Oh, Rotterdam, you are lovely. There is a feeling of cosmopolitan style, I did not find in all the villages I had previously visited during my boat trip. Yes, they were charming and historic hamlets much different from anything I might experience at home (that of course is one of the main reasons for travel), but Rotterdam has a spunky zest to it that many cities lack. Although it was badly bombed during WWII, the citizens rebuilt their city using exceptional public planning.
As I explained earlier, I arrived with a respiratory infection and my hosts Betsy and Tommaso went out of their way to make me comfortable. They live in an enormous building of apartments which was once Rotterdam’s old tax building. Originally, the area that was converted into Betsy’s apartment must have had 20 ft ceilings because it has been converted into a spacious two storey flat with wonderfully high ceilings, deliciously private nooks and crannies, yet with an exquisite feeling of openness.
|Betsy & Tjuli|
They tucked me in, in an alcove off the living room, around the corner from the dining room, kitchen, half bath and porch. While they were settled in in an upstairs suite of office/den, bedroom and bath. An apartment of privacy and friendliness. Betsy’s cat Tjuli, who is 17 years old, would come down stairs in the morning making an early visit to me, which I looked forward to daily.
Rotterdam is designed for people, particularly in regards to modes of transportation. There are canals with locks in front of Betsy’s building to protect the boats docked in one of the many inland bays of the city. Right near her door, there is a wonderful trolley system stop,which ends at the new central station down the block from the city centre shopping streets. A few blocks away from her apartment is the underground system, and along all the roads are parallel bicycle paths for the unbelievable amount of bike traffic that fills this city daily. (Depending on the city/village, 27% to 46% of the locals use bicycles as their mode of transport.)
|Boatss in a protected Rotterdam habor|
The most amazing thing about where Betsy lives, is that it is located only about a mile’s walk/ride from the Art Museums Center, which includes four of the city’s main museums as well as a lovely park and four houses built in the1930s that were deemed to be exceedingly modern for their time, and still are. The Huis Sonneveld is open to the public. Built in what is called the Neiuwe Bouwer style, a branch of International Modernism, it was finished in 1933 for the Albertus Sonneveld family. Mr. Sonneveld was a director of the Van Nelle Factory.
Although one of Rotterdam’s main museums is an Architectural Museum, the city of Rotterdam itself is a living museum of avant garde architecture; its library, with its outer yellow tubes, the cube houses, a village of 45 degree tilted houses in which special furniture had to be designed to fit in the inner spaces, the building with what I considered upside down windows (I don’t know the name), the Central train station, locals call the jaw, and many more.
|45% angle houses|
|Apartments with upside down windows|
Public art is everywhere; a tree with with a hand extended out of its trunk to shake, beautiful stone rabbits in various positions, mythical reptiles, and a bronze looking rubber tube man to describe just a few.
One of my greatest pleasures was the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, This world renown art museum has a collection of art works that include Titian, Durer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and best of all P. Bruegel’s The Tower of Babel, as well as six Hieronymus Boschs. Note: Bosch is one of my most favourite artists, and as there are only about 30 of his paintings left in the world, I was in ‘seventh heaven’. I did ask the museum floor guard if I could just tuck the Bosch painting, THE PEDDLER, under my arm and take it home, but he said no. Poor sport, I’d say!
During my visit, I was lucky enough to view a special exhibit by the English artist, Paul Noble who some consider a modernist Bosch. His intricate graphite drawings are a depiction of Nobson Newtown, which is built on his mythical site of his old town, where in Mobson has left some ruins, sculptures and archaeological excavations. Although the observer sees no people, he has created a whole fanciful civilisation, in which there are “sculptures (which) turn our thoughts to mediaeval paintings of the Virgin and Child or the abstracted figures of Henry Moore, … or balloons, mud or turds” (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen - Paul Noble show brochure).
Meanwhile, Betsy, Tommaso, Tjuli and I had a wonderful time going on a bicycle ride to dinner at Olijventuin Restaurant. I riding side saddle with Tammaso, and Tjuli in Betsy’s bicycle basket. Requesting a table for four, we each had our own seat, Tjuli, the cat as well, we dined on the most marvellous soups and Italian tapas. We ended dinner with a wonderfully pleasant apple dessert, which did the fruit justice.
One afternoon Betsy and I went off to lunch at Spirit, a vegetarian restaurant which was also delicious. The choices were overwhelming and again the whole menu, as well as the Pumpkin soup, (I really like good soups - something rare to find in my area of the States) was outstanding.
|Just part of our Tapas at Olijventuin|
Yet, Betsy’s Best One and Only (Betsy claims she never makes the same recipe twice - she needs a website) Recipes at home wowed me the most whether soup, quiche or dessert. Every dish I ate at Betsy’s was a delight.
|Some outdoor art|
|Is it Rubber Man?|
All in All, my visit to Rotterdam was as wonderful as food and as enjoyable as my hosts,
Betsy, Tammaso and Tjuli. Thank you, all three.
next stop: LEH, LADAKH - INDIA