit late, unless of course we arrive unexpectedly a day early.


Biking with Jeroen de Boer at Afluitsdijk.

Kaasfabriek was the place to be that Thursday evening. A character named Boy greeted us outside the shipping container palace of the “Cheese Factory” and led us inside. We set up the camera and filmed a Fab Lab at work, conveniently packed because it happened to be a holiday.

We slept that night in the conex tower of Kaasfabriek. Boy and Francine, who demonstrated how to laser cut a cookie, slept over too, so it was something of a slumber party. André and Joris Jan der Vries joined us again in the morning for intellectual brunch. A professional interview transpired while our subjects wore bright yellow lab coats.


Joris and André: Science Guys!

Later that yesterday, we biked on to Amsterdam our third major city along Tour de Fab. More on this maze of canals later. Spontaneity continues to be the moral of the story. MadRim Productions, coming soon to your backyard/spare loft/shipping container tower.


The tulip dance.

2 thoughts on “The Northern Nether

  1. It was a pleasure to meet you both! I like your blog, especially the photos. I wish you both more adventures, less rain and may the wind be with you (blowing in the right direction).
    Happy cycling!


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