Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rotterdam, port city of Erasmus

Taking advantage of the chance of the Saturday of Easter, I thought it was a nice chance to go to Rotterdam, since I had heard so much about it and also you can find the only greek-orthodox church in the Netherlands there (there are many orthodox churches, but that is the only one that is specifically greek)

Arriving at the train station the first impression was weird. Big parts of the city center are under construction. But still it seems like a really big city, it is the biggest port in Europe and the second largest city in the Netherlands. Lots of massive buildings, a large and crowded market and people from all around the world.
Visiting the VVV of Rotterdam turned out a bit hard to find but worth it. There is a miniature model of the town, and you can use it for a quick tour around the city with short info and a color spotlight highlighting the building you chose.

Since it was already quite late and the museums were closed (damn I wanted to see the Maritiem Museum!) we decided to walk around the city. We visited the Oude Haven, which was the best spot in the city in my opinion. A nice little harbor with cafeterias, boats and a nice view of the red bridge known as "Willemsbrug".
The Oude Haven and in the back Willemsbrug
Behind that one of the most odd-shaped buildings I had ever seen. Designed by Piet Blom, the cube houses made you really wonder how is it possible for people to live in there without falling out or getting dizzy all the time. There was also the possibility of visiting one for 2,5 Euro, and I couldn't resist my curious nature to go and see how it is like. I have to admit that is was much more spacious and cozy than I expected it to be. And people don't actually fall off their houses!
Cube Houses

What followed was a reaaaaaally long walk around the city. Crossing the Willemsbrug to the small island and then the Koninginnebrug to the other side. This small island seemed to keep its old traditional dutch character that the rest of the city lacked. The other seemed to be crowed with skyscrapers of big marine companies. Crossing the Erasmusbrug (yes, the famous Erasmus was from Rotterdam, there is also a university dedicated to his name) we finally found two orthodox churches. The first one, all while, and with a gold-colored onion-shaped dome was the russian church of Alexander Nevsky, and a one block away was the greek church of Agios Nikolaos, protector of sailors and students.
Aghios Nikolaos of Rotterdam
And when the night came, you could see a lot of people, mostly greek, coming officially dressed for the ceremony. People of all ages, students or people who worked here for many years. I got to meet many of them, and also people from my home island. The ceremony was strange. Having been used to the ceremony in my home island, where the priest has to shout at the loudspeaker to be heard over the sound of the bells, the fireworks and the gunpower while saying the famous "Χριστός ανέστη εκ νεκρών" - "Jesus Christ has resurrected from the dead", I experienced a very different ceremony.
No bells, no gunpowder, no fireworks, no loudspeaker for the priest. And all the crowd trying to hear what the priest was saying. So eventually everyone had to quiet down, and then I managed to hear the priest among so many people reading the gospel.
The night of Easter in Aghios Nikolaos of Rotterdam

The people from my home island were kind enough to invite me to a greek restaurant, where I could crash red-painted eggs with others, try the traditional meatsoup "μαγειρίτσα" that is made especially for that day, and also have some lamb with potatoes (a well missed flavor) along with a simple yet famous white wine "Malamatina"!
And then going home on the train, riding along with a whole female hockey team who made sure the journey wouldn't be boring!

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