Published September 24, 2015
Genre: travel, nonfiction
Rotterdam is not a beautiful city. A sprawling industrial conurbation of some 600,000 people, the Netherland's second largest metropolis has none of the canals, cobbles or picturesque bridges of its more famous rival, Amsterdam, and as such is rarely troubled by tourists. However, much to my surprise, it soon began to feel like home. Literally hours after walking out of the airport in the snow, I found myself living in a tall, crooked townhouse, on a tree-lined street between a canal, a tramstop, and a bar selling tiny glasses of Heineken. My Caribbean suntan quickly faded and my long beard joined my tattered beach clothes in a rubbish bin on a rain-soaked balcony. By the time the snow melted, my belongings had already arrived in the post from England, and I was eating bright green erwtensoep (pea soup) with gusto. The skinny girl - a feisty, fiercely intelligent Rotterdammer with a pretty smile - showed no signs of kicking me out, and I began the slow process of integrating into Dutch society.
In the fourth century, the bishop Servatius died while passing through Maastricht. A basilica was built to honour of the dead pilgrims and something of a cult developed around him, with Maastricht becoming an important stopping point for pilgrims on their way to other religious centers...
Book description: a personal portrait of a fascinating people, a sideways history and an entertaining travelogue.
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