Sunday, April 12, 2009

Waterways of Holland and Belgium day 3

After returning to the ship from Kinderdijk, we set sail for Rotterdam, arriving before sunset.

In the morning we boarded motor coaches for our trip to Delft, another picturesque town with cobbled streets and canals. The procelain factory tour was quite interesting. We learned about how they make the pottery, and learned that there is more to Delft pottery than the well-known blue and white. We had the opportunity to watch an artist painting a plate. The 'paint' goes on black and does not turn blue until it is fired. Some of the pottery is multi-colored, some has gold on it, and some has a black background. There is an amazing variety of designs, including huge paintings on tiles, and much intricate work on the building itself.

The town of Delft of course has several churches. We had the privilege of listening to the carillon on the huge cathedral play for a whole hour, probably practicing for Easter. That was the old church. The new church has a tower that leans significantly. The new church is still old - it's just 300 years younger than the old church.

Delft is also famous for being the home of artist Jan (correctly pronounced Yahn) Vermeer.

Rotterdam is essentially a modern city, as it was very badly bombed and mostly destroyed during World War II, specifically on May 14, 1940. After the war they decided to start over rather than try to reproduce all the antique buildings that had been destroyed. That seems like a really smart decision because it helped the city to move on and regain its life. To make the modern architecture more palatable, original designs for buildings were encouraged, and the result is one of the most architecturally interesting cities I've seen. Most of the Dutch look down on Rotterdam because the architecture is so modern. We were fortunate that our program manager, Tineke, is from Rotterdam and loves the city. Because of that we got a much better introduction to the city than most do. The creativity is amazing. The Willems bridge (red) and especially the Erasmus Bridge, also known as the Swan
Bridge (white) are beautiful. I have included a photo of the Unilever building, which is on stilts, straddling an old building. Unilever wanted to tear down the old building, but were required to preserve the antique building (they still want to keep their historic buildings, and the ones they have are gorgeous). Hence the stilts. The one thing I was unable to photograph in Rotterdam was the lighthouse boats. They are boats with a lighthouse on them. I'm not sure whether or not they are still used. After our guide turned us loose we walked around the huge outdoor market, which is an absolutely amazing place, selling just about everything imaginable - plants, cut flowers, produce, meat, cheese, shoes, clothing, underwear, jewelry, sunglasses, antiques, hardware, tools, and even furniture and a washing machine! We were very pleased to learn that Holland America Line has come back to Rotterdam after a very long absence. We would love to be able to return to Rotterdam and see more of it. It is a unique city in Holland, and as nice as any of the others, despite being a newer city. While the old architecture is creative, it is of a pretty much cohesive, very recognizable style. In Rotterdam the creativity seems to be much greater; the architects ran with the opportunity to be free from the restrictions of tradition.

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