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Friday, 8 June 2012

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Hello again! Today I thought I would give you a brief glimpse of Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands and our home port for the first couple of cruises. Rotterdam is known for its university (Erasmus), its cutting-edge architecture, its lively cultural life and its maritime heritage.

Above: City Hall which survived the Blitz on May 14, 1940.

Starting as a dam constructed in 1270 on the Rotte River, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre. Its strategic location at the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta on the North Sea and at the heart of a massive rail, road, air and inland waterway distribution system extending throughout Europe is the reason that Rotterdam is often called the "Gateway to Europe".

Above: The original headquarters of Holland America Line! The Ryndam docked right next to it.

The largest port in Europe and still one of the busiest ports in the world, the port of Rotterdam was the world's busiest port from 1962 to 2004, at which point it was surpassed by Shanghai. Rotterdam is divided into a northern and a southern part by the river Nieuwe Maas with the city centre located on the northern bank.

Above: Dry docks (where ships are serviced) in the port of Rotterdam.

During World War II, the German army invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Although Hitler was met by fierce resistance, the Dutch army was finally forced to surrender on May 15, 1940, following Hitler's bombing of Rotterdam on May 14 and his threat to bomb other Dutch cities. The heart of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe; 900 civilians were killed and 80,000 made homeless.

Above: Holland America's old Rotterdam ship which is now a floating conference centre.

The self-image of the city is that of a no-nonsense workers' city. In that sense, there is a healthy competition with Amsterdam, which is often viewed as the cultural capital of the Netherlands. There is a saying: "Amsterdam to party, Den Haag (The Hague) to live, Rotterdam to work". Another one, more popular by Rotterdammers, is "Money is earned in Rotterdam, divided in The Hague and spent in Amsterdam". Another saying that reflects both the rivalry between Rotterdam and Amsterdam is "Amsterdam has it, Rotterdam doesn't need it".

Above: The Cube Houses - crazy architecture! The building is now a Youth Hostel - nobody wanted to live in them permanently!

The city also houses the 186 metres tall Euromast, which has long been a major tourist attraction. It was built in 1960, initially reaching a height of 101 metres; in 1970, the Euromast was extended by 85 metres to its current height.

Above: The Euromast. We saw somebody abseiling off it!

Next time, we're headed off to Norway to see some of the spectacular scenery and ports of call!

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