A couple of weekends ago I visited Rotterdam. I went to see a friend and former student of mine, Josephine Jansen perform in the Shimmy Shake Festival at the Maaspodium. Shimmy Shake is an organisation that supports new and emerging belly dance forms. It was a spectacular evening showcasing not only up-and-coming talent but also some big names in the world of belly dance fusion, Sharon Kihara was the headline act but the evening also included top Dutch belly dancers, and my personal favourite, Rachid Alexander. Rachid is one of Holland’s best known male belly dancers and has been featured on Holland heeft Talent. He has wonderful stage presence and a mind-boggling flexibility and fluidity.
In the morning Frank and I went to Rotterzwam, which is a business set up by two entrepreneurs. We had crowd-funded the enterprise and went to pick up our DIY mushroom kit. What does this business entail? The two business partners and their team collect coffee grounds from local businesses in Rotterdam and in an abandoned building, propagate and grow mushrooms in the fertile coffee grounds. Their business is run on the principle of the Blue Economy which tries to reduce food miles and keep business benefits within the local community. Their business location, Tropicana was a former swimming paradise with sliding chutes, whirlpools, beauty spa, changing rooms; the whole works. Visiting it now is a surreal experience. Several times I felt I had stumbled into a science fiction film set, human creativity and ingenuity emerging from the ruins of some unspeakable disaster; in fact a metaphor for the phoenix-like city of Rotterdam itself. The guided tour was informative and hunger inducing so we also lunched at the former Tropicana restaurant. I had Canterel mushrooms on toast; they were delicious.
We booked an Airbnb room in a family home in the Delfshaven area of Rotterdam where the Dutch founding fathers set sail for America. Much of Rotterdam was bombed during the WWII but picturesque Delfshaven has survived. For an Amsterdammer it was a bit coals to Newcastle but worth a visit nonetheless. Hearing the bells from The Pilgrim Fathers’ Church was especially poignant.
The sculpture, De Verwoeste Stad (the devastated city) tells Rotterdam’s story of destruction and resurrection better than any words can. This eloquent and visceral sculpture was made in 1951 by Ossip Zakdine. It was removed from its original setting outside Central Station in 2007 and is now displayed in the much more suitable Plein 1940.
To round the weekend off we went up the Rotterdam Euromast and got breathtaking views of the city from a rotating glass lift. There is so much to see and do in Rotterdam, in fact I’ve already booked myself in to abseil 185 metres down the Euromast next summer 😉 Believe that and you’ll believe anything…