Some of the most interesting encounters can happen by chance. The most amusing and unique stories come about and create themselves in the most unexpected of ways. That is how I got the wonderful opportunity to spend my last couple months in Europe staying with family friends in Rotterdam. That is also what happened when showing my mother this city I’ll be living in for the summer with said, friends.
We had always planned to end our trip together in the Netherlands so that my mom could help me get settled here. Each time previously that I have moved abroad she has been unable to help me move in and see me well as I find mothers so often want to do int he midst of a major change. So it was very special for both of us that she got the opportunity this time. I was also excited to show her about the area I’ll be spending the next few months of my life. We only had one full day here together, but we made the most of it in our usual way : a little sight seeing, relaxing over drinks, and a lot of wandering the neighborhoods and simply seeing that which random strolls had to show us. Exactly what we enjoy, and it was while we were roaming the streets of downtown Rotterdam that we had a most interesting and unexpected of encounters.
We were walking along one of the canals near the Maritime Museum, reading about the
barges there when my friend started chatting with a nearby gentleman. It turned out that he actually owned one of the vessels. He specified his barge to us, built at the beginning of the 20th century and invited us on to see it. All of the boats in that area, he said, had to have renovation plans to dock in that specific area. He had wanted a barge ever since a trip on one many years before and so finally sold his house and bought one just a few years ago. He was very excited to show us the work he had already done and all that he plans to do in the coming years.
Not only was it a very special experience, getting to see his barge, but he was also a very interesting person himself. The barge serves not only as his home but also as his workshop (he makes custom tires, such as those for vintage cars). He has limited electricity and internet and often uses a portable typewriter in place of a computer. This is not the case for all people who live on boats, of course, but it is also not uncommon to live on one in the Netherlands and so getting the opportunity to tour his barge was truly a special experience.
It reminded me of a trip to visit a friend in Amsterdam a couple years ago. We went to visit the (free) House-Boat Museum there. It’s a small (you guessed it) houseboat open to the public. It allows visitors to see what the many vessels and homes lining the canals are actually like on the inside. How they are laid out and a bit about the history of houseboats themselves. It is a much tighter living style than we Americans are often used to but intriguing all the same. I highly recommend a quick visit to the ‘museum’ if ever the chance should present itself.
I additionally recommend a quick visit to the barges by the Maritime Museum. Maybe you’ll get lucky enough to bump into our new friend there and he’ll show you around his barge! Perhaps we will meet him again one day ourselves, I certainly hope so! You sometimes meet the most interesting of people, have the most unique of experiences when you least expect it. That’s one of the reasons I love just strolling to explore, especially when I travel. You never quite know what you will come across. Have you ever had any unexpected encounters, met any interesting people while traveling? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section!