Rotterdam emerged from the rubble of the Second World War a raw-boned city, gritty and unapproachable. Area code 010 – binary and basic. A city of labourers, hard work, grime and sweat. Houses and city squares ravaged, awaiting reconstruction after the blitz. Streets inhabited by pimps, heroine-hookers, punky winos and the homeless: Rotterdam’s lost souls.
In the second decade of the 21st century, Rotterdam is renewed and reinvigorated. Port activities are driven coastward, luxury cruisers drop anchor in the city and the drawbridges open so pleasure boats can pass. Tourist hotels flourish in former harbour offices and warehouses. Locals shop in a trendy market hall or in one of the old factories once stacked with ingots of tin and lead. And the shipyards, where yesterday’s dockworkers toiled, are the training grounds of tomorrow’s engineers. The city itself is a green zone, a clean-air oasis for Rotterdam youth. Now, from one of the many culinary terraces along the waterfront, you can look out over where the Red Light area used to be. And kick back with Stookolie 010, the spirit of Rotterdam.