NL: Rotterdam, South Holland

Rotterdam is the second city of the Netherlands. In size and population, the city is second only to Amsterdam.  Although Rotterdam is far less famous and touristic than the afore mentioned first city, Rotterdam has its own unassuming charm,

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Rotterdam is a business hub for Europe. For the better part of history, Rotterdam was home to the world’s largest port (Shanghai only just snagged this title from Rotterdam). The port of Rotterdam is still Europes most major port. Today the vast majority of all European imports and exports go through the Rotterdam Port. The cities port also does a fair amount of inland transport. Where smaller vessels ship goods through the riverways of Europe. Thanks to simple shipping access, Rotterdam is nicely positioned as a hub for business, especially consumer product companies.  The city is home to Unilever, Shell, AlbertHeijn, and more. With vibrant corporate characters and employers, Rotterdam is also home to some of Europe’s (and The Netherland’s) leading universities.

On first look, Rotterdam is the complete opposite of Amsterdam. The city is oddly modern and almost North American looking with it’s “Euromast tower,” skyscrapers, and modern architecture. Inspect the city a little closer, and you’ll find clues of an older city hiding under and along the sides of Rotterdam.

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Historically, Rotterdam was built in the same fashion as Amsterdam. Rotterdam had its city canals and waterways. In 1943 the city was attacked by the axle forces. For the Nazi troops, Rotterdam was an important city to control because of the port.

On May 14th, 1943 the city was devastated by an air raid. Over 80,000 people became homeless in one day, and more than 1800 people lost their lives. The city burned for six days straight. On the 7th day, the Dutch surrendered. The country could not afford another attack. Ghosts of the air raid, linger throughout the city. The fire line encompassed the majority of the downtown area. Some of the buildings that survived are forever charred, others stand alone, and few were rebuilt as monuments  Today the area affected by the bombing is marked by the “fire line” which illuminates the city nightly.

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The rebuilding Rotterdam was done quickly. After the war, the rubble of the attack was pushed into the canals and paved over to become roads. New apartment buildings went up quickly to provide shelter for the 80,000 in need. Today, the city’s architecture is a mix of an old world classic, modern inventiveness, and war time temporary builds. Reminders of the horrific May day live on in Rotterdam through somber and beautiful war memorials and sculptures.

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Beautiful Rotterdam is, not in the old world charm of Amsterdam, but in the resilient and eclectic charm. Tourists don’t flock to Rotterdam, but locals favor the city.  Personally, I prefer Rotterdam to Amsterdam. I like the chill “anti-touristic” vibe of the city, the boutique shopping, the food, and even the feel of North American sprawl. I like the independent and real Rotterdam pride I felt in the city.  The city is worth checking out.

When in Rotterdam, the following are MUSTS: 

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