The second city of the Netherlands can be found in the Zuid (South) Holland province, about an hour from Amsterdam. A great deal of it was levelled by the Luftwaffe in World War Two, so it has an extremely modern look about it, interspersed with occasional surviving flashes of what it looked like before, which only serves to show how soulless the present incarnation is by comparison.
Get yourself down to the Erasmusbrug1. That's the highly impressive white suspension bridge whose cables span out like filaments in a web from the south side of the River Maas. This most impressive bridge is nicknamed the Swan, and it's easy to see why. Note the KPN Telecom tower just to the south, which seems to stand up only by leaning on a long pole. That was designed by Renzo Piano, the man behind the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
From here, walk along Boompjes, approaching the other suspension bridge - the Willemsbrug. On the left you'll notice the Willemswurf, headquarters of the huge Nedlloyd shipping company, a great, white, Siamese twin of a building. Pretty cool.
The Willemsbrug2 isn't enormously groovy after the Swan, but what it lacks in grace it more than makes up for in red. Turn away from the bridge and its massive red pylons and back into the town, and on your left will be the Wiite Huis (White House), one of the solitary survivors of pre-World War Two Rotterdam and a glimpse at its former wealth.
Cross the road and walk along the Haringvliet canal and you'll end up by a sort of marina with small private boats. There's a café across the way, but your eyes will be drawn to some odd cubicle homes. They're flats, but the rooms appear to be cubes - balanced on the corner rather than one of the sides. Plus they're leaning outwards. You can get inside one of them to have a look at how it all works - Unit No 70 is open for tours from 11am to 5pm daily (closed Monday - Wednesday in January and February). Admission is around 1.60 euro3.
Walk of Fame
Located on the way to the Erasmusbrug, this is basically a pavement with loads of concrete foot imprints from stars (from Dutch to International), with occasional messages and signatures too. It's really rather impressive, and goes back a long time. More basic than the Graumann's Chinese Theater variety in Los Angeles, but more personal in its simplicity and lack of adornment.
Er, What Else...
There's the Library, not too far off from the cubicle flats, which has a huge chess set.
The traffic, including trams, sometimes refuses to make up its mind which way to go, so look both ways before crossing the street.
Don't bother venturing out to Delfshaven, the old part of town, to see the restored windmill. It really isn't worth it. You will also probably get attacked by the vicious wildfowl guarding all of its approaches.
It's not a huge place - at least, the bits worth seeing - and you really can walk around. But if you're knackered, there are a lot of trams which are inexpensive, and certainly less of an effort than walking. You could go for the five-line metro system, which converges on Centraal Station.
There's a large shopping area, with several malls - one of them underground - and a variety of shops, some of them international names. Plus there's a French market, if you're too embarrassed to order in your native language and too timid to try speaking Nederlands4.
You'll notice a lot of the shop signs are in English. This is because it's practically the second language there. Should you look 'European' enough, you might even get tourists coming up to you and asking you questions in English.