My week in Rotterdam, which has passed by at breakneck speed, feels like the end of an era. I spent almost every childhood summer holiday in Leopoldstraat, walking the streets through the Goudesingel to the Coolsingel and then the Lijnbaan. And I’d sit by the main roundabout near where we are staying for hours on end watching the trams come from all four directions. The only thing that’s different today is that I haven’t sat for hours at a time watching the trams, but given half a chance…
All my Dutch relatives are long gone, there’s no one left to visit. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember so there’s no surprises. I don’t feel any ghosts either, which is just as well since they don’t actually exist. There is the odd bit of deja vu when I pass by somewhere I seem to recognise, which could be the house of an old uncle or my wilder imaginings.
I’ve been to the same places I used to go – Madurodam (Holland in miniature), the Euromast and the space tower and Blijdorp Zoo, not for nostalgia, but because I wanted to.
Rotterdam has changed hugely, as it always does. The Luftwaffe were responsible for much of it and the rebuilding was of necessity. Now it is relentless. It’s an incredible city.
This has been a holiday and not a sad wallow through the past. Of course, my roots are over here but it’s not been about that at all.
Not everything is perfect in the Netherlands. They have some of the same problems that we do, but this is a country where most things work and aren’t broken. And it feels like a country largely at peace with itself with an optimism which is in stark contrast to Britain’s current pessimism.
If things had worked out different, I could have stayed in Rotterdam as a child. I frequently returned to Britain with Dutch as my first language but most of my Dutch has gone now. I am down to a few words, unable even to string a sentence together. It’s almost time to go home. I’m English with Dutch and Norwegian roots. I am beginning to wonder if, in a few years, they’ll let me back in again.