Wednesday, August 12, 2015


We boarded the water taxi to Rotterdam as it pulled into port a short walk from our apartment on one of the three converging rivers in Dordrecht. We thought the ride would be a scenic river adventure and opted for the hour-long journey instead of the ten-minute train ride.
It became a ride through Holland's second most famous export: ships, second only to tulips. Interesting. We were hoping for windmills. What you see are huge gleaming boxlike buildings large enough to house an oil tanker. It's impressive in its size but not particularly photogenic.
Because of Holland's importance in manufacturing prior to World War II and Rotterdam's industrial prominence Rotterdam specifically became a major target for destruction by the Allies during World War II. Very little of the old city of Rotterdam survived the war but what has now risen in its place is a city architecturally representative of a new world.
This is where the boat part of our trip became visually exciting. As we pulled into Rotterdam the architecture of the new city became a gateway into the twenty-first century where the architects of a new era were laying down a new footprint in the harbor city of Rotterdam.
Holland is a country of waterways and canals. It actually exists at a point below sea level and that is where it has garnered its reputation as a country saved by dykes. You can take that anyway you choose.
We had a planned destination of Binnenrotte Square where we'd find the new market,
Market Hall, designed by the architectural firm MVRDV.
This is where we were to meet up with Rogier, the oldest of the Vermeer children.
The market sits in an open square amongst a collection of new buildings rivaling the Pompidou Center in Paris.
The buildings are as playful as a child's toy box with structures that evoke crayons,
a Lego construction and children's building blocks.
The market is an immense structure in the shape of a horseshoe. The outer shell houses apartments that look both in and out of the market.
Inside the curved ceiling is a huge mural made of four thousand generated tiles printed on steel panels depicting all the varieties of produce and plant life sold at the market.
The monumental scale of this mural makes you feel like an insect scurrying around the underbrush of some huge lush garden.
The market is filled with vendors displaying everything from fresh vegetables,
to sugary sweets,
to Holland's signature cheeses
to ethnic foods from around the world.
Restaurants dot the interior several of which have seating areas that appear to be suspended in mid-air above the market floor. We made our first task after finding Rogier to scout out the market for a place to eat. A walk along the aisles didn't help much in narrowing down the possibilities but soon hunger took over and we decided on Italian.

We were glad we did.
The pastas all came in bowls too big to finish in one sitting and decorated with balsamic, parsley and tomato jelly.
I think the adults could have spent hours after lunch exploring the different stalls and sampling the tastings every vendor seemed prepared to offer. After all, we had a pair of very savvy foodies along for the trip: Rick having apprenticed under Peter Kump and Laura having been a finalist on Holland's version of Top Chef.
Yet with all their knowledge neither one of them could come up with an answer of what exactly this fruit was.

Walking distance from Binnenrotte Square is Rotterdam's art museum, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, housed in a 1930's building that missed the destructive bombing of the Second World War.
It has an impressive collection of Dutch masters and international artists dating from medieval to the present. We browsed through some of the permanent collection on our way to a special exhibit called the
"Design Derby". Each of us was given a booklet and our task was to  wander the maze of displayed items where one side held Dutch design and the other Belgian. Each era you were taken through had a card with an image of the Dutch artifact on one side and the Belgian on the other. Our task was to insert the card in our booklet with the design we preferred face up.
At the end of the maze we were to tally up our score; so many for the Dutch and so many for the Belgians. There were two large screens at the end of the maze, each with a button below them. We were to go to the screen that held the name of the country that received the most face up cards in our booklet and hit that buzzer. The screen then tabulated our score adding another point to our designated design winner. Of course, the Dutch were far ahead.
The last thing on the back page of our booklet was a design competition we could enter where we were asked to design a wearable and environmentally significant shoe. I was the only one from our group who participated. We'll see if I win anything.

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