A Trip into the Past

Rotterdam—weekend 2: A Trip into the Past

Early in the morning boarded a train to Rotterdam.. about a 55 minute ride.
Bjorn Boek, one of the global HR team members I work with and who works here with me in Amstelveen had invited me for the weekend to Rotterdam where he lives. He was an amazing tour guide!!!!

Guide Extraordinaire Bjorn Boek

Guide Extraordinaire Bjorn Boek


Rotterdam is the second largest city in Holland and one of the largest ports in the world. It is now second only Shangai, which surpassed it in2004.
Rotterdam too has its roots long ago.. 1270 and like Amsterdam started as a dam on the Rotte River.. it is strategically located as it is at the heart of a massive rail, road, air and inland waterway distribution system…so it’s known as the ‘Gateway to Europe’
So it seemed only right that the first stop was the old harbor…beautiful as you can see from the following pictures.
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Again you can see it was a great clear sunny crisp day.
We even found an original windmill in the old harbor.
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..it is still a working mill processing grain for a boutique store in the windmill that sells unique grains. It was a very windy day and the windmill was in operation. As we could climb all the way to the top I got a bird’s eye view of the strength of the windmills sails. The miller was in residence and we saw how he adjusted the sailclothes, taking in part of the cloth to reduce the speed at which the windmill was circling. Good thing, I thought the windmill was going to take off or shake loose while we were there.. windpower is incredibly powerful.
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Only a small portion of the original old harbor is left today. This mirrors the res of the city. In the second world war Hitler bombed Rotterdam and destroyed the heart of the city. 80,000 people were left homeless. The city hall pictured here was one of the few buildings that survived. Devastating to the people of Rotterdam, the people of Holland gradually rebuilt their city from the 1950s through the 1970s. Interestingly, my father’s construction firm was one of those given the opportunity to rebuild some of the housing communities. The city has an active architectural policy. Daring and new styles of apartments, office buildings , bridges resulted in a very architecturally interesting city. It is very apparent how young the city is.. the old style buildings are very few, interesting modern day architecture meets your eye in most cases..quite different as a result from the feeling of Amsterdam.

Spectacular modern bridge

Spectacular modern bridge

Bjorn planned a day that had us see the city from land and water. We traveled in a high speed water taxi through the harbor to the New York restaurant.. this restaurant is located in the old Holland America Line building. It is from this building that I would have left Holland as a child to immigrate to America. In the harbor is also the original Rotterdam. As part of our family memorabilia we have menu cards from this ship ..i had thought that we had crossed on this liner.. but it actually was not commissioned until a few years after we immigrated..so it turns out my uncle sailed on this luxury liner and we had traveled on the Amsterdam. Immigrants didn’t typically sail to New York on a luxury liner, they crossed in immigrant boats and arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax.

now the New York Restaurant

now the New York Restaurant

Interestingly my family the recipients of an ‘upgrade’, were bumped up to the luxury liner and we crossed in style sailing into New York harbor an early morning in May in the late 50’s . My earliest memories are from that crossing. So of course I wanted to tour the Rotterdam. In a theatre on the boat( very similar to the theatre I had seen my first ever movie …a Peter Gunn flick …the sound still plays in my mind) I saw a short film of the Rotterdam’s first crossing. It all looked so familiar the clothes of the late fifties, the ‘afschijd nehming’ (saying goodbye to family you thought never to see again —remember this is long before the air travel for the average man or woman), the amazing luxury life on board and the emotional entry into New York harbor sailing to the Statue of Liberty . All of this depicted in the short film.. I was quite overwhelmed by all the memories that flooded back. The ship was available to explore and with audio tour in hand we spent a good hour or more exploring the boat and seeing this week of my childhood that was so extraordinary through my adult eyes.. it was still remarkable!!!!!

the Rotterdam

the Rotterdam

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evoking memories

evoking memories

What a day of new adventures and stirring old memories!!!!

5 comments
  1. Sonia Larin said:

    Geri
    Its so great for your to be able to go back to your roots and remember some details! I figure you are on another contract in Holland this time. What a great way to be retired! Do interesting things in beautiful cities, and on top, your country! Continue to intertain us with your comments and pictures. Cheers!

  2. Lee-Ann said:

    Can’t imagine what it must have felt like to have all those memories almost come to life during your tour – not often do you get a chance to tangibly experience things from your history – great share Geri! Keep them coming! Looks like you couldn’t have picked a better guide.

  3. John Markvoort said:

    Great pics sis and nice to see you have settled in. For years I have been looking for postcards of the “MAARSDAM” from the Holland American line ( you can find old postcards at the flea markets) believing that was the ship we crossed on. Are you sure it was the Amsterdam?

  4. Garet said:

    Wow Geri! What an amazing day. So cool that you were able to relive all these memories. And what gorgeous photos of a glorious city on a glorious day.

  5. matteo said:

    difficile trovare persone competenti su questo argomento, ma sembra che voi sappiate di cosa state parlando! Grazie

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