Day trips (A tale of clouds)

One day, we visited Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. We took a double-decker train (all trains here are double-decker):

Rotterdam is one of the largest ports in Europe. Much of it was destroyed during WWII, so there is not many historical buildings left, at least in the centre where we were. Instead, it was rebuilt with a range of modern buildings. It has become well known for some interesting architecture, which we walked around to see. We got out at Blaak Train Station. Near the station is a famous set of apartments called “The Overblaak development”. It was built between 1978 and 1984 and designed by Piet Blom. The development features a pencil-shaped tower and some apartment buildings which look like balancing cubes. Below are two images of it:

After that, we crossed a long bridge called Willemsbrug, built in 1981. The bridge is coloured red and is quite striking. It leads from the main land to an island called Noorder Eiland:

While crossing the bridge, I was amazed by the layers of clouds seen in the sky. I have tried to capture the look below:

Jeff thinks that the sky here is so big because the country is so flat. He finds it reminiscent of the sky in the Canadian prairies. I think another reason for such a clear sky is that there is much less pollution here than either in Hong Kong or in London.

On Noorder Eiland, we looked at another bridge called Erasmusbrug, which the locals apparently call “The Swan”. I think you can see the resemblance below:

From the island, we also saw the KPN Telecom headquarters. The building is designed to look like it is leaning forward and resting on a giant white column. It was designed by Renzo Piano, whose work we also saw when we visited the Pompidou Centre in Paris:

After this, we returned to Middelburg via Rotterdam Centraal Station. Near the station is the Nationale Nederlanden skyscraper, the tallest building in the Netherlands, although in Hong Kong it would barely be noticed. There was a nice reflection of the sky on the twin buildings. From the below picture you can see how the buildings seem to blend into the background:

Despite its interesting buildings, Rotterdam did not prove to be instantly likeable to us. Perhaps it is the modernity of the city which makes it feel unwelcoming or more like a city anywhere in the world. I wonder if we would have liked it more had we stayed for the evening and enjoyed the city’s famous night life. Considering how much I like going to bars, I think not.

On Saturday, we left Middelburg for Maastricht. We were lucky enough to get a weekend deal, which meant that we could take first class for less than the cost of second class. When the ticket man explained the deal to us, he said, ‘The only thing is you have to take first class.’ as if it was a kind of compromise we had to make. We said, ‘Oh, even better’, which he echoed and then we all laughed.

On the way to Masstricht, we stopped at Breda for a few hours. The town was lovely and elegant. There was a beautiful park between the station and the main market. We walked through the park and had a coffee in the market. From the cafe, we could see this marvellous view of the local Grote Kerk:

More about Masstricht later.


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