Wereldhavendagen (World Port Days) in Rotterdam

The first weekend of September the World Port Days were held in Rotterdam. There were LOTS of activities, and it was hard to choose what to do! On Saturday we took a guided tour of “De Rotterdam”, the really cool building with three towers next to the Erasmus bridge in the photo below.

De Rotterdam was designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, and it was built right in the financial crisis – this was possible because Rotterdam municipality was paying a large part, as they would use half of one of the towers as office space. The photo below looks up from between two of the towers.

There are several restaurants and a hotel housed in the building, lots of offices, plus one tower has residential spaces. It’s the largest building in the Netherlands!

The motto of the building is “vertical city” – I can see why! As part of the tour we went up to the 31st floor, to an empty office. The view took my breath away! I could hardly listen to our tour guide anymore, because I just had to keep looking at the view. The photo below shows the new Luxor theatre (bottom left), the floating forest and the floating pavilion (a pilot project for floating architecture, mainly used for conferences).

On the other side there was an amazing view over Noordereiland, an island in the middle of Rotterdam. Such a cool view!

And then of course, the view over the Erasmus Bridge and the Rotterdam city centre. Wow…. You can see lots of activity on the river below, which was part of the World Port Days.

On Sunday I had a friend visiting and we joined an excursion to ECT Delta Terminal – the European Container Terminal at Maasvlakte (an industrial area which was built as a manmade island). Rotterdam is the biggest port in Europe, and ECT is the biggest container operator in Europe, so everything was HUGE. Since it was Sunday, not much was happening though, but it was still impressive seeing trucks and cranes operating without drivers!

Especially for the World Port Days, ECT had made a demonstration area where you could visit cranes and drive in big trucks (well, sit next to an ECT driver). Unfortunately the queue for going on the big cranes was so long that we never made it – I’ll have to come back next year!

Here too there were lots of vehicles driving around by themselves – a bit creepy but cool!

We did go up a smaller crane, and had to wear orange safety gear and a helmet. Everyone says I should get a job in the port of Rotterdam because this looks good on me :D haha…

Back in Rotterdam, we had a look around all the ships moored in the city centre for World Port Days. Here’s a view across the river, with Hotel New York dwarfed between its big neighbours!

I wish I could have joined more excursions or guided tours – it was so much fun! I’m already looking forward to next year :)

Kinderdijk / Trip by Waterbus

Two weeks ago I cycled from Rotterdam to Dordrecht via Kinderdijk. This is a UNESCO heritage site with 19 windmills, and really popular with tourists. On Strava (a cycling app) some sections have names, and the cycle path that goes through Kinderdijk is called “Avoiding Tourists”, haha. I had never been there, so I stopped for some photos…

It was nice weather, with a typical Dutch sky full of puffy clouds :)

Panorama of Kinderdijk…

There’s a small ferry for foot passengers, you can buy tickets for that and for visiting the windmills, but if you just want to see the mills by bike or on foot, it’s free.

In Dordrecht I visited a museum, and then I took the waterbus back to Rotterdam. The trip takes an hour, costs less than 5 euros and bikes are free. Excellent! I really enjoyed the boat trip over the river :)

Especially the last bit when you go through the center of Rotterdam and see all it’s iconic architecture. Below the Unilever building, which was inspired by De Hef, which is the bridge in the foreground. De Hef was a vertical-lift bridge for trains, it’s not in use anymore but it was kept as a landmark. As a bonus, the Erasmus bridge can be seen behind De Hef.

Typical Rotterdam: old and new together in harmony. Old houses on Noordereiland (an island in the middle of the city), the Erasmus bridge (The Swan), and De Rotterdam towering over the old houses.

One last photo before I had to leave the Waterbus. These water taxi’s zoom up and down the river, this one is owned by Hotel New York.

A great day trip!

Sunrise at Veluwezoom National Park

In August I had two weeks of holidays to spend. Having only just moved back to the Netherlands, I was keen to spend more time in my own country :) One of the areas I visited was Velp, and the nearby Posbank. The official name is Veluwezoom National Park, which is actually the oldest national park in the Netherlands (founded in 1930). It’s a hilly area (yes, we do have hills in the Netherlands!) and in August the flowering heather turns the hills into a purple carpet. I had never been there, despite living very close when I studied in Wageningen, I must have been lazy back then ;)

Checking the weather forecast, I found that there would be one misty sunrise while I was there (rain was forecasted for the following days). So, I put my alarm for 05:15, wondering if I would really be crazy enough to get up that early AND cycle up the hill. Spoiler alert: I was :)

Cycling up in the darkness and chill before dawn was something special. There’s nobody around and I saw a lot of wildlife this morning: two wild boars, one with babies (awww…), a few wild horses and deer.

And once I got up there, I did not regret getting up so early. What a magical view!! There was some mist hanging in the valleys and I patiently waited for the sun to rise from behind the hills. There it was…

I thought I might meet a ridiculous amount of photographers, as this is a really popular place to go. But I went to a lower area on the hills that you can only get to by bike (or walking), so I think most photographers were elsewhere and I nearly had the place to myself. So beautiful! This is a panorama shot of the same scene…

Once the sun got up, the colours changed rapidly to deep yellow and oranges…

I walked around a bit, looking for scenic views, but they were everywhere!

I loved the warm sunlight streaming over the hills. At such moments, you can only feel incredibly lucky to be alive and to witness such beauty…

I do understand why this area is so popular with photographers – there are plenty of really pretty lone trees, and the colour of the flowering heather is just spectacular!

When the sun got higher, the mist started to disappear. I followed a small path…

The path brought me further down the hills to a group of trees.

This last photo was taken at 07:30, only 40 minutes after the first one. The light has really changed and it was time for a new day to start – one of the hottest days of the summer actually. I was glad I cycled up in the early morning when temperatures were much more bearable :)

I got back on my bike, and cycled down the hill back to the very nice B&B I was staying in (it was even called “very nice” or Erg Leuk in Dutch), where breakfast was served as soon as I walked in the door – perfect!!

International Fireworks Festival @ Scheveningen

Two weeks ago we went to Scheveningen for the final night of the International Fireworks Festival. It takes places over two weekends, with double shows (from two countries) on Friday and Saturday. These nights are very popular and it gets very crowded, making parking difficult. So we arrived early and enjoyed a walk on the beach. This is the Kurhaus in Scheveningen, a beautiful building that houses a hotel.

We walked on the pier which had nice views over the beach. They have recently added a new attraction, apart from the ferris wheel and the bungy jump tower: a zipline of 60 m high. It was fun watching people zip by at eye level :)

We had dinner at one of the nice beach restaurants. It was quite windy, with dramatic skies!

Evening fell, with more dramatic clouds and a lit up ferris wheel…

At 21:45, the first show started: Portugal. I stayed on the opposite site of the pier, where it was much less crowded but the views were really nice! It was windy but not very cold, and it stayed dry for the entire first show. I took lots of photos, enjoy!

The show lasted about 15 minutes. After a short break, it was time for the show by last year’s winners: Spain! The wind had changed direction and unfortunately it rained during the entire show. I moved to the other side of the pier for a different perspective, but I didn’t take that many photos as the wind was blowing all the rain drops straight unto my lens. Still, rain drops on the lens can give a nice effect:

There were lots of photographers with tripod by the waterline, and as I joined them much later I did not want to move in front of them. I just included them in the photo. I like the reflection in this photo, and all the elements that show how windy and rainy it is…

As soon as Spain’s show had finished (they won again by the way!) it started to rain heavily. Lots of people sheltered underneath the pier, but at some point we decided to walk to our car anyway. There were long queues at the parking garage, but we had bought a day ticket so we didn’t need to queue for the machines. Lots and lots of cars were leaving Scheveningen, but they had done a great job with directing traffic and it didn’t take long to get out of the town. On our way back to Rotterdam, we were hit by VERY heavy rain and thunder – impressive! – I think it was very lucky we didn’t have a shower like that while on the beach!

I really enjoyed watching the fireworks, and will try to visit again next year :)