After three pretty intense days, we decided to take it easy today. The Camino is divided into stages that are fairly arbitrary; a stage is mostly defined as the section between two cities that have “official” peregrino albergues. Most stages can be managed in one day if you’re planning to hike a full day, but sometimes there are small towns or places along the way that can enable you to shorten your day’s journey.
It was bound to happen at some point during the hike: total meltdown.
All the PMA that I had channeled on the previous days wasn’t going to get me anywhere today. Not meditation, not smiling, not listening to the wind flowing through the branches or the birds singing in the trees. Uh-uh. None of it was working.
While based in Rotterdam in August, we spent a day sightseeing at The Hague. Neither of us was exactly sure what The Hague actually was. We both thought it was some sort of nebulous international entity, but as it turns out it is actually a pretty large city in northern Holland.
At the end of World War II, Rotterdam, like many European cities, was in ruins. But the city rebuilt itself admirably and now prides itself on its cutting-edge architecture.
One example of unique Rotterdam architecture is the Kubuswoningen, or Cube Houses (also called Tree Houses). Built by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1980s, they’re meant to represent a village of trees. There are 38 of these “tree” houses, each in the shape of a cube. Three sides of the cube are facing up, and three are facing down. Each house contains three floors (not including the ground-floor entrance). The first floor has a kitchen and living room; the second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom; and there’s an open space on the third floor that can be used for an office or another bedroom. The walls and windows are at a 54.7 degree angle. Each structure has around 1000 square feet of space, but about 25% of that can’t be used because of the angled walls and ceilings.
Delfshaven, a borough of Rotterdam, survived the Rotterdam Blitz in 1940, leaving its centuries-old buildings intact.
This charming neighborhood was once an independent town before being annexed by Rotterdam in the 19th century. It is laced with canals and was wonderful to stroll through on a rainy afternoon. Here are a few pictures:
Rotterdam is known for its modern art, and you’ll find examples throughout the city.
Some of the works, such as the sculpture Sylvette, by Pablo Picasso, are considered masterpieces. This piece is one of many portraits that Picasso made in 1954 of Sylvette David, a 19-year-old French woman who caught Picasso’s eye in part because she wore her hair in a ponytail (which can be seen in this sculpture).
“Most Americans go to Amsterdam. Why are you visiting Rotterdam?”
This question was posed to Dale and I by a nice young man, a native Rotterdammer sitting next to us on the train from London, and he had a valid point. If you had asked us a few weeks ago what we knew about Rotterdam, we would have said, “Not much.”
I couldn’t have told you what country it was in or where it was located on a map or what things it’s known for. Based on the sound of its name, I guessed that it might be in Germany, or maybe in one of the Nordic countries. I never would have gotten the Netherlands correct because, sadly, I didn’t know much about the Netherlands either.
Dale and I were kids when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, and it captivated us both. Exotic locales, tomb raiding, lost treasure, mummies—who wouldn’t want to be Indiana Jones? Archeology became a childhood dream for both of us.
So when we visited the British Museum, with its eight million relics, we were like kids in a candy store. The museum’s collection is the most comprehensive of its kind anywhere in the world, with endless artifacts related to world history, culture, and art. It possesses some of the most historically and culturally significant artifacts ever, including the Rosetta Stone and a large portion of surviving artwork from the Parthenon. For these reasons, it is one of the most popular museums in the world.