It’s actually the fourth time I’ve been here now and to the same hostel too. For the last month I’ve been working in the hostel, and I’ve had a taste at what it’s like to live here. I even managed to get out of my very first day of work after being sick in a bin, from the previous night’s carnage. I’ve been living in the dome of the building, an old clock-tower, with a French and a Brazilian, which has an adjacent roof with views across the city.
‘Rotterdam’ doesn’t sound very pleasing. Maybe that’s why most tourists tend to go to Amsterdam, The Hague or Utrecht maybe. But there’s no rotten dams here. It’s the biggest port in Europe, one of the biggest in the world in fact, and full of life and busyness. Although, of course, ‘busy’ in the Netherlands, is a lunch break for a Parisian.
It’s a fairly modern city, often cited as ‘the architect’s playground’. The destruction brought by WW2 left a clean slate for creativity. Strange looking buildings loom high into the sky, the expertly designed streets rarely meet a queue of traffic; indeed crossing the road on foot here can be tricky: first, off the pavement, onto a busy bike lane, then a second pavement, a road, and a tram-line and once you’ve made it here, well done, your standing right in the middle of the street and you should start crossing the second half before the tram hits you.
Best to just cycle everywhere. And that’s cool because after a week or so of being here, I managed to get a second bike, which I’m not afraid to leave locked up from fear of it being stolen. It’s rusty, has purple bits, the chain falls off a lot and at least 2 of the 3 gears don’t work, and I love it.
It was lent to me by a guest in the hostel. He’s a pretty interesting fellow and turns out he’s actually an ex-drug dealer, that being the reason he was ordered from Germany to the Netherlands (hardly rehabilitation is it?).
Aside from consuming the seemingly infinite supply of toasties and beer supplied by the hostel, I’ve been cycling my exiled-German-school-teacher-come-drug-dealer’s-mum’s-bike to the market and buying most of my food there, as it’s easily the cheapest place in the city; even half the price of the local supermarket, Albert Heijn, and has nearly every kind of food you could ask for. I’ve also been eating a lot of Surinamese food, such as fried banana and peanut sauce, brought by the fact that Suriname is an ex-Dutch colony, hence many have moved here. Also it’s hard to resist a Dutch kapsalon: basically a kebab but with cheese, salad and chips hidden at the bottom, and probably the most unhealthy food here.
Although I’ve been making an effort to see around the city, a lot of my time has been spent in the hostel. But not entirely because I’m working there. There’s hundreds of international guests each week and simply talking to them and hearing their stories can be entertaining in itself. The world cup is fairly amusing, as often there’s at least one nationality present. There’s been a few good bands recently as part of the North Sea Jazz Festival and there’s an open mic night too. The hostel staff, which have become like a second family, are also great to be around and we’ve ended up chilling at the park, going to fares, a couple of house parties and even a rave in a forest, which ended when 7 police cars turned up at 6am.
I’m going to miss Rotterdam but not as much as I’ll miss the people that I’ve met there. They’ve made the last month one of the most enjoyable yet, and I hope to meet at least some of you again in the future. Tot Ziens!