Holland, Part Two: Discover Rotterdam and King’s Day

Article by Hani

Rotterdam is a guaranteed change in scenery. Compared to Amsterdam, everything is new. It’s futile to go searching for the ancient city, the old centre, or remnants of history. But why is this?

The quest to find the answer was interesting, I had to ask a lot of passersby to finally fall upon a Dutch man selling cannolis who spoke English. He ended up giving me a five minute history lesson.     

According to the information I received, the city was completely destroyed during the second World War, and then rebuilt, which is evidently what gives it it’s modern air.

This little exchange happened at the Markthal, a unique market both for it’s form and architecture. You can find everything there: fresh produce, all kinds of cheeses…You can even have a sit down meal. My favourite thing was a truffle cheese. I bought some and continued the tour of the city.

Cubic houses, avant-garde buildings, futuristic bridges…. Welcome to Rotterdam.

Rotterdam

In Rotterdam, you can also rent bicycles to explore the city. The major sites are found in the centre of the town, and I was able to see everything there was to see by exploring on foot in one afternoon.

Without a precise destination, I strolled in the street “in search for lost time,” as Proust would say. I crossed the Erasmus bridge, and saw the cubic houses, to finally find a historical site: the old port of Oude Haven.

The steam engines are still there, as though time has had no effect, silent witnesses of a glorious past. Another site that’s worth the detour is the marine museum.

Apart from this part of town, Rotterdam is completely modern. The post war Dutch architects employed their imagination, creativity and talent in order to rebuild the city from ashes, like a phoenix…

I returned to my home base for the night in preparation to leave for Amsterdam in order to participate in a major event: King’s Day. This holiday is represented by one colour: orange.

On King’s Day, every boat, barge, and tugboat alike are transformed into traveling nightclubs. DJs liven up the parties in the streets and squares. Music in abundance, falling confetti… it’s a carnival! The atmosphere is great, and everyone is in a good mood.

With 800,000 local Amsterdammers plus 800,000 visitors, you can imagine what it’s like, but it’s best to experience it for yourself, to live it at least once in your life.

The city also becomes a huge market during this celebration. Tables are installed on the boulevards, avenues and streets. Everything and anything is sold. The city becomes a huge garage sale, as we know them in North America. Another face of the city is revealed.

I will meet yet another while visiting this intriguing city on my last night.

In the meantime, Belgium calls for a quick visit…

Once back from Belgium, on the evening before my departure, I rediscover Amsterdam by night. To my astonishment, the city has completely changed.

I had thought that it was a city of parties, of nightlife and of excess, but I discover the contrary: a quiet city, almost a ghost town. Few people, few pedestrians circulated. I was even a bit worried because I had my luggage with me. Since the central station closed for the night, I was obliged to bring my suitcase for this final self-guided tour of Amsterdam.

So I walked, doing a tour of the centre while keeping landmarks in mind. I discover new alleys and canals along the way. I even run into Rembrandt, or at least his statue. I missed it during my first visit, but fate always arranges itself…

The sites are deserted, even the city’s emblem, “I Am Amsterdam,” which gets tens of thousands of visits daily, was empty, like a science fiction film where everyone has disappeared into thin air.

Apart from a few spots, especially  in the centre, like bars and clubs, where there were many people, I could have said that I was alone, the sole survivor of a zombie invasion.

At 3 o’clock in the morning, my nightly rounds are done, and it’s time to head back to Amsterdam’s Central Station: direction Schiphol, airport.

On this trip, things were different: I travelled with a limited budget, didn’t’ have access to technology, I made no plans, I got lost and found myself alone, and talked with strangers. I tried my hand at old school travel.

In the digital age, it’s easy to find out everything about anything, to know everything about your next destination, and to plan everything to perfection.

But where’s the element of surprise, of the unknown, and of adventure?

I got cold, I got sick, and I’m sure that I missed some things, but is this really important?

The goal of a trip is to escape and to have an adventure, and you can’t have an adventure if everything goes off without a hitch, or if every detail is overseen, from getting to the Central Station, to the Anne Frank house, or from the “I Am Amsterdam” sign to the “Heineken Experience.”

By reading this article, you will find a summary of what I experienced during my trip but not recommendations. I ask readers to read in order to perhaps find inspiration. I suggest that they in turn, follow their instinct, let go, lose themselves, and lose control so that they can live a new experience, an enriching experience that they can tell stories of.

The article reflects my journey and my vision. I suggest you find yours in order to write your own story.

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