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The unexpected joys of Leeuwarden

Date:24 June 2019
Author:Martin Bakardzhiev
On a stroll in Leeuwarden
On a stroll in Leeuwarden

To be completely honest, I did not expect much from the city of Leeuwarden before seeing it for myself. Having just spent 3 years in a small town in northern England, my expectations of Leeuwarden were for it to be small and detached from civilization. However, I was quickly proven wrong upon arrival. As the train I was riding made its recognizable right turn while entering the city, I was surprised to encounter a series of tall buildings, with a skyscraper rising more than a hundred meters tall overshadowing them.

All of a sudden, I realized that Leeuwarden is not a small town. It took some time and a couple of walks until I started to know my way around the European Capital of Culture (2018). Luckily this is effortless in a city in which barely anyone relies on motor vehicles (other than boats) for transportation.

The preferred alternative to the polluting internal combustion engines is an invention which has been around for nearly 200 years, namely the bicycle. Everyone, and I mean everyone bikes, and why should they not, given the appropriate infrastructure as in Leeuwarden, biking is the most efficient means of transportation ridding the city of traffic jams and pollution. It goes without saying that it did not take long before I joined the community by getting myself and even my girlfriend a “Swapfiets” (12€/month bike rental).

Biking is not the only thing that gets foreigners such as ourselves, closer to the community’s sustainable habits. Recycling seems to be closer to a lifestyle than it is to a habit for the people of Leeuwarden. Reusable shopping bags, reusable bottles and fair-trade products seem to make enormous sense even to the most unsustainable persona upon witnessing how widespread and practical they may be.

As for many people, Friday is a Leeuwarden student’s favorite day of the week. The reasoning behind that fact rests in more than just the city’s nightlife, which is far from boring. Friday is the day in which the farmers’ market takes place in the city’s multi-functional main square. A variety of fresh, often ethically sourced and fair-trade products of all types are on offer during the market. It is a student’s paradise, as the cost of just about everything is up to 80% lower than it is in supermarkets, yet the quality (flavor) is vastly better. Not only that, a variety of ethnic food stalls provide one with the opportunity to sample a distant culture’s cuisine. By local means, it goes without saying that there is a large variety and quantity of Dutch cheese available, but most importantly, the perfect treat – fresh “stroopwafels” (which taste very different when they have just been made). Having made the week’s shopping while remaining within the limits of a student’s budget, one could celebrate by enjoying one of the surprising numbers of high-end restaurants (a reservation is advisable) followed by a bar and a nightclub.

Bikes and clog shoes, of course!
Bikes and clog shoes, of course!

Weekends are never boring, should one get out of the libraries and enjoy the city’s amenities. Famous exotic dancer and double agent Mata Hari’s birthplace has a diversity of museums and tours to offer, and you can even visit her former house. These can be done by different ways, including by boat. Students get discounts on just about everything. A visit to the city’s zoo is strongly advisable. Unfortunately, the weekend rarely lasts as long as one might like and is followed by a cold drizzle on a Monday morning.

Fortunately, this does not affect the socialization of students, as a hang-out and study space is housed in Campus Fryslân’s brand new building. Situated in the most perfect city center, while still having canal banks on two sides, the historical city library has just been renovated to house the student of Campus Fryslân. This beautiful building is a most clever project by Campus Fryslân’s management, as it not only is situated perfectly but it serves as a means of showing sustainability and efficiency in practice. 

Should you have any questions about the city, please don't hesitate to contact me!

About the author

Martin Bakardzhiev
Martin Bakardzhiev
My name is Martin Bakardzhiev. I am a MSc Sustainable Entrepreneurship student from Bulgaria. This program is offered at Campus Fryslân in Leeuwarden. I plan to pursue a career in sustainability as in my belief it holds the future of business.


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