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.
Unlike most of Rotterdam, the borough of Delfshaven 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. Historically, it was a busy port (Delfshaven means “Port of Delf”). Its main industries were herring fishing, shipbuilding, and the distilling of gin, and it was also an important location for the East India Company, both as a port and for warehousing goods.
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 us 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’d 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. 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’ve gotten the correct answer because, sadly, I didn’t know much about the Netherlands either.