My upstairs neighbor plays field hockey for the Dutch U-21 National Field Hockey team. They took on England today in a friendly match. The Dutch won handily 5-1 or so. My friends Brooke and Cat who played Field Hockey for Bowdoin would have loved to watch the game, I think. The pace of play was very fast and all those guys were super talented. It was impressive to watch.
This was game two of a three game series. Unfortunately, the USA women’s national team was attending on Wednesday. I missed a big chance for the second installment of Duo’s global. I’m super bummed about it. I also would have liked to meet some of the US players. I rode my bike out to the stadium and got nice and lost as usual.
Watching the game gave me a big urge to look up the Rotterdam Rugby Club and go out and run around with those guys.
Yesterday I went to the Netherlands’ Architecture Institute; it’s based here in Rotterdam. (Aside–I just had my first sip ever of licht sprankelend natuurlijk mineraalwater light sparkled water…so good!). The design of the architecture building is very elegant and quite relevant to the Dutch condition. The structure is surrounded by water, the entrance is on a small causeway. The water enhances the building’s beauty. There are large floor to ceiling windows that nicely frame the agua outside. The institute had a peaceful cafe on a patio by the water but I passed grabbing a coffee there…a little out of my budget. The exhibit was called ‘ruin.’ A ruin is more than a pile of stones scattered on the ground. A ruin is a symbol that everything will be erased by time, it refers not only to an inescapable past, but also to an equally ineluctable future. Good food for thought.
After I went to the Boijmans van Beuningen museum and saw some Dutch art.
Lewis and Clarke reached the Pacific, believe it or not! For a day there I didn’t think they’d make it over the Rockies.
Right now I’m sitting down to watch Bayurn Munich in their season opener.
The Dutch have a saying, “God made the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands.” I’m not so sure about the first part, but I’m definitely becoming convinced about the second.
Today I went to Kinderdijk, a small town fifteen miles Southeast of Rotterdam. It sits at the apex of where the Noord and the Lek rivers combine into the Maas. Kinderdijk is a polder, a piece of low-lying land that has been reclaimed from the rivers. There are 19 windmills there that were historically used to pump water out of the man-made basin. The Dutch use the reclaimed land to grow crops, graze livestock, and build the homes. They created a village below water level. In present day, the windmills have been replaced by an electric-powered pumping station. Nevertheless, the site tells a history lesson. The windmills sit in the same foundations as when they were built in 1740. The site highlights how long the Dutch have manipulated the landscape for their well-being and livelihood.
It’s kind of hard to tell, but if you look closely you can see that the water level to the left of the path is higher than the fields that the cows are grazing on to the right. The path is on a dike, a man-made wall to contain the water at a higher elevation.
One thing I observed biking around today is that the Dutch take advantage of the abundance of water. Rather than building gates for horses, sheep, or cattle, they build canals in order to contain the animals. If the water is there, embrace it.
The bike ride out to Kinderdijk was the best part of the day. It was about 10-12 miles, but each way took me over an hour…I got pretty lost. Riding on the Dutch bike highways is kind of like riding the East Australian Current. (Refresher). Everyone is vibe-ing and having a good time. For one stretch of the bike path I didn’t see a car for about 6 miles. It was pretty incredible.
I knew that there was a ferry that could take me over to Kinderdijk so my goal was to follow the river. This was harder than I had planned. Because of the dikes built up along the banks to prevent the water from flooding inland, I couldn’t see the river at all. I made my best guesses. I’d overshoot, find a map, try again, get lost in an industrial park, find a map, and try again. And so on. No asking for directions though, obviously.
The way back was a lot worse. I knew I was in trouble when all the major road signs start saying Utrecht and Amsterdam instead of Rotterdam. I tried my best but the Dutch road signs were really throwing me through some loops. I am home safe. The best part of my meandering home was that I happened to pass an art store, one of the most impressive I have ever been to. It was a maze of tiny corridors and small rooms with materials from floor to ceiling. I took the advantage of this fortuitous circumstance and picked up some acrylic paints (so they dry quickly), brushes, canvas paper, and two wood boards to paint on. We’ll see if I can make anything happen in the next couple days.
Great day in the Netherlands.
Woke up and ran around the entirety of central Rotterdam, about 4 miles. I found some spots I liked and returned to draw them. See above and below.
This evening I decided to take a trip up the Euromast, the second tallest building in the Netherlands…it’s only marginally taller than the tower on Bowdoin’s campus in Brunswick. Scaling the Euromast was probably the most dangerous thing I’ve done on this trip so far. You take an elevator up to about 400 feet, then you hop in a little launch pad called the Euro sling…huh? That sounded like an offer to be tossed off the side of the building, so I hopped on in.
The sling was a rotating chamber that takes you up another 200 feet. As it reaches the top it jerks around and drops into its landing place, but the whole process feels remarkably unstable. I’m pretty sure I felt free-fall. The trip turned out to be totally worth it. I went as the sun was setting at 9:30 and got some great shots. The industrial smoke stacks, cranes, and docks extended as far as the eye could see. It was quite a sight to see.
Time to make some mac n’cheese, meet up with my buddies Lewis and Clark while they rumble with some Grizzly Bears in the Rockies, then hit the sack. I’m getting up early tomorrow to help Berend and his older sister set up this film festival. They rented out an old train station downtown and are setting the festival up on the rooftop. Should be a great opportunity to meet some hipster Nedelandahs!
I stick out like a sore thumb around the Netherlands because I wear shorts that cut off above my knees rather than capris. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
I just got back from a marketplace across the River from here. It was only a 5 minute bike ride away. I’m so happy that I got a bike right off the bat. Its a great way to get around and see the city, but as an added bonus you get exercise, enjoy the sun on your face, and the wind through your hair. The marketplace was very crowded, filled with locals gabbing off in dutch. I would lurk behind the crowds waiting to see how much other people were paying because I knew once I stumbled up to a counter and started pointing and muttering they would rip me off.
Some words like ‘euro’ and ‘one’ sound the same in dutch as they do in english. So when a vendor held up a bag of 5 avocados and said ‘one euro,’ I started panting from excitement. Avocados are one of my favorite things. 5 for 1. In the words of 21st century pop/hip-hop superstars, LMFAO: Yes! The guys I’m living with told me that if you show up at 3:30-4, the vendors try to get everything sold so you can find get crazy good deals. For 5.50 euros, I got 8 limes, 15 tomatoes, 5 avocados, some olives, and cheese…either feta or mozzarella. Won’t know until I try it. The living situation in Rotterdam turned out better than I could have ever imagined.
This morning I went on a boat ride through the port. I was on a boat for 3 hours, moving swiftly throughout the nooks and crannies of the harbor, but I think I only saw a tiny fraction of it. The port is expansive! It stretches for about 15 miles from center of Rotterdam all the way to the coast. It was very cool to see how it was organized, there were areas for oil refinement, shipping and moving cargo, recycling and sorting materials, then massive areas for construction and repair of cargo ships…just to name a few things. The scale of everything is sublime. The freighters, lifts, cranes, and elevators towered hundreds of feet above me. The equipment around the dockyards dwarfs 50 foot sailboats. It was certainly a treat to be able to see the biggest port in Europe.
Right now they are building an addition onto the port, extending the coastline of the Netherlands. They are pumping 240 million cubic meters of sand into the area in order to build the addition to the port. Because of its location directly on the North Sea, Rotterdam is one of the few European ports where the largest ocean-going vessels can safely and swiftly load and unload 24 hours a day. Every year, an average of some 35,000 ocean-going vessels and 135,000 inland vessels visit the port. There is a six hour boat tour out to see it and back. I’ll likely go check it out next week.
Further up the River Maas is the Maeslant Barrier, one of the most recent projects of the Deltaworks, a series of dams and barriers created to protect Southwest Netherlands. I didn’t get nearly that far down the river, but I’m going to ride my bike out there next week. I think the ride will take about 2 hours, roughly the same amount of time traveling by public transportation, but it is far more direct.
Most of the Deltaworks are in Zeeland, the province to the South of Rotterdam. In a week or two I think I’m going to head down there for a couple days and try to see as much as possible on bike.
Here is some recent ish from the sketch book. Feeling a feeling to start painting soon. Stay classy San Diego.
I’m reading Undaunted Courage, a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition by Steven Ambrose. Lewis and Clark were bosses. They left the comfort of the colonies in the northeast and just set off with 30 men into uncharted and unknown lands on a quest to find the Pacific. They moved about 5 to 10 miles a day on this big keelboat that they either rowed, sailed, or pushed along rivers towards the rockies. I just read about their first encounter with the Sioux tribe in the plains of the Dakotas. Both parties were proud and egotistical. At one point the whole expedition almost self destructed. Guns were pointed at indian chiefs and arrows were directed right at Lewis and Clark. Thankfully, for the west coast of the U.S., the issues were resolved and Lewis and Clark didn’t get an arrow through the head.
Its a fun book to read on this adventure. But I’m sure glad nothings escalated to a scenario similar to what I just described.
Train travel is (mad lib your favorite enthusiastically positive adjective here) On the Eurostar from London, I paid for a cheap seat so didn’t have a window…The train ride from Brussels to Rotterdam was top-notch. Beautiful sunny day. See it to believe it.
Brussels was tight. I got in at the south station, hiked 3 or 4 miles to the hostel. Walking is a great way to get the feeling of a place pretty quickly. I just walked in the direction I thought the hostel might be after scanning the city on google maps and things. I felt very very triumphant once I stumbled upon the place I was staying. I met some really cool people at the hostel. James, an Auzzie bloke, convinced me that Australians are some of the most chilled out people in the world. He was my bunk-mate. He came to Belgium for Tomorrowland, a huge music festival and is spending a month and a half bumming around Europe then going to visit his Swedish girlfriend. C’est la vie. I also hung out with a pilot/journalist from Honolulu and then some more Americans, one from L.A. and one from Miami at a bar that served over 2000 beers. Extremely hard to choose. Especially when you can’t read Gernch (German/French). Brussels is a really cool town. I only had 24 hours there. The Grand Place, central square, is stunning. I stayed in the old part of town with tiny cobble-stone alleyways and crazy gothic architecture that probably hasn’t changed at all in 400 years. Here are some shots:
Here’s my view from where I’m sitting right now.
I made it to Rotterdam. I’m living on an island in a city. The apartment faces a large canal with barges constantly taxi-ing stuff by. I met two of the roommates, Berand and Tristan. They are 21 year old students at Erasmus University. They gave me the rundown about the markets, grocery stores, etc. and told me a little bit about the city. They were both born and raised here and love it. Tristan plays U-21 field hockey for the Netherlands national team. There is another guy on the 3rd floor of this building that plays for a local rugby team so I might go out and train with them a few times when I’m here. It stays light until 10pm. Amazing. Tristan took me to the grocery store then we all settled down to play some Fifa, just like the homies back at Bowdoin. James “The don” Rohman and Carney are definitely better than these guys, though.
This island and this country gives me the good vibes, mon.
The girl I replaced was apparently a real looker from Mexico. I apologized to the guys that I wasn’t a more attractive female, but will try my hardest to look pretty. I have a really nice room with big windows, a desk, armchair, double bed. Can. not. complain. All of this is for less than half the price of staying in hostels!!
Still got a long way to go. But I’m feeling like I can do this for a while. Looking forward to settling into the Netherlands for a couple months. Tomorrow’s mission: get a bike.