Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Rotterdam: you are not my cup of tea

Many not so nice things have been said and done about Rotterdam—‘lelijke stad’, industrial city, ‘just’ modern boring buildings, ‘ongezellig’, there is no real center, no character, so un-Dutch and the Nazis bombed the city mercilessly during World War II which culminated into the Dutch surrendering to the Third Reich. Much of Rotterdam did not escape the war; it was destroyed and the city had to be rebuilt. Gone are the pretty gabled old Dutch houses, the real Rotterdam is gone. Because of this, the image of the city have always struggled. It was so bad that local tourism launched several campaigns to promote it years ago hoping to change its representation to an inviting, hip and trendy place to be.

Rotterdam's modern shopping center in the underpass on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

If there is abstract art, there is abstract architecture. Piet Blom's (Dutch architect) Cubic Houses (Kubus Woning) - these are real apartments with real people and families living here, and one of the apartments is a museum. Very 1980's, very Rubiks Cube isn't it? I was told that if you are inside the museum you will get disoriented for a minute. Didn't have enough time to check out the museum so when I am back, this is high up in my agenda.

The 'Pencil Building' and a bit of camwhoring with MadamE inside a shop. Girls and mirrors =)

Personally, I’ve been to Rotterdam a few times and one of those few times I’ve been there, this was with the Dutchman back in the early days, we did this touristy 'Harbour Tour' along the massive Rotterdam haven, alleged to be the biggest in the world. Unfortunately, we were only shown a tiny fraction of the whole trading marvel as it was explained in the audio that it would take days to survey the entire port area. Well, we don’t want to be staring at forklifts, cranes and containers for days so that's a good idea. It was pretty impressive though, business wise. Rotterdam harbour is one of the top moneymakers in the country (and those speeding cameras too!). For those who know a bit of the past, the Dutch have always been the (rogue) traders in man's history.

Anyway, I went down to Rotterdam the other week meeting an old friend, MadamE who reluctantly moved from Amsterdam to the terrain of the Feyenoords. Her husband filled me in about their Ajax buff daughters making friends with a few Ajax neighbors down the building. That is chilling. To be an Ajax aficionada in Feyenoord infested ground. Info: Ajax is Amsterdam's football club and Feyenoord is Rotterdams'; they are sworn enemies.

I don’t know but Rottedam is just not my cup of tea?

Sigh—I think I have loooong been jaded about charming, time-honoured and elegant European cities artistically inspired by its own extravagant flagship of period artists that when I see Rotterdam—with its modern tall buildings, cemented roads, the lack of a main 'gezellig' square and just the random ‘werkzaamheden’ (construction works) around the city make me lose my appetite to further explore its environs. This I find sad because I know there is so much to see and learn of Rotterdam.

I will definitely come back another time and will try to look for more interesting things to see and do, and positive things to say thereafter.

Some important facts: Rotterdam belongs to the South Holland (Zuid Holland) province. 46% of the city's population of 600,000+ are foreigners or are of non-Dutch origin. It takes less than an hour to travel by train and car from Rotterdam to Utrecht or Amsterdam.

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