Searching for the Vikings

Monday, August 21 - Day 20: Rotterdam, The Netherlands

We were awakened around 7:30 by an announcement about the disembarkation procedure for those who were leaving the ship in Rotterdam. This cruise was available as a round-trip, Boston-to-Boston, 38 day cruise, which we had booked, or just the first half, or just the second half. Some people were leaving this morning, and others were getting on this afternoon.

As we exited the ship, we had to have our passports inspected and stamped by the Dutch Immigration authorities. It was really just stamping, because they barely looked at the passport or us. Bureaucracy. We didn’t mind. We like having all the stamps in the passport.

We had found out that there was a free shuttle bus from the cruise terminal to the center of town, so we got on the bus, and after a short drive were dropped off near the Markthalle, which is the new market hall in Rotterdam. It is right next to a very large open plaza and the whole area is chock full of remarkable modern, or contemporary architecture. I won’t even try to describe the weird buildings. Maybe my pictures will. One building, or set of buildings that we had to see, however, were the “Cube Houses”.

Imagine a cube, maybe 15 or 20 feet on a side. Got that? Now turn the cube so one of the corners is pointing down, and, if you can still imagine it, the opposite corner is now pointing straight up. Now imagine a whole lot of these cubes attached to each other. Each one is an apartment. These apartments have no vertical walls. Every wall, and the “ceiling” is at a 45 degree angle to the vertical. Weird, huh?  It’s even weirder because the cubes are sitting on top of small “towers” which raise them up about ten feet from the ground level, which was also raised up on a sort of bridge across a main road.

The main road was called Blaak. The “bridge” that the Cube houses were on was called Overblaak. It went over Blaak, get it? Inside the complex we found that they had turned one apartment into a sort of museum that you could go into to see what the inside looked like. It was very peculiar and interesting. There were small rooms and furniture designed to nestle up against 45 degree walls, and very steep, very narrow, spiral staircases from one floor to the next. All the windows were at a 45 degree angle. It would be very tricky to live there. I think only a young person could manage the scary stairs every day.

We then went into the market hall, another very interesting building architecturally. It was sort of a large metallic jelly roll shape, or maybe a bread loaf. The outer side “walls” of the building were apartments. The center space contained a large number of food stands, selling things like herring, cheese, Chinese food, fruits, vegetables, cake and pastries, Basque Pinxtos again, etc., etc. These were more upscale, corporate looking, rather than the little mom-and-pop ones in the Amsterdam outdoor market. I suspect that only the tourists frequented the place, because these food stands were basically just small restaurants, rather than a real market that the locals would shop at. We have been to many of the real ones in Europe and they are wonderful.

We wandered around inside for a while, taking pictures, until Donnie discovered the best thing inside. Can you guess again? Got it in one, free WIFI. However it was very overloaded, so not very useful. Since the ship was leaving around 3:30, we took the shuttle bus back to the cruise terminal and went back on board.

(… tick … tick… tick… repeat for a while …)

That evening there was an announcement by our new Captain, Eric van der Wal. Our previous Captain had told us that the first segment of the cruise was his last as an active ship captain and he was retiring, so for the second half we have a new captain. They even gave Captain Hans a small retirement party in the cruise terminal. We liked Captain Hans. Especially since he got us into Prince Christian sound. Good luck in your retirement, Captain Hans.

We decided to go to the “retreat” which is an open area in the aft of the ship to watch the “sail away”. We weren’t the only ones. It was a party. There were a lot of people there, and there were crew members handing out hors d’oeuvres, and selling drinks. It was hard to get next to the railing to take pictures because of the crowd. As the ship pulled away from the dock, a group of grey-haired men and women on the dock started singing some kind of Dutch farewell song and waving their caps at us. Fun!

When the ship left the city proper, it started to get into the commercial port area. Huge is not the correct word. Immense doesn’t cover it. There was square mile after square mile of wharfs, cranes, warehouses, storage tanks, and unrecognizable marine equipment as far as the eye could see. I am guessing that the “largest commercial port in Europe” must employ at least one hundred thousand people. We probably saw ten thousand cranes. They must employ half the welders in the world. There was more metal stuff around than you could possibly imagine. If you have been to one of the US ports, like Long Beach in California, or Bayonne in New Jersey, you have seen nothing. Multiply it by a hundred, no a thousand. We sailed down the Maas river through the commercial port area for over three hours, and  then at the end, just where the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean, was the area for the very big container ships, which couldn’t go into the river. Absolutely incredible.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have abandoned my superlative code system. Too Nerdy. You’ll have to endure words like amazing, incredible, unbelievable, wonderful, fantastic, etc., etc.

Click HERE to see more of the best pictures.