Those who spend their holidays on a small island are forced to narrow their focus. You can explore a few square kilometers, without fearing to miss anything. Something similar happened these weeks. From one day to the next my range was limited to the space of my home. Since the days last longer and temperatures rise, it has become more difficult to stay indoors. High time for a bicycle trip.
As tourists in our own city we visit the Rotterdam Northern Island. We approach the city area in the Maas from the North via the Willemsbrug, a tough red span with an industrial kind of beauty. It is nice to see the Maas and the Erasmus Bridge in all their glory in the afternoon sun.
We park our bikes at Our Park where students are enjoying their Corona beers, which seems to be popular again these days. The park is bounded by a green dike that ends at the monumental Hef-bridge. We climb the dike and walk to the impressive metal construction that trains to Breda and beyond passed over until 1993. A firm fence makes a closer inspection impossible. The original rails can still be seen; from this side the railway headed North to Blaak station.
We descend the dike and continue our way along the south bank. In the Van der Takstraat we are surprised to see a courtyard with an old Sunburst tree, beautifully lighted by the golden sun. Some cafes are open in this street. The Burgemeester Hoffmansquare forms the heart of the North Island. Residents relax the on benches under the trees. ‘If you didn’t know better, you would believe this was a plaza in a far away country,’ says my travel companion.
The square ends on the other side by the Thorbeckelaan, where comic author Marten Toonder was born in 1912. The large Toonder monument can be found at the Market Hall, but here they have Tom Puss’ statue. The bright white stone cat poses in the sunlight, pointing to Toonder’s birth place at number 28 B. The local bicycle shop owner has cleverly attached his phone number high on the wall, so that it can be seen in every picture. We walk along the water to the western end of the island. Benches are placed here for people to enjoy the waterfront. A pensioner tells a younger person about his glory years in the port and about the many ships that have passed by here.
Resting on a mooring post we admire the Erasmus Bridge that rises so high that it almost touches the sun. If we wait a little longer, we can organize a real Eclipse. With the naked eye we imagine to see a Corona round the sun.
The island has an artistic atmosphere. Some walls have beautiful murals. A ship docked at the Noordkade is decorated with the Blues Brothers. Maintenance work is carried out to reinforce the Noordkade. At high tide, water overflows parts of the island. Northern Island is ‘outside the dikes’ and as soon as the climate change will start to influence global sea levels it will disappear completely.
The broad quay looks deserted. Halfway we see a parked car next to a blue windshield. A man and a woman are enjoying the spring afternoon in their folding chairs, separated by a cool box. Will this become ‘the new normal’ in the near future?
My travel companion points at the old facades of Ooms Brokers. ‘I had a guided tour here once which was amazing,’ she says. ‘It’s even more beautiful inside, with stained-glass windows, chandeliers and marble staircases decorated with metal sea creatures.’
A construction worker leaves the car he just parked along the waterfront. ‘Beautiful isn’t it?’ He says. R looks surprised at him. ‘But you are walking on the road,’ the man continues as he passes by, ‘some people you have to explain everything.’ Although there is no sign of any traffic, we continue our way closer to the water. The Northern Island doesn’t need tourists, not even if they come from their own city.
A pontoon with some benches is moored near Our Park. As R makes her way to one of the cafes, I look across the water at the Cube Houses, the White House, the Market Hall and the Public Library. I am joined by a lady who undresses partly, but her headphones indicate that she wants to stay in her own bubble. My travel companion returns with fresh coffees. Our first catering consumptions in seven weeks.