24. Rotterdam and the Ferry


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Jun 2nd, 2011
24. Rotterdam and the Ferry

The week in Rotterdam passed with amazing speed; although work took up half of the time. Fortunately we discovered that the café next door was much more generous with WiFi access than our hotel – for the price of a cup of coffee you plug in your laptop and carry on for as long as you like.

By the weekend, there were still way too many things yet to be seen, so we had to limit our choices. We got a 3-day city transport pass from the tourist info centre – which was well staffed and crammed with information as well as an amazing 3-dimensional model of the city, connected to touch-screen consoles – pick a destination and the map lights up. The travel pass comes with a booklet of discount vouchers, 20% off this and that museum or attraction. During the next 3 days we paid for the cost of the tickets, by using the discounts.

A monument commemorating the horror of the city being carpet-bombed during WW2.

The main shopping street was great – crammed with art of course – and as we were walking along one open-topped arcade, a blob of water suddenly leapt up from the pavement and disappeared down a grid 2 meters away. Then that grid replied with  an answering packet of water……. we had walked into a playful water sculpture. It was fun to watch how people interacted with it (kids especially). I have this on a movie but too big to post here.

We found an Irish Pub – there is ALWAYS an Irish pub or two in any city in the world you care to mention (except maybe Kabul?). The barmaid was also an unofficial tourist ambassador, and pointed us to the Rotterdam Museum a few blocks away – in which was a new exhibition on social rituals. Of course we went – and spent an absorbing hour mostly admiring the way it was displayed. Unfortunately for us, the audio-visual side of it was in Dutch!

There is a local speciality which is eaten as a snack or for lunch: krokets (croquettes) which are served with brown bread and salad. You crack open the hot fried kroket and spread the soft centre on your bread… delicious!

A must-see was the massive Museumpark – aka the Boijmans van Beuningen museum of art history… from mediaeval to surrealist. Here, we saw van Goghs and Rembrandts and Dalis as well as someone poking his head up through the floorboards (then you realise it’s a dummy). I guess that was a ‘realist’ as opposed to the other kind.

In the foyer of the Boijmans art museum. Inspired by the medical school nearby?

On one cold and grey, but dry, day we went over the harp-like Erasmus bridge to see other side at sunset. Here we found strange bubble-like floating rooms, and the cruise ship terminus – we felt kind of nostalgic and even looked to see whether there were any ships going south via Cape Town (there weren’t). With our 3-day travel pass, we got a ride back on the Metro, under the bridge this time. Clean, fast, impressive.

Bubble buildings on the Other Side

You can go to the movies in Rotterdam and see the film of your choice in English. We went to see Limitless – a cautionary tale about a pill that makes you super-smart!

Conscious of running out of time, we take a river cruise on the pleasure-boats that have been operating literally under our noses for the last week.

This is the escape-pod on a container ship. Lifeboats are old-fashioned.

This turned out to be an hour’s trip down the river towards the vast harbour complex of Rotterdam, with its enormous container depots and no less than five oil refineries etc. etc. Apparently the Rotterdammers are the world’s experts on logistics, and have a world famous school of logistics and transportation systems. But an entire cruise telling us about container terminals and dry docks and radar systems is, frankly, for enthusiasts only. I would rather have seen windmills and towns and tulips – something that you get, apparently, if you go up-river instead of down.

A classic cruise ship, now a floating hotel

On our last morning in Rotterdam was spent in the WiFi café first, then at the Maritime Museum just a few blocks away up the canal.

You can walk round all the vessels in the Haven Maritime museum

This was fascinating, but the best was a walk around a restored steam-powered-war barge (if that’s the correct description). With every detail intact including  a pair of swivelling guns (firing shells) and the captain’s elegant great cabin in the stern.

On the deck of the battleship-barge

The master and commander in his 18th century steamship stateroom

An afternoon train takes us to the coast, to the Hook of Holland, and drops us a few hundred meters from the embarkation point for the massive truck ferry of the Stena line. This is an overwhelmingly giant ship, which swallows huge 18-wheelers as if they were matchboxes, and shuttles back and forth between Holland and the UK every day. A few decks are available for non-truck driver passengers, and our little overnight cabin closely resembled a double coupé on a train, with shower. This was an incredibly good-value trip, with the train from Rotterdam, the ferry overnight, and the train from Harwich to London all included, for 150 Euros for the two of us. Unbeatable.

We were quite pleased to be at sea again, but as the ship was the size of an office block, we could hardly feel it moving, there was no sense of going through the waves at all!


  • Connie

    30 Jun 2011

    Yay! More travel stories….I wonder if the ‘war barge’ ever saw action? If a barge, it must have been confined to the inland waterways…?

  • Keith Grenville

    11 Jul 2011

    Once again appreciated your blog – but it seems work is getting in the way of your sightseeing and experiences a little too much. At least you do have some work, which is something! Harwich to the Hook reminds me of my National Service days in the RAF (almost BC!) when I sailed the North Sea in all seasons and conditions – and we certainly had the sensation of going through the waves – in a BIG way. Enjoy, enjoy!

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