Rotterdam, A Home Away from Home

The "newest" of the big Dutch cities.

A quick showcase of the best moments.

This past weekend I did some travelling once more, this time to Rotterdam, and let me tell you, it was fantastic.

Right now I’m at a crossroad in my life, perhaps another post soon will explain it, but for now, let’s focus on Rotterdam. But all I can say is that this city, that reminded me of both Lisbon and of New York, did wonders for my soul!

Like most of my travels recently this one started on Arnhem central station, and from there the usual train hopping took place, from Arnhem to Breda, from Breda to Rotterdam.

And my love to this city began right at the Station, as unlike the other Dutch cities this one had an urban and cosmopolitan vibe, a concrete jungle, like the one I got used to in Dubai. As unappealing as this sounds I love it. And in a classic Brandao move, I got lost as soon as I got there, perhaps I could blame it on the fact that was 10 pm or due to the fact that I’m a terrible planner, but luckily it didn’t take long until I found my way to “StayOk Hostel” located on a quite interesting street, Overblaak, where a couple of buildings seem to be askew, and as someone that was raised to appreciate design and architecture I quite liked it. But I left any explorations for the next day, as at this point I was a tad tired. Although it’s always kinda of a bad move to check in right before you go to bed, as most hostels ask you to make the bed as soon as you arrive, and making a bunker bed in the darkness while tired is not the best of experiences, but nonetheless I got done(ish).

Little did I knew (again awful planner) that most of what I intended to see were right outside of the hostel’s door. mainly the Markthal, a building that not only houses a market but several residential floors and if I’m not mistaken some offices as well. An impressive building in an arch that has two gigantic glass panels from both sides, giving it a unique light inside. There was an infinitude of cafes and small restaurants inside, and two of them made quite the impact, one was a coffee stand, well a Tea stand, that had well over, variety of teas to choose from, as well as the some Starbucks like concoctions (matcha lattes and tea frappuccinos), the other was a Portuguese stand, that had a bit of everything I left back home, Pasteis de Nata, Bolas de Berlim (typical Portuguese pastries), Sumol, Compal, wines and even cold cuts, but my wallet was stronger than the nostalgic effect, as the prices were, for lack of a better description, a highway robbery waiting to happen. Right outside of the Markthal there was a huge…. well, market, with stands that stretched for the better part of a full kilometre, so as you can imagine my Saturday morning was mainly looking into Bric-à-brac and fresh vegetables.

After that I started doing what I love the most, wander around, little did I imagine that I would end up walking more than 20 kilometres that day, and at this point, I had barely reached the 5-kilometre mark.

The next destination was the picturesque Skyscraper Red Apple, another heavily designed building with an interesting format and a curious red metal frame, that eventually gave the name to the building itself. Well from this point until mid afternoon I pretty much did nothing but walk around.

From The Red Apple to the Willemsbrug bridge, in a route that led me into the Noordereiland neighbourhood, a quiet quaint area that unlike to the rest of what I’ve had seen until now, was a bit more…well… Dutch, a lot of red bricked small buildings.

Yeah, I know, as far as a travel blog entry this part of the journey was a bit lacklustre, but then again, it is my way of doing things. By this point, I was getting pretty hungry, and my feet begged for a break, so I stopped for a brief while. My stay at the quaint “Bagels and Beans” took a lot longer than I initially predicted, but it gave me time to chat up with my mother and to update my Instagram with some new photographs (got to get them likes).

But soon enough I was up and running again, and ready to cross more bridges, first De Hef, an old Railway style bridge, which style reminds me of the old “Lucky Luke” comics that I’ve read as a child, mostly because of the heavy beams and the late 1800 design. This leads me to the last and perhaps the biggest bridge in Rotterdam (well scratch that, it is actually the second biggest, is only outshined by the Van Brienenoordbrug bridge), the Erasmusbrug.

This impressive bridge not only carries the name of one of the city heroes, Desiderius Erasmus a.k.a. Erasmus of Rotterdam, but also made me feel like I was back in my hometown, in Lisbon. It was only after a bit of research that I managed to figure out why, the architectural style was reminiscent of a contemporary bridge, the Ponte Vasco da Gama. Both designed and built in the late 90’s and both serving as the city’s second bridge and eventually ended up being the main city… wow never expected to write a piece about bridges before.

But midway through the bridge, my good old reliable iPhone decided to stop working, making me miss the opportunity to take any photographs on top of the structure. But I wasn’t going to let this spoil my mood… ok it kinda did, but luckily by the time I reached the opposite margin (pressing any combination of buttons I could), it was reborn, just in time for me to take as many pics as I could of the maritime museum.

Even though I did not enter the museum itself, I walked around the public areas, which was…. impressive, just seeing the old boat workshops, and all those cranes, an old-timey lighthouse, was quite the experience, and in a way, it kinda appealed to the “steampunker” in me. I lost track of time, in both a figurative and a literal way, as my mind wandered to times of yonder, and well… everything was so astonishingly beautiful that I had no other choice.

As for the rest of Saturday, little else could be said, as I just walked back to the market area, and wandered a bit more, taking in as much as I could.

Sunday came and with it a "craptonne" of walking, although when it comes to variety Saturday was a bit richer.

So after a hearty... well a free-hostel-breakfast, I ventured once again to explore Rotterdam, my first big spot was the iconic Euromast, an 185m tower that provides a unique and breathtaking view of the city.

Since most of the Netherlands is, well, flat the view from the top of Euromast give a unique and vast view of both the city and the surrounding area. Fortunately or unfortunately this is one of those unexplainable experiences, like seeing the Mona Lisa, watching Dubai Mall's fountains, strolling down Las Ramblas, to drink a glass of Ginjinha in a street shop, you know... one of "those" experiences. The building it self is interesting but the view takes the cake, well i should say views, as you are given three different spots to enjoy, but the only "true" panoramic view will take you into the tower's elevator until the very top, spinning around (in a slow enjoyable way) while explaining what you are seeing. After such an experience, I needed something more down to earth, and the Het garden right next to the tower had the exact experience I was looking for. A calm luxurious public park, well kept with a bit of everything for everyone.

And after a bit, I discovered something that was 100% me, a flea market with live music.

But the this way, the songs that were playing, courtesy of Emmy Eve, where what I needed to hear at the moment, almost like a cliche movie scene; our backpacker protagonist ventures around an unknown town, to find a small fair, sits down while a gentle breeze drags flower petals all around, a band gets up to the stage to reveal the protagonist problems in a form a song... corny as it was magical... well this also brings the day to a close, and the rest of the day was spent looking for a place to eat, and the way back to the central station, as this trip took place in the weekend Feyenoord (local football club) conquered Eredivisie (the equivalent of the British Premier League), so when the match started the whole city became a bit weird, and I took this moment to get away from the mayhem and head back to my old and peaceful Arnhem. 

Tomás Brandão
Tomás Brandão

Jack of all trades, but master of none, Communications student, and freelance writer. Trying to change the world by starting to change myself.

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Rotterdam, A Home Away from Home