|The trip to Rotterdam over the river Maas|
We arrived in Rotterdam last night, and docked on the Nieuwe Maas river somewhere to the West of the city centre, near the cruise terminal where we were going to go to work in the morning. In the night, when we arrived, Rotterdam looked like a sci-fi city with its innerly illumined high rises, its garish city lights and gaudily lit bridges. Under a smoky sky, the city hunched around the drawn-out, liquid black hole of the river. The water which the ship ploughed was dark like liquid tar, impenetrable.
We came to Rotterdam all the way from Amsterdam via an angled connection of canals. First, a piece of the Amsterdam-Rhine canal took us south up until and beyond Utrecht, where we turned west onto a short canal bringing us to the Princess Beatrix locks. There we were lifted up a meter or so, enabling us to join the Lek river on the other side. From then on we travelled on natural waterways, the Lek and the Nieuwe Maas rivers with their naturally scraggy fringes, which made our trip so much more picturesque. The whole trip took us some eight hours. We moored in Rotterdam at midnight, and got up at six again. It was a short night.
Just as I stumbled up the stairs into the steering hut, groggy from having been shaken out of my sleep too early, the metal monster of the cruise ship we were going to work on floated past us. The leviathan was an impressive sight of steel and glass in motion. Further down the river it slowly turned, as if fully aware of the grandeur of its deck gleaming in the morning light, executing the closest movement a thing like that could to wagging its ass on a catwalk. It moored on the Wilhelminapier, a pier headed on one side by a beautiful Art Nouveau building still flaunting the big letters of the Holland-America Line on its front even though the old headquarters now function as a hotel. At the other side the pier was flanked by the Erasmusbridge, a modern cable-stayed bridge which was built in the mid-nineties. Most of the highrises behind it dated from the same decade, or were even more recent. The entirety of what can be seen today in that area came into being thanks to an ambitious building projected blueprinted in 1993. It ran through 2010 and transformed this so centrally located port area that had been nothing but an abandonned wasteland.
The said former headquarters of the Holland-Amerika line is the sole historical building in this part of town, the only one around here that survived the Nazi bombardment of World War II. Did the Germans spare it on purpose? This building is now dwarfed by postmodern neighbours and looks small and negligable. Nonetheless, at the time it was the nerve centre of a lot of important economic activity. This may be the reason why it was left standing. "The avation attack was actually canceled in the last minute. But the war planes were already flying, and when the German pilots saw the red fire signals being shot from the ground that had been agreed on as an order to turn around and cancel the bombing, some of them did not believe that that really was the case. They thought maybe the other side had found out about the code. So, while some war planes did turn around, the majority went through with their original command",Timur, who read a lot about WWII, shared some of his knowledge. The Nazi bombardment is the well-known reason why Rotterdam is one of the few Dutch cities missing their typical quaint old town centre. It is often joked that Rotterdam wins the title of the ugliest city of the Netherlands single-handedly.
The ship we came on is a tanker whose purpose is to take sludge, the mixture of dirty water and used oil, from other ships and bring it where it can be cleaned. Today we were going to connect the pumps to one of the Holland-America line's cruise liners. I typed their name on the internet and found that they advertised cruises to “Alaska, Europe, the Carribean, Mexico and the rest of the world“ for the reasonable price of a couple of thousand of Euros a week.
Only 500 meters from where we were right then, one of their old steamships lay anchored: the Rotterdam V, built in 1959. We had passed it and taken a good look at it just five minutes ago. In the 1960s the Rotterdam V was still used as a regular line vessel for sea travel to the Americas. It was to be the last ten years before plane travel became accessible to everyone. The ship was taken out of service only in 2000. At that time already for decades, namely since 1971, it functionned to indulge rich people's fancies as a cruise liner. Right now, after a few years of renovation, it remains perpetually docked and houses a museum, a restaurant and a hotel.
|This is how the harbour patrol says "hello" to the cruise liner passing through its port.|
When hitchhiking I have talked to many people I would have otherwise never got the chance to talk to, for example many people more than twice my age. Once I spoke to someone who had travelled to America by sea when that was still the standard. From what this person told me, travelling to America was reasonable fun and kind of interesting. You used all the free time you had to explore the huge ship you were on with its on-board cafés, bars and restaurants, and gyms and swimming pools. It was on the way back, when you knew its inner world by heart, that the two weeks on the water would be spent in mind-numbing boredom.
We approached the MS Rotterdam, the modern cruise liner on dock today, with our much smaller tanker from the stern of the ship. There was a flurry of activity behind a glass wall inside its lower part, as the sailors in their bright orange hard hats were still busy tying down the ship. That meant we were in for some waiting before we could tie up to the significantly larger vessel ourselves. The ship, which could accomodate over 1,600 passengers in luxury cabins, plus 100s of staff members in less luxurious conditions, measured over 200 meters in length, and a few tens of meters in height above the water line. It was so much larger than us, the comparison of a baby tied to a woman's back would not really hold. The size proportions were more like ... a large potato tied to a woman's back. So while I still think about a better comparison, I post this anyway.