Our halfway point in the cruise was our overnight stop in Rotterdam, which is the busy and huge port city of the Netherlands. Our first excursion left the port almost immediately and entered a modern 6-lane highway on our way to Gouda (pronounced howda, with a guttural h), where the popular cheese is from. We drove to this very charming town within a half hour, having passed by numerous industrial buildings; green fields, some with cows; and the occasional canal. We spent the remainder of our excursion on a walking tour of the city.
From where the bus parked, we walked as a group toward the town center, which is dominated by a big church. We walked along the streets behind the church, stopping at the orphanage where Erasmus lived as a child, a 16th century version of an old-folks home, and a former hospital which has been turned into a museum. Everything looked very old and quaint and moist. We saw several canals, some very narrow, and all the streets were paved with various types of stones. We entered the church and hung out there for a while. Evidently, the stained-glass windows are significant because they were not damaged during the time of the Reformation because the town had fallen on hard times and nobody wanted to bother destroying them. As in Amsterdam, bicycles are a favorite mode of transportation.
We spent the next part of our excursion in the town square, where it was market day. Our guide told us about the stand-alone town hall from the 16th century (?) and mentioned a couple of other buildings on the square, and then we were on our own for an hour or so. Vendors were selling Gouda cheese, baked goods, produce, clothing, and many other things. We started hearing some unusual music; and even though we had never seen a calliope before, I knew right away what it was. It had such a big and joyful sound and an incredibly ornately decorated façade. We were so taken with the market and the calliope that we didn’t explore the side streets at all, but they did look old and interesting.
After we returned to the ship, Denise decided to go out to explore downtown Rotterdam. She took the shuttle bus to the town hall and then walked along many of the shopping streets of the area. Streets were wide, and some were pedestrian only. Sometimes, shops were on two levels, street level and a lower level. Her impression was that it’s a big and modern city. There was nothing quaint about the areas that she visited. Such a contrast with Gouda earlier in the day.
The next day, Denise took a ship excursion to the windmills of Kinderdijk. It was a lovely day, and she enjoyed learning about how water is managed in the Netherlands. She visited an area with 19 windmills. From up close, she could feel the intense power of the moving windmill blades, even though they look so peaceful from a distance. She was able to climb to the top of one of them and view the surrounding area. Inside the windmill tower, she saw the windmill mechanism and the living quarters of the mill keeper.
After the excursion, she spent some time in the terminal doing internet, which is very good here. This terminal is one of the best we have been to. In addition to good internet, they have provided many, many chairs, tables, water coolers, and a very pleasant environment for their cruise guests and crew. Our local Rotterdam hosts provided a wonderful musical sailaway, with an enthusiastic and energetic performance.