By Alina Chirila 2nd year BACY student
It is not very hard to fall in love when you’re a pretty accurate version of Don Quixote. On this occasion, in my own search for meaning and beauty, I hoped to fall for the Dutch, and God, it really did happen. Black tulips, libertine coffee shops with their magic mushrooms and all sorts of curiosities, clogs and gouda cheese have nothing to do with my own falling in love and believe me, I’m not just a fool.
This story begins with a particular charm infused by the town of Rotterdam, and its riverside setting, very 2015 chic-industrial look, artistic at the same time. People there seemed very to the point, saying what they mean and meaning what they say, and not really up for talking about the weather. Our university exchange was not long, but it started between 8,30 and 9 o’clock and was very well structured, with the Dutch taking care that we’re not leaving them with an empty stomach, nor empty hearted. Absolutely, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences made sure that we’re starting in force, taking us by waterbus to The Attack exhibition, organised by Rotterdam museum to commemorate 75 years since the Germans bombarded Rotterdam. The bombardment was reflected pluralistically through the eyes of local civilians, Dutch soldiers and of course German soldiers.
The layout of the exhibition was well thought, with a model of Heikel He 111 which destroyed the town in a few days, intimidating the rest of the scene consisting of original objects, personal stories exposed in large projections on the walls, and of course a consistent explanation of what happened in 1940 in Rotterdam.
In the back of the hall, a call for empathy is made by giving visitors the chance to write their own paper of what happened there through the eyes of a child. But my heart observed something even deeper- many visitors were people in their 70ies, even 80ies and I’ve seen a few sitting there, respectfully dressed as my grandparents would dress Sunday at the church. Often, they were still sitting still. Intrigued, I checked this observation with the staff working there, and indeed, those were people who witnessed the bombardment or people whose parents were in this tragedy. “Sadly, most of our visitors are very old” confirmed a staff.
I wonder if the social problems experienced by the town are reminiscent of this tragedy. However,the official motto of the city is “Sterker by strijd” (Stronger through battle)