Upon arriving at Schiphol Airport, I board a southern bound train heading to the city of Rotterdam. I arrive at Rotterdam’s Central Station an hour later and proceed to the subway platforms downstairs. As I reach my stop and start walking towards the hotel, it is impossible for me to hide my eyes from the architectural masterpiece further down the road. Completed in 1996, the Erasmus Bridge is the Netherlands’ second longest and connects the city’s northern and southern sections. In my opinion, it is as magnificent and glorious as any I have seen in person or in pictures. Transfixed by its presence, I wonder aloud to myself how it is possible that I have not been aware of its existence. Why have I never seen it on a poster, stamp, or any other kind of souvenir? Perhaps the citizens of this city are not obsessed with promoting themselves to the rest of the world. Perhaps they would prefer to keep this bridge a secret so that they could have it all to themselves. If this is indeed the reason, I can’t say that I blame them.
After checking into my hotel room, it occurs to me that I haven’t eaten a solid meal all day. Feeling weak and sleepy, I grab lunch down the street at a bar and return an hour later feeling both strong and mentally alert. Returning to my hotel, I take a detour and stroll along the river in order to take some photos. It is here that I spot several signs advertising river cruises that depart every hour. Considering that I don’t know anyone in this city and don’t have any set plans, embarking on a river cruise sounds like a lovely idea.
As our tour of the river commences, we pass a number of stylish modern buildings. This contrasts nicely against the old brick dwellings constructed in centuries past. The most extraordinary sights, however, are not found along this section of the river. Rather, we are just coming upon them now. Having previously held the record as the world’s largest port, Rotterdam’s is truly an awesome sight. It is amazing to behold the thousands and possibly millions of shipping containers spread out as far as the eye can see. Stacked neatly in piles and rows like Legos, it is in this moment that I realize why the Dutch were such a powerful country centuries ago. Before the British Empire ruled so much of the globe, it was the Dutch who were the world’s economic superpower.