As an introvert, I’m not really interested in making small talk, but when you find yourself in a foreign country it becomes a bit of a necessity. I was in Holland for two weeks, and decided to visit Rotterdam for a day. I think a day is enough for the city, but that depends on when you’re going. I was there in the summer, which means that it only gets dark at 11pm. The days are really long, and the shops stay open late, so one day in the summer is perfect for Rotterdam.
Rotterdam is a “new” city. It was completely rebuilt from scratch after it got bombed during the second world war. Personally I prefer older cities like Amsterdam, but Rotterdam does have something for everyone.
Getting to Rotterdam
First things first, how do you get to Rotterdam? I used various ways, train, bus, waterbus, and my favourite was by far the waterbus. The Netherlands has a lot of rivers and waterways, and it is truly the best way to see the luscious green country. The waterbus runs between Rotterdam Erasmusbrug, Dordrecht Merwekade and Kinderdijk. I got on at Alblasserdam, about 40mins away from Rotterdam Erasmusbrug. The waterbus is the best way to arrive in Rotterdam, you pass underneath various landmarks like the Erasmusbrug, and you get to see the way the waterways and harbour functions. Now, the best way to pay for this is to get yourself an anonymous OV-chip card. This card pays for trains, trams, busses and the waterbus. You can get this plastic card at any supermarket (try Albert Heijn) or at any transport company. You have to preload money onto the card, I put 40 euro on mine and managed just fine for the whole two weeks.
Arriving from the waterbus puts you directly underneath the Erasmusbrug, the second largest bridge in The Netherlands. It is a beautiful sight of the bridge connecting North and South Rotterdam. If it’s raining, which it was, you want to run to the nearest Metro (or underground) station. It’s easy to follow the locals, I just trailed along behind them since they usually know where they’re going. The Metro is the easiest way to get around, but can be tricky. My native tongue is Afrikaans, which means that I can understand Dutch, but it was hard for me. Although, public transport is not common in South Africa either, so that made understanding the Metro and tram system harder. That’s why I like to establish a central point, somewhere that’s easy to get to and to communicate. Mine was Central Station, all Metro’s go there, all trams go there and everyone knows where it is. I took the Metro to Central Station, and once I was there I felt a little more comfortable. There’s a large tourist information centre in the middle of the station, go buy yourself a map of the city for 1 euro and ask which trams and metros to take to get to the places you want to see.
Places to see
The first place I visited was the Euromast, the tallest building in Rotterdam. At 185 meters, it’s the place to get the best view of Rotterdam. It costs about 10 euro to go up to the viewing deck and the space tower and it is definitely worth it. You can take your time, take awesome selfies (remember to pack a selfie stick to avoid having to ask someone to take a photo for you), and then go up in the space tower. The space tower is made of glass and takes you to the very top of the Euromast, offering a 360 degree view of Rotterdam. I highly recommend this, especially if it’s a nice sunny day. It’s something you can do entirely on your own, and you can sit on top of the world and let your thoughts run with you. Also, remember to buy a souvenir in the gift shop (I collect shot glasses, so I bought myself one there).
After the Euromast I made my way back to Central Station. If you’re on a budget, I recommend not buying anything to eat, as it can be ridiculously expensive. Find an Albert Heijn, buy some buns and cheese (Dutch cheese is the most perfect thing ever) and make yourself a sandwich. It’ll save you money to spend on other tourist-y things.
Back at Central Station I walked to Miniworld, which is right around the corner from Central Station. Technically Miniworld is for little kids, but it is the coolest place. Miniworld is a large miniature version of Rotterdam, showing how the city was built and showing other parts of Holland. The detail put into the creation of the miniworld is insane! The cars and trains move, the lights go on and off, mini helicopters fly around and the whole room alternates between night and day. And the best part: you can become a citizen of miniworld! They make you a mini figurine which they put on the model, and you get a passport. If that does not appeal to your inner child then I don’t know what will. It was a bit expensive for me, 11 euros, but you can decide whether or not you want to go. It’s fun for introverts, especially those with large imaginations. Once again it’s away from large crowds and you can take your time to wander around. They are opening a Great Britain exhibit late 2016, something I would want to see.
Now we get to the best part of my Rotterdam Adventure. I am an introvert, and making small talk with new people is really low on my list of things I like doing, which is why I prefer it if people approach me first, not the other way around. I have a trick for this one, and it’s a really silly, simple trick. I wear funny t-shirts. I wear t-shirts with slogans on, and more importantly, I wear t-shirts from my home country. On this day, I was wearing one of my university t-shirts, and it worked it’s magic. A local stopped me as I was just wandering around and said that she was from South Africa as well, now living in The Netherlands. That’s the best part of travelling, is meeting people from your home. It made me feel instantly at home in Rotterdam, and I didn’t have to initiate the conversation. So wear crazy shirts, or hats, or whatever you want. It works for me.
Markthal and the Cubes
The last part of my day was spent shopping, and wandering down the street directly in front of Central Station. There are a lot of shops down that street, the name escapes me, but you’ll know it when you see it. What is also down that street is the Markthal, for those of you interested in the culinary arts. I just walked through, but there are 96 different food stalls inside of one giant hall. It’s called ‘the world under one roof’, offering food from all over. My mouth was watering just from walking through. It’s definitely worth the visit. Across from the Markthal is the yellow Cube houses, an interesting architecture feature. The cubes sit tilted on a hexagonal pole. They are made up of concrete floors, concrete pillars and yellow wooden framing, and people actually live inside these houses. It looks really uncomfortable, but whatever floats your boat. It’s not open to the public, but you can stand underneath and take pictures.
Things I missed
The Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, a Protestant church in Rotterdam. It is the only remnant of the pre-war Rotterdam. It was closed to the public when I was there, but I love old churches and would have wanted to see the inside.
There you go, my Rotterdam experience. Enjoy!