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We said goodbye to our guests today, after taking them on a whirlwind tour of the Netherlands. I think we made it to 4 cities in one week, and about four times as many museums! I’m a bit exhausted.

The Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam's most recognizable symbol (Photo by Rachel Orrison)

We spent about two days in Rotterdam, which is a mere 1 1/2 hour train ride away from Amsterdam, but an entirely different city. Where Amsterdam has stately canal houses and an old center, Rotterdam is packed with modern buildings, experimental architecture, and lots of neighborhoods. During WWII the city was heavily bombed by Hitler, forcing the country to surrender. The historical center was destroyed, and the past 50 years have been spent rebuilding in interesting and sometimes crazy styles. I’ve become convinced that if you like architecture, Dutch cities are some of the best places to visit!

One of the most experimental are the Cube Houses, a crazy clump of buildings that seem to “grow” like trees. The “forest” consists of 39 hexagonal houses designed in the 1970s by Piet Blom. We peeked into the “show cube,” where we could see what it’s like to live in a tilted, cubed house. The answer? Very 70s. Psychedelic, even.

We also took a harbor tour, which was perfect on a chilly day! Rotterdam is the world’s 3rd biggest port (behind Shanghai and Hong Kong), and Europe’s largest. Hundreds of tons of cargo go in and out every day–it was a little overwhelming. I never think about how the stuff I use gets places…

There are a few places that the bombs missed, and those retain that old brick 16th-century character I’m so used to in Amsterdam. The harbor of Delfshaven is one of the oldest and best-preserved. It’s a bit funny stepping from glass office buildings to a cobbled, canal-side street again.

A snippet of history for you: the above church is known as the Pilgrim Father’s Church. The Pilgrims had lived in Holland for awhile, but didn’t want to become Dutch so they decided to strike out for the new world. This harbor was where they left from, heading to England to then board the Mayflower and start their new life. History. Right here. Bam.

Tomorrow I’ll share some pictures of how we got around Rotterdam! Hint: 4 people, 6 wheels.