So the title might seem too cheesy for my style, I know. But that’s just the prelude to what’s coming. Indeed, Rotterdam might be, architecturally speaking, a futuristic city boasting world-class festivals and artistic events, but what really matters about this Dutch town is that it was the setting for one of the most emotive events in History.
I’m writing, of course, about the day that Janneke and I reencountered each other after a whole year of being apart. Remember Janneke? That cool girl that took her chances by inviting me to travel with her around New Zealand and Australia?
I hopped off the bus in Rotterdam and our gazes locked from across the parking lot. After a very emotive moment, we started running towards each other in slow motion, meanwhile someone played Chariots of Fire by Vangelis, so of course I had to stop mid-track and request River flows in you instead because it’s more tasteful and way less overplayed. Unfortunately, they dismissed my petition and started playing Right here waiting. We resumed our slow-motion run while a crowd chanted “Marriage equality in Australia.” As a result, I totally ignored Janneke and joined the LGTB group instead as they are the best gift givers.
Rotterdam, the city of the future
While I did visit Rotterdam with the sole purpose of catching up with my kick-ass travel buddy, I was genuinely impressed by the city as a whole. After travelling the Netherlands, the first thing that catches your eye about this Dutch city is that it doesn’t resemble its counterparts at all. What’s more, its landmark buildings and the arrival of innovative construction has earned Rotterdam the title of “Architectural City of the Future.”
The tradition of experimental architecture in the city has its roots in the Rotterdam blitz. After the German aerial bombardment of Rotterdam during the second world war, most of the city centre was reduced to ruins. Ironically, it’s precisely the lack of historical landmarks what has remoulded the city into a testing ground for avant-garde building styles.
Some of these must-see innovative buildings include Piet Blom’s Cube Houses (1977), Marcel Breuer’s De Bijenkorf department store of 1957, MVRDV’s market hall, OMA’s towering De Rotterdam hotel and office block, the new railway station by Benthem Crouwel, MVSA and West 8.
There are probably numerous parks in Rotterdam, but let me tell you about the one we visited – Kralingse Plas. Located on the northeastern outskirts of the city, the park extends over vast spaces comprising lakeside lawns and European woodlands that circle a picturesque lake.
The city might differ from the rest of the country in terms of architecture and design, but when it comes to Dutch cycling culture, Rotterdam comes second to none, and as such the park offers stunning views and pathways you can enjoy from your bike. We rode into Kralingse Plas, parked the bikes and proceeded to have a picnic by the lake with the view of a windmill. Then we took a stroll through lush woodlands that evoke the setting of a Brothers Grimm’s story; the lights that filters through the leafy trees give the path through the woods a magical atmosphere that leads you believe a witch is going to come out of nowhere. I felt safe, however, because I was with accompanied by Janneke and I’ve been friends with that witch for a while.
Markthal, Rotterdam’s Market Hall
The design and architecture of the buildings in Rotterdam are cutting edge and the city’s Market Hall is no exception. Majestically shaped as a giant airplane hangar displaying the largest mural in the Netherlands, Markthal shows that when it comes to experimentation and innovation in Rotterdam, the sky is the limit.
With a number of stalls offering countless delicacies and, what’s more, delectable free samples, Janneke and I were in for a feast. Once a backpacker, always a backpacker… We tried a large range of delicious cheeses and peanut butter – Do you remember our backpacker anthem? Spread it like…
Near Markthal, you’ll come across a bunch of houses shaped like cubes tilted 45 degrees, which rest upon a hexagon-shaped pylon. The first sighting of these houses is a bit puzzling as you might wonder how space is distributed indoors; I even came up with the theory of artificial gravity. Of course, once I stepped into the one of the cube houses open for display, most of my theories fell through. I stand my ground, however, that my artificial gravity idea is way cooler. The entry to the cube house museum costs 3 euros and it’s absolutely worth it as you’ll get to see the smart distribution of space inside the house and an innovative design.
Rotterdam’s appeal to the younger crowd has translated into trendy bars and an eclectic offer of restaurants. From glitzy cocktail bars to traditional pubs, hip and happening dance clubs and cosy concert venues, nightlife in Rotterdam suits every partygoer. Either on a rooftop bar or an underground venue, a night out in this Dutch city won’t disappoint.