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Leavehaven, Wynhaven, Oudehaven, and others, run up into the city from the side of the Maas. In these canals the water circulates freely, by means of the rise and fall of the tide in the river, which carries off all impurity, and renders the air of the city more salubrious than is usual in Holland. Handsome quays are constructed along these canals, and ornamented with rows of lime trees or elms, which fill the city with shade and verdure ; while numerous bridges form communications from street to street. Some of these are wooden drawbridges, and are entirely raised for the passage of vessels ; others are built of stone, with a small draw at the centre, for the same
purpose. Some of the havens, where bridges would be inconvenient, are crossed at suitable places by ferry-boats, for a very trifling fare. Running along the middle of the city, from east to west, is the Hoogstraat, or High-street, supposed to be the ridge or dyke from which the city originally derived its name. Between this and the Maas are the
havens,' and the streets and dwellings of more modern construction, a large part of the territory on which they stand having been taken from the Maas, as the population and commerce of the city increased. Even now, accessions are continually making to the land on this side, by diking out the waters of the Maas.
There is great difference in the general style of building, between houses on the side of the Maas, and those farther into the heart of the city, and beyond the Hoogstraat, the latter being more antiquated and more purely Dutch, in all particulars. The streets are every where neatly paved with paving stones, having side-walks of brick. Along the Boompjes, and other large quays, are many of the best and most stately houses, some of which serve the double purpose of dwellings above, and of magazines on the ground floors. In this quarter of the city, there is so much uniformity in the general appearance of the streets, as to render it quite embarrassing to a stranger, particularly as the names of the streets are no where conspicuous. Neither the houses, nor the magazines and shops, are equal in general beauty to the same class of buildings in the principal cities of the United States. You see in the shops none of that external decoration, still less that rich display of goods, which is so customary here. You seldom see large, well-painted shop-signs over the doors; and where I noticed any ornament, it was generally of a grotesque description. Thus an uncouth wooden bust, with distorted eyes, and tongue lolled out at one side of the mouth, is not unfrequently used to designate an apothecary's shop. There is no street like Broadway, in New-York; and although, in the rows of sightly trees along the canal streets, there is much to gratify the eye, yet the pleasing effect is greatly diminished by the tameness of all the waterviews, and the clay-colored, muddy look of the Maas, and all its havens, as compared with the clear blue of our own bright streams. And yet the water of the Maas is the only water employed for drink and domestic uses; previous to which, it requires to be filtered, and then answers the purpose very well, except that it is somewhat laxative, and requires to be drank with moderation.
It is impossible to refer the houses to any order of architecture, for to this indeed they do not pretend. They are built of very small, badly-formed bricks, neither of a uniform nor a clear color. Many
of them project forward as they ascend; and most of them are lofty and narrow, running up to a great height, and having peaked roofs, which are made into curved or fanciful slopes, instead of forming an exact angle. As they are not united into blocks having a regular front, and subdivided into uniform tenements, but each tenement has its own peculiar configuration, without any correspondence with, or reference to, the contiguous tenements, the effect on the
very singular and fantastic; giving to each dwelling an appearance of excessive height, in proportion to its breadth upon the ground; and rendering the strange form of the roofs more conspicuous. In the older parts of the city, they have an air of antiquity, also, partly de. rived from the heavy carving on the doors, which is quite in keeping with the other peculiarities in their architecture. Not the least curious thing about them, is a contrivance for the gratification of female curiosity, attached to the side of the large front windows of most of the houses. This consists of a small mirror, generally a plain looking-glass, of an oval or a quadrangular form, so placed, that the lady sitting at her needle-work within, can see the passers by reflected in the mirror, without rising or exposing her own person to view. I observed this characteristic appendage of the parlor occasionally at Hellevoetsluys; but still more generally at Rotterdam, Sometimes it is in the form of a prism, so as to reflect on two sides ; and thus perform a double duty. Very many of the windows are also adorned with beautiful plants, in tasteful flower-pots, which in some measure atone for the defect of the ungainly convenience by their side. Indeed a taste for flowers leads to their being offered for sale in all the streets, and forms as marked a feature of manners in Rotterdam, as in other parts of Holland.
I have thrown together here these remarks upon the general appearance of the city, although most of them were the result of subsequent observation. For many little arrangements must be made, when a traveller first lands in a foreign city, before he is prepared to commence his examination of what it contains. These are no otherwise of interest, than as they may happen to afford information concerning the country.
I took lodgings at one of the excellent hotels on the Boompjes, which, from their superiority to the other hotels of the city, as well as from their locality, are naturally the resort of strangers. French is, of course, the language of ordinary communication at these hotels, although not unfrequently it occurs, that English may be spoken by the landlo:d, or some of the servants. The large, heavy sashes, the enormous panes of glass, the wainscotting of the rooms, formed of large oaken pannels, every thing, in short, which met the eye, bespoke a foreign country. My apartment looked out upon the Maas, and offered to my view the lively scene of the river, and of the Boompjes along its bank. Sailors were singing in chorus on board the vessels, as they worked at the windlass or capstan, discharging merchandise upon the mole. Small drays or sleds passed along, loaded with heavy bales or casks, transported in this way, to guard against the damage which the jarring of cars and wagons might occasion to a city reclaimed by human art from the water. In the thick foliage of the trees along the quay, were flocks of crows, that live on the
filth thrown from the ships and the houses, and seemed by their numbers and their loud cries, as strange in the streets of a crowded city, as the storks I had seen at Scravendeel. But nothing was more new or singular, than to observe the numerous masculine occupations in which women were engaged. I do not speak merely of menial tasks appertaining to a household; although here, even, the diurnal scrubbing of the pavements devolved upon female domestics, and in several other respects, a yankee sees at least what he would not exact at home. Nor did I think so much of the ruddy milk-maid, who paraded the quay with a kind of yoke across the shoulders, balancing at one end a full pail of milk, and at the other a bright brass jar of cream. Nor were the market women, crying their fish or fruit under the windows, an object so singular. But I could not look with complacency upon
poor women, in their short gowns, and small muslin caps, wheeling along barrows, heavily laden with bricks, or unlading bags of coffee from a ‘schuyt,' or packing herrings in casks, or helping to get on shore large bundles of fresh-cut grass from a hay-boat; all which were at the same moment directly under my eye, along the Boompjes. In short, some peculiar feature of Dutch inanners, or other object of interest, always afforded subjects of observation and reflection, in this busy quarter of the city.
In landing my luggage, I had occasion again to notice the civil and gentlemanly deportment of the officers of the custom-house, who declined having the trunks opened for their inspection. Nor was there, in regard to the police, any of that vexatious formality, which the stranger encounters in many other parts of Europe, and even in England itself. Your passport must be endorsed by the proper authorities, but remain in your own possession, and you go where you please, unchallenged. The rest is purely an affair of your landlord, who is obliged to make a report to the police-office of all persons who lodge in his house. To this end, the servants present to you a blank, ruled in columns, with suitable caption, in Dutch, French, and English, wherein you enter your name, profession, residence, destination, and some other particulars of the same kind; and you are then free to attend to your business or pleasures, without any danger of molestation from the government.
In visiting a large city in Europe, if a stranger wishes to economize his time, and devote but a limited period to this object, he finds a guide, or valet de place, highly necessary, to conduct him from place to place. These persons are often attached to the hotel as domestics, and if not, are considered as belonging to the establishment. In Holland, they generally expect two florins for a day's service, and can be relied on, except where any purchase is to be made, when there is great danger of collusion between them and the trader, to their mutual advantage, and the loss of the traveller. It often happens, however, that the duties of a guide may be performed more to your satisfaction by some person whom you may casually encounter unem. ployed. But if you are acquainted with the language of the country, and have leisure for the purpose, it will be found quite as agreeable to take a map of the city and faithful guide-book, and seek out the objects of curiosity under your own guidance. In the Netherlands,
this is by no means difficult, because the French language is generally current, the national coin is simple and convenient, and the people are civil and considerate toward foreigners, especially in Holland.
Rotterdam is almost entirely a place of commerce; and as such, the streets are always full of bustle and animation. It is not at all distinguished for fashion, literary taste, or a cultivation of the fine arts. Theatrical representations, or other public spectacles, are by no means frequent; and there is no public gallery of pictures. Nor do the editices and other monuments indicate the presence of a steady taste in architecture or sculpture. Still, Rotterdam is not without objects of this kind, capable of interesting the stranger; and in a commercial city, one of his earliest inquiries will be, of course, for the exchange. It consists of a plain, but neat building, surrounding a large court or open square within, where the merchants assemble every
afternoon, from three to four o'clock, for the transaction of business. Here, also, the burgher guards assemble for exercise and parade, offering, in equipments and general appearance, a spectacle below that of our common militia, but of the same general character. It is nearly destitute of ornament, and no wise remarkable in its exterior. Its position is central and convenient, between two large basins, called the Kolk and the Blaak, and at a point which the course of the havens renders a great thoroughfare for the inhabitants. The Stadhuis, situated on the Hoogstraat, is an ordinary building, of little Dutch bricks, interesting only for its association with the civic history of Rotterdam. When I saw it, however, it was undergoing thorough and almost total repairs, which may, perhaps, ultimately improve its appearance. With these should be mentioned the edifice called Gemeenelandshuis Van Schieland, which was originally constructed for the use of the Hooghemraadschap of Schieland ; that is, the college or board of proprietors, who, by the ancient law of the country, superintended the dikes and canals of the district called Schieland. This building is one of the most remarkable in Rotterdam, having a facade of white sione, ornamented with pilasters, with various ornaments of sculpture, and the apartments within being particularly handsome. In 1811, it was partially fitted up by Napoleon as a palace, and in 1814, was used for the same purpose by Alexander.
Rotterdam is justly proud of being the birth place of the wise and learned Erasmus. The house where he was born has been rebuilt ; but the locality is pointed out, bearing the quibbling inscription :
'Hæc est parva domus, maynus qua natus Erasmus.' His statue, in bronze, appears on the arch or bridge, at the extremity of the Kolk, which forms a part of the Great Market, and is well known as one of the conspicuous ornaments of the city. The figure is larger than life, standing on a stone, or a pedestal, protected by a railing, and is placed near the of the arch, next to the water, so as to face the large open square. He is represented in the long scholastic robe, with a small cap on his head, holding in his hand an open book, which he is engaged in reading. Each side of the pedestal bears an inscription, two of them being in Dutch, and two in Latin. On the front or westerly side, we read :
Magno scientiarum atove litteraturæ
viro sæculi sui primario,
cui omnium præstantissimo
æviternis jure consecuto
virtutibus præmium deesset
And on the northerly side, or right hand, of the statue, is this inscription, in verse :
Barbariæ talen se debellator ERASMUS,
Maxima laus Balavi nominis, ore tulit,
De tanto spolium nacta quod urna viro est :
Tempori, qui reddat, solus Erasmus erit.
In allusion, probably, to the circumstance that the Spaniards destroyed a statue of Erasmus in stone, which formerly stood on the same spot, in place of which the existing one was afterward erected. In honor, also, of the same great scholar, the Latin school of the city is called the Gymnasium of Erasmus.
If the senate and people of Rotterdam, as they are affectedly styled in the inscription, would take some little pains to keep the statue of Erasmus free from the little shops or booths by which it is almost surrounded, and from defilements of a worse kind, they would act more in the spirit of their worshipped predecessors. Market women, and other small dealers, plant themselves in close contact with the statue. The square, which it overlooks, is indeed the scene of the greatest activity of the dealers in fruit, at all times during the fruit season; and on the market days, is completely crowded with the booths and stalls of itinerant traders in haberdashery, jewelry, and fancy goods, which are closely arranged together, so as to form as it were little temporary streets, all over the market place. Most of the retailers are women, who sit behind their neat and tasteful counters, knitting or sewing with the greatest assiduity, in the intervals of traffic, and sometimes continuing their indefatigable industry in the very moment of loud and busy bargaining. All of them wore their little Dutch
instead of bonnets; for while the dress of the merchants, and of the better sort of persons of both sexes, is substantially after the French style, which pervades all Europe, that of the market women and laboring classes, apparently remains but little changed from the genuine Dutch model of other times. But however ungainly may be their costume, this much it is safe to say in its favor, that nothing can exceed the unblemished neatness of it, in all its parts. Of the fruits which abound in this market, the most inviting are the large strawberries, offered for sale in conical baskets of various sizes, or small earthen jars of like form. The same perfect cleanliness and neatness, which characterize the appearance of things here, is observable in the other markets.