Rotterdam welcomed me with free Wi-Fi and doughnuts.
There then followed, in chronological order, the dynamic contours of the Erasmusbrug Bridge, the innovative architecture of the cube-shapes houses of Piet Blom, the elegant cafés. Water, romantic white lights and bicycles. Hipster areas, Islamic areas, mills and mosques. You drink beer and eat ethnic food, you stroll around amidst skyscrapers designed by Renzo Piano and Norman Foster. The disused becomes a museum, hub, gallery, temporary shop or restaurant; a concept known as urban renewal. A nation of architectural genius, Rotterdam is a dynamic and continuously evolving city.
A melting pot of 176 different nationalities, with the ‘native’ Dutch a clear minority and a strong Islamic leaning. Herrings and hummus, veiled women and mixed race couples. A picture that tells the story of a different Europe, in which words such as freedom and happy cohabitation describe a reality that is not only possible but that really exists. Four mosques, amongst which Mevlana, with the tallest minarets in Europe, and entire areas of Middle Eastern residents: in Feyenoord and Oude Westen, the city is full of veils, ethnic restaurants and shops and Arab music.
A city of contrasts that I immediately imagined in black and white, focusing on the subject, the shadows and the direction of the light, to produce an image that is clean and simplistic. One tip: shooting in RAW helps in post production and setting low ISO values reduces noise and creates sharper images.
Moving on from this little piece of the Middle East, I find myself in Witte de Withstraat, THE hipster street of the city. Galleries, design shops, open-air cafés: an unmissable experience.
Shopping time in the famous Lijnbaan Street (shops open 7 days a week) in Beurstraverse; in Hema, a low-cost design megastore, and Groos, a very cool concept department store, ranging from art to cinema, from food and wine to lifestyle products, and absolutely everything made in Rotterdam.
And finally, Delfshaven, the only part of the city to escape the bombing during the Second World War; a little harbour with historical buildings. In this ‘old town’, between the cafés and medieval houses, you find De Pelgrim, the only brewery in the city, and De Distilleerketel, a flour mill that looks over the harbour.
Bridges to photograph: De Hef, the ancient drawbridge that linked Rotterdam to Dordrecht; Erasmusbrug, 800 metres linking the northern and southern parts of the city; Luchtsingel, the yellow, 390 metre bridge that was part of an urban renewal project funded by the city’s residents, whose names appear on every single plank of wood from which it was built.
Your weekend in Rotterdam will probably be accompanied by the usual rain; don’t despair but rather remember to equip yourselves with a waterproof bag, protect your lens with a filter and always carry a cloth for drying off your camera and lenses.
Photography lovers must make sure not to miss the Fotomuseum, considered to be one of the best photography museums in the world. Film lovers, however, should mark the calendar for January, for the International Film Festival,one of the biggest film festivals in Europe.
Rotterdam will give you one of the best food experiences of your life. First stop: Marktal, the largest covered food market in Holland, opened in October. 15 shops, 96 stands selling speciality produce and 8 restaurants, all under a 40 metre gallery with enormous glass walls. From Vietnamese to vegan, from Japanese to Italian, a true food paradise.
The experience continues at Gard Du Nord, an organic vegan restaurant located inside an old train carriage.
Recommendations for lovers of local specialities: go to one of the many restaurants and order a ‘stamppot’ – meat with mashed potato and vegetables – and ‘draadjesvlees’ – an excellent beef stew with cloves and bay leaves. And to end your trip on a sweet note, say goodbye to Rotterdam with a ‘stroopwafel’, a typical biscuit made of two waffles filled with caramel!
My name is Roberta; I was born, live and maybe will stay forever in my beloved Puglia. Journalist and travel blogger, in 2010 I founded www.infoturismiamoci.com, a travel and thought journal characterised by a healthy and pungent dose of irony. Lover of travelling off the beaten track, street food and beaches in winter, I would never miss a Robert Capa exhibition, a trip to the Middle East or Brezsny’s horoscope.