I love that you got to see so much of the Low Countries. Coasters are cool and all, but it's worth taking the time to see a place too. Really cool for Schengen to juxtapose the Berlin Wall, to illustrate the importance of what they were doing.
some breathtaking pictures in this installment Andy.
looks like you were having an incredible time, despite starting off a little rough on the 1st day. Sorry you had to skip a few things, but as you noted? what you did see was well worth it, so you just have some things to do next time you go back.
Jakizle wrote:Loving this report Andy! Can we just skip the theme parks and Andy shares his trip to various European cities and places of interest?!?
Ha! Well, maybe not, but this TR is going to have as many non-coaster segments as coaster segments!
SharkTums wrote:The Schengen stuff is super interesting! I don't think I ever really even thought about that it must be an actual place.
And it's really just a tiny little place, unremarkable by any other reason, but it was chosen since it's right at the tri-point of three of the countries who were most involved in the original version of the agreement.
ytterbiumanalyst wrote:I love that you got to see so much of the Low Countries. Coasters are cool and all, but it's worth taking the time to see a place too. Really cool for Schengen to juxtapose the Berlin Wall, to illustrate the importance of what they were doing.
The piece of the Berlin Wall is not even 150 feet away from the plaza of flags. It's obviously meant as a point of comparison, and it's really effective.
bert425 wrote:what you did see was well worth it, so you just have some things to do next time you go back.
Yep. I don't think I'll ever have a shortage of places to go and things to see.
Too bad, you're going to miss a lot of pictures of you.
mattnz wrote:Fantastic TR Andy. Love getting a glimpse into the beauty and history of the places you've visited. You can't do Europe without a bit of culture!
Always great to hear from you, Matt! Thanks for reading!
Sunday, July 14, 2019 Day 3: Dunes, Dams, and Depraved Santas
Now back in the Netherlands for the rest of the first phase of my trip, I headed west to the shoreline. I'd spend the first part of the day along the North Sea coast in the Zeeland province, visiting a small city, some large dunes, and one of the biggest flood control projects in the world. The second half of the day would be spent on a long walking tour through Rotterdam, one of the two large cities in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. I was excited to check out the amazing Markthal, and one of the first destinations I ever planned out for the trip: the Euromast.
We'll start at the sea...
Starting the morning on the pier in the small Dutch city of Vlissingen.
Not-so-fun fact: the parking kiosks along the seaside road in Vlissingen do not take American credit cards. However, I found a nearby meter that accepted Euro coins!
This was not exactly a "bring your sunscreen to the beach" type of day, but people were out enjoying their walks on the shoreline.
Vlissingen is located where the Scheldt River flows into the North Sea, so it's a strategically important spot.
Boat traffic is pretty busy in the waters off of Vlissingen.
There's also a fortification near the pier -- the Keizersbolwerk!
The Keizersbolwerk is quite old -- dating back to the 1500s. There's also a small museum within the casemates (De Kazematten).
Vlissingen has a population of about 44,000 people, and all the architectural beauty you'd expect.
The colorful buildings are awesome!
A fair was set up in Vlissingen's main square! See, there's sorta-kinda theme park content in this post. It was early in the morning, so nothing was operating, but I got some pictures anyway.
They had a Break Dance...
...a spot for a fully-licensed Avengers-themed Wipeout that didn't seem to exist...
...a Flying Jumbo, which is definitely not to be confused with Dumbo...
...a Thriller haunted dark ride, which may or may not be a credit...
And the Virtual World 6D theater, which is disappointing only because they haven't yet upgraded to 7D.
The background to the 6D theater ride is sure something to look at. Maybe if you're into robots...
Cannons along the harbor in Vlissingen.
To anyone wondering if they'll have to plan ahead to find windmills on a vacation to the Netherlands: you don't. You can't go 5 kilometers without running into another one!
Also, weird Dutch buildings. There will be more to come from Rotterdam.
Some sections of the Dutch coastline are obvious vacation areas -- with tall condos/hotels along the shoreline. Vlissingen has a bit of that.
I went a little further up the coast to Groot Valkenisse, a natural area with beaches and dunes and stuff -- you'll see in the coming pics.
First, a big staircase, which certainly answers the question -- is there any real terrain in the stereotypically-flat Netherlands? The answer is yes!
Here's the view down the other side of the stairway -- the beach of Groot Valkenisse on the North Sea.
A view alongside the rather large dune looking north.
So of course we're going to climb up there.
There's a nice trail that runs the entire crest of the dune.
Here's where the trail levels off at the dune's highest point.
This is the summit of the Groot Valkenisse dune, and the highest point in the Zeeland province of the Netherlands. That's the second Dutch provincial high point of the trip! This dune reaches an elevation of 51 meters / 167 feet above the North Sea, so yeah, it's pretty high above the water.
The view south. It's pretty impressive. Just wish the weather was a little better.
The Netherlands may be famously pancake-flat, but this area does things differently.
An odd view along the beach
In beachfront areas in the Netherlands, you'll often see restaurants built right on the sand. Even on this chilly, windy, cloudy day, many of them appeared to be quite busy.
Here's the view north from the high point.
Even a few people actually getting in the water.
More seaside trails and beachfront restaurants. This area would be absolutely beautiful -- and probably ridiculously crowded -- on a nice summer day.
Some very large boats just off the coast.
A comparison in size.
Weird perspective tricks in this photo, as the large ship heads north past the beach.
A little further up the coast is Westkapelle, another small seaside town. I climbed another dune, which I think is named Erica. I'm not sure why it's named Erica.
The view from Erica!
There's a Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue station here...
...and a pier...
...which was modestly busy with people fishing.
A look over a pond on the other side of the dunes.
This is the Vuurtoren 't Hoge Licht (Lighthouse High Light) in Westkapelle -- an old church tower that was turned into a lighthouse. It's open for visitors on certain days, but unfortunately, this was not one of those days.
Dutch rooftop scenes (and another lighthouse) in Westkapelle.
And, yep, another windmill.
I'm pretty sure that nearly entire stretch of dunes from here to Vlissingen has hiking trails that run atop them.
Sometimes, intentionally getting people in pictures can sort of add to the story of the day.
These peoples' stories are various derivatives of "why is nothing biting?"
The waterfront here isn't really a beach -- it's actually sort of a hard, bumpy, dark-colored rock.
Fishing from the rocks as the waves crash in.
Hope you and your bird friends enjoy the day.
Last pic from Westkapelle is the Landingsmonument.
"In memory of those of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who died off these shores on 1st November 1944 whilst serving with landing craft of support squadron Eastern Flank."
"4 Commando Brigade British Liberation Army Landed here on 1 Nov. 1944 to liberate the island"
I left Westkapelle and did some more driving, heading further up the coast to de Baanjard -- a small community adjacent to both the North Sea and an inland body of water (Veerse Meer).
On the calmer side, there were some novices...
...but out on the open waters, the kitesurfers were out in full force!
So maybe this wasn't a classic beach day for most people...
...but the windy conditions were ideal for some!
Off in the distance behind the kitesurfers is something I knew I wanted to see as soon as I planned to go to the Netherlands. But I'll get back to that in a minute.
Wind energy of multiple types.
Seriously, wind turbines are everywhere.
(and I never did figure out what Bob is, so I should look)
(ah, it's a campaign against drunk driving.)
Another beach view...
...and more people out in the wind and cold (and yes, a little bit of rain).
A distant view of that big huge group of kitesurfers from earlier.
So, this is what I really wanted to see. It just looks like a big, strange bridge over the water, right?
This is a section of the Oosterscheldekering -- the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier.
The Oosterscheldekering is the largest of the Delta Works projects, the series of dams and surge barriers designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding.
Here's a view from a little further north of a different section of the Oosterscheldekering. The whole point of the barrier is to keep the North Sea /out/ of the Netherlands.
The Oosterscheldekering was officially opened in 1986. In normal conditions, the gates are open, but the whole thing can be shut off during storms to dam the North Sea from entering the protected areas behind.
The 3-meter mark is an important one, as that's when all of the gates have to be completely shut. It looks like the sea was behaving properly while I was visiting.
A closer view of one of the gates...
...and a look atop the bridge that crosses the northern segment of the Oosterscheldekering. When I was done seeing it, I got to drive over it.
A little more info on the Oosterscheldekering! It's just such a massive project that I had to see for myself -- it really combines engineering, hydrology, oceanography, and weather all together. I find that kind of stuff fascinating.
I arrived in Rotterdam in the mid-afternoon hours, driving into the center downtown after navigating my way around on the freeways and tunnels that circle the city.
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. It's a very diverse and modern city, which is generally a good thing. The sad part is the realization of why Rotterdam is so modern compared to other big European cities -- it was almost completely destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. There isn't any good that can be said about that, but as the city was largely reconstructed in the post-WWII years, it has a much different feel than any of the other European cities I've visited.
I'll share a little more about Rotterdam in the captions, but I want to go a little bit into the whole process of finding parking in European cities. It's one of the things I was worried about. In the US, every big city has easy access to a ton of giant parking garages, most of which are easy to find. As it turns out, Europe isn't much different. I do think that it would be hard to simply drive into a European city and hope to chance across a decent parking spot. Thankfully, I found it easy to plan out where I'd park ahead of time, sometimes even booking parking before arriving. Ultimately, I was able to drive right into (or to the edges of) any city I wanted to visit. As for the prices? They varied, but were generally similar to prices in the US. $15-$20 parking for a full day (or majority of a day) was common, but there were a few places where I parked for less than that.
In Rotterdam, I parked in the Markthal parking garage, which is an underground garage right in the middle of downtown. Here's what it looks like! The spaces and lanes are certainly a little more narrow than in most garages in the US, but ultimately parking wasn't anything to fear at all. A very easy process in a very modern garage -- with the red/green lights above each space!
The garage is under this building -- the Markthal (market hall), one of Rotterdam's main attractions. And oh, is it fantastic.
By now you're getting used to my travel trademarks -- high points, beaches, airplanes, observation towers, city skylines, and (of course) theme parks. But I also love visiting food halls / market halls when I travel -- it's a trend that has grown so much in the past decade, and one that I really love.
Rotterdam's Markthal is easily one of the best I've visited.
First off, just look at the building! It's 131 feet tall, with residential/office space along the edges, but a giant hollowed-out middle that holds the main part of the hall. It's fairly new, too -- only opened in 2014.
I skipped the wheel, but there's one of those if you're interested.
The inside of Markthal -- with dozens of stalls and individual vendors, most (but not all) selling things to eat.
There's a huge mural, designed by Arno Coenen, on the inside walls and the ceiling of the Markthal. It would be impossible to photograph the entire thing.
You can enjoy the artwork while straining your neck as you wait for your dinner to be served!
The huge windows on either end of the hall provide views out to the city.
The parking garage and some other stores can be found down the escalators in the middle of the hall.
You might even pass your time playing chess.
I'm not sure how many vendors are inside of Markthal, but I'm guessing 25-35.
Instead of one big meal, I tried a few different things -- croquettes, iberian ham, a falafel sandwich, and a coconut ball for dessert. Though Dutch was the language of choice, English was not a problem with any of the vendors, and many of them had signage up in English as well.
I'm not sure that Markthal contains my favorite selection of vendors of any food hall I've been to -- although it's really close with a couple others -- but it's far and away the most interesting architecturally.
Speaking of interesting buildings ... here's my hotel for the night. It's called the H2Otel.
If this looks a bit strange for a hotel, yep, it is. The entire hotel was built out of five lash barges originally possessed by the US Army. They were parked in a canal in downtown Rotterdam and converted into a museum, and later into a hotel.
This was another hotel that I booked just one day in advance, and was one of 2 or 3 I was seriously considering booking in Rotterdam. Ultimately, it was the least expensive of the three, but that's not why I chose it. It's a floating hotel! On a barge! Always go for the unique experience.
A better view of the hotel from the side of the canal.
The hotel has some parking spaces allotted in a nearby garage, but due to booking so late, they were already sold out. I just kept my car parked at the Markthal garage, which was only about a 7-8 minute walk from the hotel -- not bad except for the whole "suitcase on cobblestone streets" thing.
Here's a view from my room -- looking out the porthole from my desk.
So, after visiting Markthal and dropping things off in my hotel room, I set out for my walking tour of Rotterdam. It was a long one -- I estimate that I walked about 5 and a half miles in a few hours.
One of the first things you notice in Rotterdam is the skyscrapers -- big, modern, artistic, colorful skyscrapers.
Some really interesting building designs. It's a far cry from the historic look of central Amsterdam.
This is the Witte Huis (White House) -- built in 1898, it was at one time the tallest skyscraper in Europe. It's one of the few buildings to survive the WWII attacks.
Rotterdam is definitely near the top of the list for seeing weird architecture in Europe.
The Cube Houses are one of the main attractions.
These were designed by Piet Blom. Each cube is a residential living space. Wouldn't that be an odd place to live?
Looking up through the cubes!
Rotterdam's library is also interestingly designed.
This looks a little more like classic Europe -- it's the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk (St. Lawrence Church). It was built in the 1400s/1500s, and it's the only remaining structure from medieval Rotterdam. Somehow, it also survived the WWII bombings, though not without some damage that had to be repaired.
Rotterdam's city hall (Stadhuis van Rotterdam) also survived the bombing.
It's actually not all that old by European standards -- built in the 1910s.
Would you like some of Rotterdam's finest Freshly-Backed Churros?
Interesting buildings are just about everywhere in Rotterdam.
Even the central station is awesome, with this bold, pointy design.
These buildings near the central station are not only colorful, but quite reflective.
Why use straight lines when you can be more creative?
Even the churches are weird in Rotterdam -- this is Pauluskerk, located just south of the central station.
This part of Rotterdam is very business-heavy, but with lots of restaurants and parkland that kept people milling around in the evening -- especially as the weather had improved quite a bit.
This is a statue of Santa Claus holding a pine tree.
At least, that's what sculptor Paul McCarthy wants us to believe.
I am not so sure. A perusal of the internet indicates that there are tons of people questioning the proclivities of this version of Jolly Old Saint Nick.
Use your imagination!
Oh, Rotterdam. Interesting place.
More random public art in Rotterdam!
I got out of the roads and skyscrapers and took a walk through Het Park, a large green space in the southwestern section of central Rotterdam.
I walked through Het Park so that I could get to my final destination of the day -- Euromast.
I initially started thinking about doing a solo trip through the Netherlands while making my first visit to the country on the 2016 TPR trip. When the plans got serious, Euromast was the second destination I decided would be a must-visit. It's been on the agenda since the beginning!
(the /first/ destination planned will come up on Day 5)
Euromast, like most observation towers, is operated like an attraction -- with tickets, a gift shop, and your typical tourist trappings. Here's the entry area.
It's not just an observation tower -- there's also a restaurant, and even a hotel room!
Heading up to the Panorama platform, 98 meters above the ground.
If I ever get my Observation Tower Review* website off the ground, Euromast is going to rank very high. The main platform is completely open air, offering unobstructed views in all directions. The views themselves are awesome -- a major downtown, a huge port area, a river, a park, and the Dutch countryside beyond. It was inexpensive, it was uncrowded, and it was awesome. It even looks like it would be night photography friendly, with plenty of room to set up either full size tripods (on the ground) or mini tripods (on the railing).
*not actually going to happen
Looking west toward Delfshaven.
Further west along the Nieuwe Maas -- a distributary river of the Rhine.
A lock on a canal just below the Euromast.
Looking north. The big building in the foreground is a hospital, and the northern end of downtown Rotterdam is just behind it.
Several tall buildings in Rotterdam, near the central station.
A wider view over downtown Rotterdam. Het Park is in the foreground.
Like most European cities, Rotterdam was very walkable. That's good, because I walked all the way to the Euromast from downtown over there!
The south end of downtown, and one particularly awesome bridge.
The Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) is one of the main road connections through the south end of central Rotterdam. It was named after the famous philosopher -- Rotterdam's own Desiderius Erasmus.
The Hotel New York is another famous old building in Rotterdam, built in what was once the office of Holland America Line.
The SS Rotterdam, a ship built in 1959 for the Holland America Line, now in business as a luxury hotel.
Boats on the river -- and the boat traffic is constant.
When taken as a whole, the entire port area of Rotterdam (from downtown out through the seacoast) is the largest in all of Europe.
Looking east up the Nieuwe Maas to another bridge.
There's one more thing to see at the Euromast -- the Euroscoop. See the little cabin with windows going up the mast? It's a rotating observation vehicle that reaches a height of 185 meters -- quite a bit higher than the main observation platform. There's also narration that explains everything you're seeing.
Normally, you'd think that something like this would be an upcharge, but this is Euromast, so it's included. Have I mentioned that Euromast is awesome?
Here's a comparison of the views -- this picture of downtown is from the main observation level.
This picture of downtown is from the top of the Euroscoop. It's a noticeable change in height.
You do have to contend with shooting through glass, and since the cabin is rotating, shutter speed is also a concern.
Still, for no additional cost, why not take the ride?
Looking down at the main observation level from the top of the Euroscoop. The water is way, way down there.
A quick picture of the Euromast restaurant level on the way out!
I had about a 45-minute walk back to the hotel from Euromast, and followed the paths along the river to enjoy the views as the light began to fade.
Boats and skyscrapers -- quite the scene.
Getting closer to the Erasmusbrug.
I really would have loved to do some night photography along the water, but the sun sets so darn late in Europe in the summer. I was already exhausted, and I don't think I could have stayed out another hour or two.
So, as dusk began to fall, I returned to the H2Otel to finish out the night.
Rotterdam is awesome, and I'd absolutely recommend it as a great #2 city to visit in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.
These pages are in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Cedar Fair, Legoland, Merlin Entertainment, Blackstone, Tussaud's Group, Six Flags, Universal Theme Parks, the Walt Disney Company or any other theme park company.
photos and videos on this website were taken with the permission of the park by
a professional ride photographer.
For yours and others safety, please do not attempt to take photos or videos at
parks without proper permission.
You need a sense of humor to view our site,
if you don't have a sense of humor, or are easily offended, please turn back
Most of the content on this forum is suitable for all ages. HOWEVER! There may be some content that would be considered rated "PG-13." Theme Park Review is NOT recommended for ages under 13 years of age.