(‘Arrich to ‘Oek of ‘Olland)
The planning over (there’s six parts to planning – begin with Part I if you like) the travelling has begun. To mark the change, the journey will be named in Stages.
After arriving by train to Harwich International (at the port) I found my quaint Bnb five minutes away. Don’s dining room featured, amongst other treasures: Gainsborough-esque prints hung in golden curlicue frames from the wooden-panelling walls, an Australian-shaped clock on the mantlepiece, different-sized elephants trumpeting, a metal swan, a large wooden African mask, a teddy bear in velveteen dungarees eating from a felt honey pot (I could tell because of the little bees), a Greek vase, countless other vases from other lands, all topped by a little, old, framed photo of a curly, haired terrier, solitary and plucky on top of the shelf.
Harwich might be a bit bleak in cold weather but I was lucky enough to be there on a cheerful sunny day.
I managed to get my goods in order so I could be ready and waiting at the departure point for my ferry bright and early in the morning.
When is the start of the journey? Boarding the ship? Casting off? Half-way across?
Can you see the ropes? I watched them go.
Stayed outside until the ropes loosened, the blokes lifted them over the bollards and the engines kicked into gear, pushing the ship out into the stream and I began to cough.
You can find Stena Line’s sustainability policy here.
The gentle to and fro, the engines thrumming, strong and driving, dependable.
We had clear sky, growing some smooth flat clouds for the first couple of hours as we moved steadily towards darker-hued cauliflower fields. After an hour or two, the water began to fade to grey and there was a bit more movement to the ship. The strip of sea by the horizon took on a deep blue.
On a number of occasions we drove towards rows of wind turbines in the middle of the sea, which given the lack of movement, looked more like grass flowers, thin stalks on the horizon. The first clump we passed were surrounded by cargo ships, perhaps queued for port or perhaps involved in building or installing the turbines.
Outside there was sky and sea. Inside the Monkees, Bee Gees and Maggie May, Rocket Man, Lighter Shade of Pale and the Bump. The sound of my old people’s home.
Where are you going? To NZ.
Via Holland? Yes, indeed. Well, that’s a long trip. Yes, it is.
Foot passengers waited until after truckies, bikies and sundry drivers got away, then we were directed to the gangway and land. It was very straightforward and easy. The tram was waiting outside the ferry terminal and REMEMBER you must BUY A TICKET at the machine. THEN TOUCH ON!! When you get out at your stop you much TOUCH OFF! There were interactions with tram staff, all very polite and friendly, but firm. TOUCH ON! Ambassadors for travel.
The tram took half an hour or so to arrive in Rotterdam. I had been given clear instructions by my Airbnb host and it proved an easy walk around the corner to my abode.
I arrived tired and flustered to find my host Olivier Scheffer sharing long distance walking experiences with a guest. Olivier recently completed a 2,000 km longitude walk from Helsinki to Thessaloniki (not only because he liked the sound of the names!) His guest, a fellow peregrino, recently walked to Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. Some discussion of footfall, footstrike and RSI followed. These guys were experts.
Olivier is an artist who prides himself on his Triangular Art House in inner city Rotterdam.
Like the Airbnb, Rotterdam proved a fun and inspirational place to visit. Once the largest harbour in the world, Rotterdam still rules Europe but other cities in Asia have overtaken her. Popped in to the triangular Central Station to buy my next train ticket. Took me a little while to focus on the dates I needed. Because I’ve been planning this trip so far ahead there was a fictional quality to the time. I couldn’t quite believe that it was now. Time had more than crept up on me. Time had ambushed me. Mind you, there is nothing like being on an unknown tram or trainline with names you don’t know or understand going somewhere you don’t know to keep you focussed on the here and now!
Because of the devastating German bombardment in 1940, Rotterdam has been rebuilt with an enthusiasm for adventure and experimentation. And some controversy. Unlike Amsterdam, where original canals and buildings force restrictions, architects are encouraged to make their mark and the inhabitants tend to make their opinions felt by protesting ticket barriers at the train station or not using the Markthal for its original purpose.
Rotterdam’s greatest son is Desiderius Erasmus, who urged everyone to get out and travel. He travelled out of Rotterdam at the age of twenty and never returned. That’s why the UN called their study exchange program Erasmus.
There is a lot of building going on in Rotterdam, together with art, cycling and smoking weed. The famous street of bars, galleries and ‘coffee shops’ is called Witte de Withstraat.
Not far away is the Kunsthal – an art gallery that aims to make art popular
But for me, my happy place was in De Groene Passage with a delicious vegan buffet lunch at Spirit followed by some fantastic ethical window-shopping. I wished sincerely I could live there, in that restaurant, forever. Bliss. BTW, if anyone in Christchurch knows Alexa, could you please let her know Spirit says, ‘Hi.’
My next train stage takes me to another harbour in another of the great European cities. Here’s Stage Two! I hope you can join me!