Our second day in Rotterdam started with a check-in with immigration, where I collected my second passport stamp of the journey (along with Iceland). It turns out that cruisers often avoid passport inspections, but every passport stamp is a treasure to me. Both Ireland and the U.K. will also require this step, so I should return home with 4 new countries officially documented.
The first shuttle bus I encountered happened to be going to an older, retired SS Rotterdam, which was put into service in 1959. We are sailing on the 6th Rotterdam, active since 1997. Nowadays, No. 5 is a floating hotel, restored to the colorful vinyl glory of the era of its launching, as the photos below attest.
The city of Rotterdam, which was almost totally destroyed by WWII bombing, features crazily innovative architecture. Cubes, domes, skyscrapers that look like a stack of children’s blocks, all askew. Shiny metallic greens, blues, and yellows contrast with utilitarian old brick warehouses. But nothing here dates from medieval times except for the Laurenskerk, where I sat for a while to pray and absorb the history of years of faithful worship there. Next port…Dublin!
The NFCT paddling community often brings together new friends, sometimes from across the globe. Valerie and Geoff Welch, who live in the Netherlands, kept an inspiring journal of their 2014 Northern Forest Canoe Trail thru-paddle, the summer before mine. I found their writing fun and their river descriptions helpful, particularly because they persevered through many difficult sections of the trail. In person, I discovered this week, they have many other stories from a lifetime of canoeing expeditions to share.
Saturday morning found me disembarking in Rotterdam and running to meet the only car with a canoe and kayak perched on top. Valerie and Geoff had offered to take me paddling in the charming town of Delft, famous for its blue and white pottery and charmingly picturesque scenery. After leaving the car at a biologisch restaurant (think fresh ingredients creatively crafted into edible art), we paddled into Delft, passing moorhens and pink water lilies, through surprisingly thick weeds and algae. Thankfully, my new friends are founders, organizers and instructors at their boating club, which generously loaned me a sleek and fast kayak for the day’s adventures.
Valerie and Geoff had planned time for us to wander around town exploring and our first stop was the New Church, where we climbed 376 steps up a narrow, winding staircase to the very top of the tower. William of Orange, considered the Father of the Fatherland, worked for the country’s independence from Spain and was assassinated in 1584. He is interred within an elaborate mausoleum in this church, which is also the official resting place for members of the Dutch royal family.