We just spent the weekend in Rotterdam - pictures to follow. For weeks all and sundry who were aware of our destination, which I chose to go to with some passion to celebrate my 31st birthday on the basis that passing through Rotterdam on our way to and from Amsterdam was driving me crazy because I wanted to get out and look at the beautiful modern buildings, warned us we were heading into a grey shithole that everybody hated.
Now it may be because I'm incurably contrarian, but having spent a couple of days there I have to say anybody who doesn't like Rotterdam is a fucking asshole. Rotterdam is fucking awesome, I've never seen anything like it. I could compare it to Dusseldorf or some other German city that got completely wrecked in the last world war and rebuilt in a reasonably interesting and livable way, but Rotterdam leaves them behind: Dusseldorf and similar German cities were rebuilt in a very reconstructive fashion, comparatively, with an eye to recreating past glories and conditions: but in Rotterdam, somehow the clipboards ended up in the hands of people who had decided they would do everything they could to make their City Mark Two very fucking human.
Of course they had the natural advantage of it being a port town full of canals and the river, so it's a very watery town, and that makes for a sort of default pleasure for the eye: I don't know about you but I find it pretty hard to maintain a bad mood when there are lots of boats and pretty diving birds all over the place. And then there's the typically brilliant Dutch organization of circulatory space: bike paths coupling and outnumbering roads, ubiquitous footpaths, roads all nicely arranged to keep the cars out of everybody else's way, and comprehensive public transport that we didn't bother to use because this was very much a walking weekend: outside of meals, drinking, a couple of pitstops at the quick serve windows of coffeeshops, and a long visit to the terrific Van Beuningen gallery, we spent the entire weekend looking around the city at the startling architecture.
Take the cube houses, for instance. The cube houses remind me of Venice or the Guell park in Barcelona because they're something that can't be appreciated until you're in them. When I saw the pictures I thought they were a rather neat if ugly idea, but I wasn't particularly excited to visit them. However, when we ended up there on our Rondje Rotterdam stroll, seeing the way they were arranged, took (or failed to take) up space, and where they were on the Oude Haven (where, when I'm a multi-millionaire, I will definitely be buying a pied a terre) - why, it was just fucking lovely.
And the relative goodness of the food, ready availability of kibbeling, the friendly student/multicultural vibe, the utter lack of American tourists pretending they were being dirty by getting high, and the exciting fact that it only rained for about 1/4 of the time we were circumnavigating the city (the sun actually came out twice) sealed the deal. Fuck, what a great town. I loved it so much that while we were there I actually got my first pangs of panic at the prospect of leaving Europe. I haven't fallen for a city so hard since Barcelona.