Fun time is over for a while, time to focus on the main reason I headed to Europe this Spring. I spent ten days taking classes in the Netherlands, mainly in Rotterdam, but also Amsterdam, and The Hague.
Rotterdam is a very modern city. Turns out, during WWII, Rotterdam was the first city that was attacked by the Germans. The Netherlands surrendered soon after, sparing the architecture we all know of in Amsterdam, Delft, etc. The unique canal front homes are few and far between in Rotterdam. It is a very modern city, and while most buildings and architecture was beautiful in it’s own right, it was not the most picturesque of the places I visited.
But, boy, was it every bike friendly!! Cars are guests on the road here, bikes are the main mode of transportation, and the cars, as well as pedestrians and public transit vehicles, all give way. It’s like heaven! Everyone rides upright bikes, and I don’t think I saw one helmet. I guess when you don’t need to worry about being run down by a distracted speeding driver, too busy texting to notice you as he side swipes you, you can ride safely, helmet free! Imagine that!
We studied at University of Erasmus for ten days, with some side trips to The Hague, Delft, Amsterdam.
The University is near the center of Rotterdam, and we took the metro each day. The Metro in The Netherlands is easy, fast, and clean. You are issued a Chipkart, which you load money on, and use it when you get on and off the trains, metros, trams or buses.
During one day off from classes, a few classmates and I headed to Delft. It was a quick train ride away, and was a charming and quiet little town. It had the charming canals and beautiful buildings, without the noise and crowds of Amsterdam. It may have been my favorite city in The Netherlands, though it was small.
After a few more days of classes, we spent a day in Antwerp, Belgium. It was not as charming as Brugges, but was smaller than Brussels, and was a great place to spend a day. Mainly because there is, of course, a brewery to tour!
The last few days of classes were in Amsterdam. It was as bike friendly as Rotterdam and the other Netherlands towns we’d visited, but it was very crowded. The red light district is something to walk through, see, check the box, and get away from. It’s seedy and depressing, and you do it only to say you did it since you were there. You can’t really take photos of anything in the district, which I suppose is one way of the girls maintaining their self-respect.
On my last morning in Amsterdam, I lucked out and was able to get a ticket to the Anne Frank House. It was fascinating and disturbing and sad, and it haunted me for days after my visit. As I left, I realized that this beautiful view, outside the front door of the house where she hid, was one she never got to see or enjoy.