Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rotterdam's story

Every city has a history, and a story to tell. We’d like to give everyone a brief snapshot of the new city we will call our home for the next few years.

Rotterdam is located in the Dutch province of South Holland, and is the second largest city in the Netherlands. The port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world, next to Shanghai. There is a healthy competition with the largest city, Amsterdam, which is often viewed as the cultural capital of the Netherlands. The self-image of the city is that of a no-nonsense, hard working city, and in that sense it is very similar to Pittsburgh.

The south side of the Mass river in Rotterdam, always busy with ships.
Hotel New York is the short building in the back with the two round green tops.
This is the hotel where immigrants stayed before boarding the Holland-America ship to go to Ellis Island.

Rotterdam is well known for its modern & eccentric architecture, such as the Kubuswoningen (cube houses), and the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge). The Euromast is another popular tourist attraction, as well as being one of the tallest structures in the Netherlands. With the city being built mostly behind dikes, large parts of the Rotterdam are below sea level. The lowest point in the Netherlands is located just to the east of Rotterdam, in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, at 6.76 meters (22 ft) below.

The course of Rotterdam's history was forever changed in 1940 during WWII. This snippet from Wikipedia gives a good summary of the impact of the German bombing of Rotterdam during WWII:

“During World War II, the German army invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. Adolf Hitler had hoped to conquer the country in just one day, but his forces met unexpectedly fierce resistance. The Dutch army was finally forced to capitulate on 14 May 1940, following Hitler's bombing Rotterdam and threatening to bomb other Dutch cities. The heart of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe (air force); 800 civilians were killed and 80,000 made homeless. The City Hall survived the bombing. Ossip Zadkine later strikingly captured the event with his statue ‘Stad zonder hart’ (‘City without a heaAdd Imagert’).
Rotterdam was gradually rebuilt from the 1950s through the 1970s. It remained quite windy and open until the city councils from the 1980s on began developing an active architectural policy. Daring and new styles of apartments, office buildings and recreation facilities resulted in a more 'livable' city center with a new skyline.”

Rotterdam before and after the bombing & subsequent fires

If you have had the chance to visit Rotterdam, you will notice that it appears more modern, and not as “Dutch” as other cities in Holland, and the above is why. Now, each year on May 14, the anniversary of the Rotterdam Blitz, the city shines light into the sky to mark the boundary of the bombed and burned area of the city.


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