I remember the first time I wondered what the red lamps scattered throughout the city’s pavement meant. I must’ve been nine or ten years old. They seemed random, some neighbourhoods had a bunch and others had none. After googling, I figured it out. These little lamps marked the fires that followed the Rotterdam bombing of May 14th 1940.
After the bombing, a big part of the city centre and parts of Northern Rotterdam were destroyed. These parts of the city had to be rebuilt, which is what gives this city its patchwork-like layout. Old and new are completely integrated.
My house, for example, is a former warehouse built mid-17th century. At night, I can see the red lights by looking out my window. This explains why half my block consists of post-war flats and the other half was built before 1920.
To read more about the bombardment and the rebuilding of the city, you can check out the articles on the Fire Boundary’s official website.
It’s possible to take a 12km walk or bike along the fire boundary; there’s a map available for download and a free audio tour to go with it. Unfortunately, the audio tour is only available with a Dutch voice-over. Luckily, it is just as interesting to see the old buildings and the way the bombing has affected the city and its architecture.