The Baltic part of the cruise ends and the Voyage of the Vikings begins! Today we arrived back in Rotterdam, where we said farewell to Elisa and Cathy, who are exploring Holland for a few days before returning home to Canada. My sister Pam, her husband Doug, the Navigator and I continue on for another eighteen days, and will eventually end up in Boston. From there we will fly home.
It was mayhem today on board as a thousand people were moved off the ship, a thousand more moved on board, and our ever-courteous cabin steward confessed he was “running like a chicken.” So we got out of everyone’s way and went ashore.
I’ve never really liked Rotterdam as much as other Dutch towns and cities, mainly because it has no medieval heart and was rebuilt after WWII in a very utilitarian and modern style. Maybe some Rotterdammers even agree, as they have a saying that Rotterdam is “de mooiste rotstad die er is” – the loveliest ROTTEN city ever.
But I’m starting to come around. For one thing, the ethnic diversity makes Rotterdam a very vibrant community, and I found the people very friendly and casual in a way that the more formal native Dutch people are not. And they have a lot to be proud of.
We headed out to Delfshaven, a suburb of Rotterdam, with a small 14th century harbour, and the only part of the city to survive WWII bombing mostly intact. My mother would have taken a full day to bicycle out there and back from her home in Rotterdam south, but we hopped onto the subway and were there within a few stops. As we emerged, the first thing we noticed was the gabled rooftops, just like any other Dutch town. Then the smells – the fresh baking of the Syrian bakery and the spicy za’atar of the Lebanese restaurant. Yeah, not so typical any more! And then we walked past the store fronts, with their hijabs and eastern-style clothing for sale. Traditional Holland has officially evolved into something completely different.
Down a side street, we turned the corner back into history. This is the place where the Pilgrim Fathers (and mothers and children, too, I imagine) gathered to pray before leaving for England, which is where they boarded the Mayflower to make their own trans-Atlantic crossing. Back when it was not quite as luxurious. (No cabin steward running like a chicken , for instance.)
The windmill right at the edge of the harbour was the only part of this area to be destroyed by bombing, and it was completely rebuilt just a few metres from where it originally stood. A circle in the brick paving shows its original placement.
Before returning to the ship, we went to the new (and very impressive) Markthal (Market Hall) to pick up some needed supplies (salty licorice, for instance). Since it was Saturday, there was a market full of tents in the square beside the Markthal as well. And if they didn’t have it for sale – you don’t need it!
Toilet post-script: you need a euro to get into the public bathrooms in most of Holland, but they are all very clean and you get a 50 cent coupon in return, which you can redeem against merchandise in the surrounding shops. Yeah, my father used to say the Dutch people know how to make a penny squeak.