We’ve just toured around Rotterdam and I feel really, really, really compelled to write this, as we sit in a bar, prior to going and meeting some of Elise ’s friends nearby.
To begin, we hopped on a high speed train to Rotterdam, which we then had to pay an extra 10 euros each for the privilege. A bit of a rip off.
But that kind of defines my feelings about Rotterdam in general. It’s kind of a city that was built in something of a rush to repair itself after the war, and yet is now in an awkward position of having rushed so hard, only to turn around and realise the end was not the goal.
It feels in this town very empty, and filled with artifice - the concrete buildings (which will probably be torn down in 100 years thanks to concrete cancer) are a gesture at being cool, instead of being confident enough to just be cool.
Perhaps the best example of this is that in the pub we’re currently at, they don’t even serve Rotterdam beer! It’s kind of the Fosters of the city - it tastes like shit, they only export and no one local drinks it.
But another example of this was when I went to take a photo of the city a cyclist called out “Mooi he?” which Elise translated to me as, “Beautiful yeah?” I kind of didn’t agree at all, and that the purpose of my photo was to capture the city for myself, as a mechanism to better articulate my genuine intuitive rejection of the place.
Unlike my arrival in both Maastricht and Amsterdam, where I had an inexplicable joy for being in such a cool place, where the atmosphere was tangible, Rotterdam didn’t have that going for it. (To be fair, we were in Amsterdam on a Friday afternoon, and Maastricht around Carnivale, whereas it’s Monday afternoon now) but I can’t help feel as if this place is so akin to Perth, yet in a more complete state. It’s as if they’ve finished it and now are done.
The purpose of all my writing is to help me articulate what and how I’m feeling about this city, and granted it is difficult to feel something about a city in an afternoon, it’s just so damn up in my face, it’s as if my intuition is screaming at the top of my lungs.
Perhaps its because to me, modern architecture is so damn prolific and homogenised and all over the freaking globe, that the old stuff is getting destroyed at an alarming rate to make way for the new. But it feels like there’s a genuine vibe that the traditionally considered greatest cities of the world like, New York, Paris, London and Amsterdam have that they were built out as they went, and have a vibe that evolved, over a prolonged period of time, which changes as tastes, economies and histories did, and so have this strange hangover - characteristics that make them amazing to passerbys.
Whereas on the other hand, thanks to mankind’s current ability to make sweeping change so quickly, there feels as if there is little time for rest, reflection and adjustment. If you sign off on the plans for a city, it is built so quickly that you don’t have a hell of a lot of time to test it before you’re stuck with it.
And that brings it’s own problems.
Whilst I am a fan of modernism - my affinities for Apple and Ikea testify to this, I do wonder where certain elements of inspiration will come from when everything unifies at the rate it currently does.
Walking along speaking with Elise, who may be rather frustrated by my vocalised opinions of the place, lead me to another epiphany that perhaps the reason so many of these cities have evolved as they have is because architects and urban planners were originally inspired by the great cities, yet when they built them, the vibe was off - and so in the progression of their ability to provide a result close to their tender, they iterated. Similar to the wedding industrial complex, they realised that they could deliver on the look of place; but a feeling needed to generate organically, and so they more or less ignored it.
Before I wrap up, I do feel the need to recognise that Rotterdam was levelled during WWII and so the people felt that instead of rebuilding, they’d approach their city as a clean slate. So what we’ve got now is something of a healing process - the people at the time, felt like they were achieving something positive and fulfilling.
Perhaps it’s serves as yet another reminder of the cost of war.
For the beautiful artefacts and artworks we’ve been so lucky to see and experience (thanks to technological progress, which I grant has it’s definite advantages - what can I say, it’s a paradox) on this trip have been so hugely inspired by nature, it seems difficult to distance them from the artworks themselves.
Perhaps I just question the effect this will have on people in the future.
I’m going to drink the rest of my not-from-Rotterdam beer now.
And get off my lawn!