Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rotterdam (At Last)

On Laura's final weekend in The Netherlands, we stopped for a night in nearby Rotterdam. Although Rotterdam is only a little farther from Delft than The Hague and MUCH closer than Amsterdam, we went nearly a full year without really venturing into the city. (Well, we tried to see the city back in winter, but were confronted with wind so cold that we basically walked out of the train station and right back into it.)

Rotterdam doesn't get the international pub of Amsterdam or The Hague, but it has some bragging points. It's always in competition for "busiest port in the world," though Wikipedia says it is currently second to Shanghai. It's also known as a tremendously young city - sometimes called the youngest in Europe - and is the 2009 European Youth Capital. Also, there's a bit of a rivalry between Rotterdam and Amsterdam that is manifested primarily on the soccer field.

A vast majority of Rotterdam was destroyed in May of 1940 when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Since the war ended, Rotterdam has been the center of a lot of architectural experimentation, which makes it both strikingly modern in some respects and obscenely ugly in others. (The Netherlands is in fact a modern architectural epicenter, and it wasn't long ago that I encountered a whole train car full of US architecture students touring the country.) The part of Rotterdam that all the guidebooks tell you to see is Delfshaven, which is the historical part that looks like every other city in the Netherlands. Now, I like the canal looks of this country a lot, but to those guidebook writers I have to ask, "Why am I going to go to Rotterdam, unique for the fact that it doesn't look like every other Dutch city, to see the part of it that does?" (Delfshaven wasn't one of our stops, though I'm sure it's nice.)

Our visit centered on the waterfront, which we saw by pannenkoek boot - that's "pancake boat," a boat that serves pancakes. The pancakes were mediocre but the view was very nice, with towering, colorful buildings and creative bridges. We set off from next to the Euromast (above right), the tallest structure in Rotterdam. We didn't go inside it, but it offers food and drink, a panoramic view of the city, and various creative ways for visitors to plummet from the tower's apex.

Erasmusbrug ("Erasmus Bridge"), nicknamed "The Swan"

We were particularly excited to stay in the "cube houses" one of the aforementioned architectural experiments that was recently converted into a StayOK hostel. As you can imagine from their shape and unconventional orientation relative to the earth's gravitational field, the rooms are awkward. (That doesn't make staying in one any less cool.)

Cube Houses

Near to the Cube Houses in Oude Haven, we had a nice view of the harbor area while we enjoyed some Heinekens.

Willemsbrug is near to Erasmusbrug and both span the Nieuwe Maas

Witte Huis ("White House"), the tallest "skyscraper" in Europe when it was built in 1898

You can find a few more pictures on Flickr.

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